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“The uphill climb is slow, but the downhill road is fast.”

This quote by Coach John Wooden was a central idea in his approach to conditioning.

The following is from a handout Coach Wooden gave his players at their preseason meeting regarding conditioning:

Training Suggestions
1. At least 8 regular hours of sleep each night.
2. In bed by 10:30 the night prior to a game.
3. In bed as soon as possible after a game, when we are playing the following night.
4. Eat balanced meals, at regular hours, with a minimum of eating between meals.
5. Drink plenty of water, milk and fruit juices.
6. Relax for a while after eating.
7. Take care of your health—mental, moral and physical.
8. Practice moderation with good judgment in all ways.

Training Demands
1. No use of alcoholic beverages of any kind.
2. No smoking.
3. No use of profanity.
4. Be a gentleman in all ways at all times.
5. Be on time whenever time is involved.

General
1. Make it your personal objective to be in better condition than any opponent you will meet.
2. Condition is attained and maintained by what you do both on and off the floor. Be at peace with yourself in regard to your mental, moral and spiritual, as well as your physical condition.
3. Force yourself when you are tired. It is the hard work you do after you are “all in” that improves your condition.
4. The ability to properly execute the fundamentals is closely related to your physical condition and emotional balance.
5. Maintain your self-respect and you will be proud and confident of your condition.

Coach’s suggestions pertained to what his players did between practices and included suggestions for mental and moral conditioning.

In his book Wooden on Leadership with Steve Jamison, Coach explained it this way:

Following a grueling basketball practice aimed, in part, at building up the players’ physical strength, I would advise them of the following: “All we’ve worked so hard to accomplish on the court today can be torn down quickly, in a matter of minutes, if you make the wrong choices between now and our next practice.”

To help them understand what I meant—that accountability was their responsibility—I occasionally posted the following reminder on our bulletin board or recited it to individuals about whom I had special concerns:

There is a choice you have to make, in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.

As Coach often said, “You cannot attain proper physical condition unless it’s preceded by mental and moral condition.”

The idea that the uphill climb is slow, but the downhill road is fast is not unique to conditioning. As the old adage states: It takes years to build up trust and only seconds to destroy it.

Or as coach liked to say, “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”

Related: How Character Fuels Intentness

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, www.woodenswisdom.com. He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.