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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success
How to Face a Difficult Decision

Do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do.

As a college coach, being a successful recruiter is critical if you want to keep your job.

In 1983, I was an assistant coach at UCLA to Larry Farmer. I was excited as I sat in Coach Wooden’s old office with Coach Wooden as he began visiting with a recruiting prospect on our behalf.

I was surprised when Coach started out this visit with this: “Greg, UCLA may not be the right school for you.”

I shouldn’t have been.

In his book, A Game Plan for Life, with Don Yaeger, Coach described his recruiting approach:

I was never a coach who favored aggressive recruiting—I would talk with the player honestly and frankly about what might be in store for him if he decided on my school. I never tried to talk a student into coming to UCLA.

I tried to show him what was there and what to expect, and I never told him he was going to play. I told him he would have the opportunity to play, and if he was good enough, then he’d be able to. Rosy forecasts during the “courtship” of a player can lead only to disappointment and distrust if anything fails to meet that student’s expectations.

Instead, I would tell each student that if he did choose to attend UCLA—and I hoped he would—that he would be very unhappy his first year.

“You’re going to be away from home and your parents and all the things you’ve known for a number of years,” I’d explain. “It’s going to be very different academically and you’re going to wish you had gone someplace else. But let me tell you this: If you had gone someplace else, it would be the same thing and you’d wonder what would have happened if you’d gone to UCLA. So there you go. Think it over.”

For Coach Wooden coming up with an approach to recruiting was easy. Tell the truth; it’s the right thing to do.

All of us are faced with difficult decisions from time to time. What to decide becomes easier if we: Do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do. 

Image by @criene/Twenty20

Cecilia Meis