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The greatest conquest of man is the conquering of himself.

“Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men, is he who would conquer just one—himself. Better to conquer yourself than others.” –Buddha

Sometimes when we are not getting the results we want; we may blame others instead of understanding that we are holding ourselves back.

This is a lesson Coach Wooden learned from his grade school coach and later passed on to his players. In his book My Personal Best, he described it this way:

Coach Warriner at Centerton Grade School taught me that arrogance, selfishness and envy are unacceptable in a player. This was my introduction to the concept of team spirit—the absolute necessity for an individual to put the group’s welfare ahead of his or her interests (such as an interest in shooting all the time). Like Mr. Warriner, I used the power of the bench on fellows who were slow learners—just as he used it on me. I wanted everyone, starters and non-starters alike, to understand that “the star of the team is the team.”

As a sophomore in 1969, Sidney Wicks could’ve been a starting forward for virtually any school in the country. But he was not the starter at UCLA, because he was having difficulty with my concept of team play.

He was too concentrated on having the ball and shooting before he’d look for the pass. This is damaging because, among other reasons, teammates soon stop working to get open for a shot, as they know they won’t get the ball. It then becomes every man for himself, and the team is destroyed. Thus, Sidney wasn’t a starter.

He would say to me, “C’mon Coach, you know I’m better than either starting forward.”  I’d nod and reply, “I know it, you know it, and they know it. So it’s a shame they’re going to remain starters until you get the hang of playing as part of the team.”

Sidney did get the hang of it by his junior year and became the best all-around forward in the country for the next two seasons, an All-American both years, and a crucial part of two national championship teams in 1970 and 1971. The bench, in my opinion, helped make this possible.

Sidney Wicks was the second player taken in the 1971 NBA draft, the 1972 NBA Rookie of the Year and a four-time NBA All Star selection.

A non-starter at UCLA as a sophomore, Sidney then conquered himself and the rest is history.

Photo by Monkey Business Images/

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.