“Physical strength is measured by what one can carry; spiritual strength by what one can bear.”
This famous quote was a favorite of Coach Wooden’s. It reflects what he learned from his father: the importance of spiritual strength.
The sixth item in the Seven-Point Creed Coach received from his dad was, “Build a shelter against a rainy day.”
Coach did not believe his father was advising him to build a material shelter, but rather a spiritual shelter by living a life with good values and a core goal of helping others.
Related: The Simple Truth of Serving Others
Coach believed that spiritual strength was built on a strong belief system.
In his book A Game Plan for Life with Don Yeager, Coach commented on how he handled discussing religion with his players:
I would never initiate the conversation, but if they approached me for advice—and many did—I would tell them, “Have something to believe in; have a reason to believe in it, but stay open-minded.”
Coach’s sensitivity to respecting the faith of others was, in part, inspired by Mother Teresa. Coach described it this way:
Mother Teresa presented a tremendous example in how she lived her own beliefs. But there is another, very different way that she offered me important life lessons: by respecting the beliefs of others.
Mother Teresa opened the Home for the Dying in Kolkata as a place where the poor of any religion could come to live their final days in dignity and pass into the next life in comfort.
They were offered medical care and the final rituals of their own faith. Roman Catholics would receive Last Rites; Hindus would be given water from their sacred river, the Ganges; and Muslims would be read to from the Koran.
She found that the individuals who came to her in this difficult period in their life needed to be treated where they were, both physically and spiritually; it was her job not to steer their beliefs, but simply to offer them peace.
This philosophy was so beautiful to me, and I could empathize deeply with it, on a much less dire level, of course.
As long as my players were practicing a faith or seeking one, I was content.
It was not my place to direct my players to take one route or another with their faith. A coerced faith is not a genuine one.
A mentor must always guide, never push. It was my job to listen to them, offer my perspective, and encourage them to pursue the ideals they believed to be true.
By being a man of faith himself and encouraging his players to have a strong belief system, Coach became a basketball coach who not only developed players with physical strength, but spiritual strength as well.
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