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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success

8 Key Elements of a Good Working RelationshipCoach Wooden established four essential components of being a successful coach: the coach as a philosopher, as an example, as a teacher and as a leader. Let’s focus on the teacher-student (coach-player) relationship.

Related: How to Set a Good Example

Coach Wooden described a coach’s role as a teacher in the following manner:

“The coach must never forget that he is, first of all, a teacher. He must come (be present), see (diagnose) and conquer (correct).”

A student is more likely to be receptive to the correction of his teacher when they have a good relationship. Coach Wooden described eight key elements of a good teacher-student relationship:

1. “Keep a close personal player relationship, but keep their respect. Be sincerely interested in their personal problems and easy to approach.”

We don’t need to take our employees to TGI Fridays for drinks and appetizers, but we do need to have a sincere interest in their personal problems. It can be very beneficial to have an hour each day when your office door is open and team members know that during that time, they can come and talk to you about anything that they may have on their mind.

2. “Maintain discipline without being dictatorial. Be fair and lead rather than drive.”

As Coach liked to say, “You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.”

3. “Study and respect the individuality of each player and work with them accordingly. Treat each man as he deserves to be treated.”

We should develop a communication-teaching style that is most effective with each student. They each have their own idiosyncrasies and may need a slightly different approach.

Related: John Wooden’s Leadership Legacy

4. “Try to develop the same sense of responsibility in all.”

As Abraham Lincoln said, “The worst things you can do for those you love are the things they could and should do for themselves.”

5. “Analyze yourself as well as your players and be governed accordingly.”

As Coach liked to say, “The ability to see the good in others and the bad in ourselves is perfect vision.”

6. “Approval is a great motivator. Use the ‘pat on the back,’ especially after severe criticism.”

As Coach liked to say, “A soft answer turneth away wrath.”

7.If you teach loyalty, honesty and respect for the rights of others, you will be taking a big step toward a cooperative team with proper team spirit. Jealousy, egotism, envy, criticism and razzing of each other can ruin this.”

Teaching employees to clean up their own break room or athletes to clean up their own locker room is one way of teaching respect for the rights of others.

8. “Consider the team first, but don’t sacrifice a boy just to prove a point.”

How important is the teacher-student, coach-player or supervisor-employee relationship? Consider this: “The #1 reason employees leave jobs is a poor relationship with their immediate supervisor.” (The Gallup Organization)

These relationships can be difficult sometimes, but Coach would remind us, “Let us overcome the angry man with gentleness.”

Related: 3 Things Successful People Know About Healthy Relationships

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.