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What It Means to Be a Good Role Model

Every day with our actions and words, we knowingly or unknowingly influence others.

Coach Wooden expanded on this idea:

Like it or not, we have influence of many different kinds in many different places and should conduct ourselves in an appropriate manner. 

 People who don’t want the responsibility that comes with being part of a community don’t have that choice. They are role models whether they like it or not. They cannot simply announce that they intend to shirk their responsibility. They are role models, good or bad.

In his book Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections with Steve Jamison, Coach talked about the chance we all have to make a difference:

Perhaps you fret and think you can’t make a difference in the way things are. Wrong. You can make the biggest difference of all. You can change yourself

And when you do that, you become a very powerful and important force—namely, a good role model.

I believe you can do more good by being good than in any other way.

In a speech at Western Michigan, Coach recited one of his favorite poems, “A Little Fellow Follows Me.” 

The poem ends with:

I must remember as I go,

Thru summers’ sun and winters’ snow.

I am building for the years to be,

This little chap who follows me.

Coach then added his own insight: “And that’s just like all of you. You’re building somebody. There’s somebody watching you. Be careful.”


Photo by @michelleluo/Twenty20

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.