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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success

10 Traits of an Effective TeacherCoach Wooden defined important aspects of the coach as a teacher in the following manner:

“He must continuously be exploring for ways to improve himself in order that he may improve others and welcome every person and everything that may be helpful to him. As has been said, he must remember, ‘Others, too, have brains.’ ”

Related: How to Set a Good Example

Coach then listed criteria that he believed might be helpful to define an effective teacher:

1. Knowledge of Your Subject

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

Coach gained his knowledge of basketball from his experience as a player and the wisdom of his coaches (Earl Warner, Glenn Curtiss and Piggy Lambert). As a college player, he interviewed opposing coaches to gain insight into their strategies. As a high school coach, he attended Frank Leahy’s Notre Dame football practices and learned time management. After every season, he sent out his research survey on a particular basketball topic to coaches who were outstanding in that field. Through the end of his career, he attended every coaching clinic he could, always with an open mind, wanting to learn more. He constantly sought more knowledge.

2. General Knowledge

Learn as if you were going to live forever, live as if you were to die tomorrow.

Coach took several classes in psychology, as he thought it would help him become a better teacher. He was an avid reader on a variety of subjects. The numerous books that he read about Mother Teresa and Abraham Lincoln helped him formulate his philosophy of life, which he shared with his students. Coach truly had intellectual balance.

3. Teaching Skill

You get ideas across better through listening and a pat-on-the-back method than you do with a kick in the pants.

Coach firmly believed that a great teacher always learns from his students.

4. Professional Attitude

Learn to disagree without being disagreeable.

There is likely to be conflict in any work environment. Working through these situations with an open mind, calmness and reason is the mark of a true professional.

5. Discipline

You cannot antagonize and be a positive influence, and you will antagonize when you discipline through emotion.

Discipline is required in any learning environment. It is helpful to remember that the purpose of discipline is to teach, not to punish.

6. Classroom (Floor) Organization

There is no substitute for hard work and careful planning.

Coach spent two hours a day planning each 2 ½-hour practice.

7. School and Community Relations

The happiest moments in life come from making someone else happy.

Coach was an eager volunteer in community and school activities. He viewed it as his responsibility and truly enjoyed helping others.

8. Teacher-Pupil (Coach-Player) Relationship

Our youth need examples more than critics.

When we set a great example, instruct with reason (not criticism), and listen, we’re likely to have a productive relationship.

9. Warm Personality and Genuine Consideration for Others

Be more concerned with loving than been loved, giving than receiving, being a friend rather than having a friend.

10. Desire to Improve

When success turns your head, you face failure.

The constant effort to improve even when others view us as successful is the trademark of a truly great teacher.

Related: 8 Key Elements of a Good Working Relationship

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.