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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success

How to Discipline@evergreen_souls via Twenty20

These quotes are the foundation of Coach John Wooden’s approach to discipline:

  • Discipline must be done with reason to be effective. If we lose reason in our discipline, it will not be effective.
  • You cannot antagonize and be a positive influence, and you will antagonize when you discipline through emotion.
  • Remember that discipline is not to punish, but it’s to correct, to improve, to prevent, to help, so we must maintain our self-control at all times.

Related: Why Leaders Must Have Self-Control

In his book A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring with Don Yeager, Coach Wooden recounts how one of his mentors, his grade school coach Earl Warriner, disciplined him:

“When I was 13, Coach Warriner stepped in with a lesson that would change my life.
“I had forgotten my uniform and did not want to run the mile or so back to our farm to retrieve it before that afternoon’s basketball game.
“When it became clear that I would not be allowed to play without the uniform, I talked a teammate into going home to fetch it for me. After all, I was the star, right?
“With that attitude, it’s no wonder that the game started without me in it.
“When I tried to reason with Coach, pleading with him to let me play because it was clear we were out matched with our new starting lineup, he told me very simply, ‘Johnny, there are some things more important than winning.’
“At the start of the second half, Coach let me in the game.
“Coach showed me that while there was a lesson to be learned, it is equally important to make the punishment fit the crime, and not be so focused on your toughness that you lose sight of the bigger issue and the person you’re supposed to be teaching.”

In Marv Dunphy‘s Ph.D. dissertation, John Robert Wooden: The Coaching Process, Coach Wooden describes how he used a similar process in disciplining his own players:

“On one occasion, I had to discipline two of my best players. They were eight minutes late for a pre-game meal with no excuse at all.
“So that night, I just told them they wouldn’t play for at least the first eight minutes. As it turned out, they didn’t play at all in the first half.
“At the start of the second half, I put them in the game. Forget the first half; don’t hold a grudge.”

In their discipline, Coach Warriner and Coach Wooden did not attack the character or intention of the player by calling him irresponsible or saying he acted selfishly and didn’t care about the team.

They simply dealt with the behavior with self-control, denied a privilege and moved on by not mentioning the incident again. There was no antagonizing.

The result: lesson learned.

Related: 3 Rules for Gaining Loyalty Through Respect

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.