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It takes a lot of little things to make one big thing.

“Two of the greatest fundamental assets to the athlete in all branches of sport are being relaxed and having what is called balance.” –Ward Lambert, Practical Basketball

When Coach Wooden’s teams took the court for a game, he wanted them relaxed and balanced. For Coach, that was a big thing.

The following are just a few excerpts from Coach Wooden’s book Practical Modern Basketball regarding some of the little things that he did in his pregame procedure to accomplish that one big thing:

Resting: After eating (completed four hours prior to the start of the game) I want our players to take a 10-minute walk and then get off their feet until it is time to leave for the game.

I prefer them to lie down in a darkened room to try to sleep and forget about the game. If they cannot sleep, I still want them in a darkened room, and they are not to read, study, watch television or do anything that will strain their eyes during this period. They may have a roommate, but I do not want them visiting with anyone else during this period.

Reporting time: The players are to report to the dressing room in time to get their necessary taping done and be dressed 40 minutes prior to game time, but not to be there before then. I would rather that they rest until the last moment.

I want them to dress quietly and go to our pregame meeting room and get off their feet as soon as they are dressed. During this period I like to have the lights low and we may have some soft music which will be turned off as soon as I come in to give them their pregame instructions.

They should take care of any lavatory needs before my group talk and there should be neither a hilarious nor morbid atmosphere. I want them businesslike and serious, but not stern, gruff or sour.

Pregame talk: For 10 minutes before we take the floor, I review our overall game plan and answer any questions they may have. They are reminded that all I expect is for them to be able to answer to themselves when the game is over.

This is definitely not a fight or a pep talk, but a constructive briefing for the game.

We will not leave the room until the floor is clear and will go out calmly and quietly, although quickly, without a lot of commotion and false chatter.

Coach Wooden’s teams ran on the court for a game that was relaxed and balanced, but it took a lot of little things to make that one big thing happen.

Photo by @kislaszlo87/

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, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.