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Coach Wooden introduced his coaching philosophy in his book Practical Modern Basketball by talking about the necessity for a successful coach to be a philosopher:

Webster tells us that, among other things, a philosopher is a person who meets all events, whether favorable or unfavorable, with calmness and composure.

In his book Coach Wooden’s Leadership Game Plan for Success, Coach expanded on how he applied this idea of being a philosopher to his approach toward his conduct during games:

Some observers described me as being detached, almost stoic, on the bench during games. This could hardly be further from the truth, but it was a compliment nevertheless.

Emotionalism—ups and downs in moods, temperamental outbursts—is almost always counterproductive, at times ruinous. I came to understand that if my own behavior was filled with outbursts, peaks and valleys of emotion and moods, I was sanctioning it for others.

As the leader, my own behavior set the bounds of acceptability. Subsequently, I became much more vigilant in controlling my feelings and behavior. My message to those I led was simple: “If you let your emotions take control, you have lost control. You are vulnerable.” For those under my supervision to learn the lesson, however, I had to control my own behavior and emotions.

Subsequently, I never second-guessed myself for decisions and actions that didn’t work out if they were made using my best judgment and all available information. It may have been a mistake, but it was not an error. It becomes an error, however, when the choice was made because emotions spilled over and diminished the quality of my decision making.

Early in my career the errors were common; there were fewer as my emotional control became more disciplined. A leader defined by intensity is a stronger leader. A leader ruled by emotions is weak, the team vulnerable.

Living as a philosopher is a difficult challenge. But as Coach liked to say, “Goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or lasting.”


Photo by fizkes/Shutterstock.com

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.