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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” –Benjamin Franklin

This quote was one of John Wooden’s favorites. He employed it for his teams and in his personal life.

In order to keep balance in his life between his job and his family, Coach Wooden was an expert in time management. This required very careful planning.

We have discussed Coach’s routine of spending two hours daily to plan his two-hour practice, which ran with minute-to-minute precision. Some key points to remember are that these practices always started on time and ended on time. The length for a particular drill was never extended during a practice because it wasn’t going well.

Another key habit that Coach executed was documenting in writing, with feedback from the staff, exactly what had gone well and not so well immediately after practice, and subsequently leveraging those notes to improve future practices.

Coach preceded his daily practice planning by constructing a plan for the year, and a season weekly plan.

In the book, You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned by Swen Nater and Ron Gallimore, Coach Wooden’s plan for the year (which changed each season) was described this way:

Sometime during the off-season, usually late summer when Coach knew what the talent would be that particular year, he wrote his yearly plan for teaching.

It was not a chronological plan; it simply contained a number of notes—bullet points about the team and what it needed to learn that season. In a real sense, it was the general curriculum for the year.

In 1971-72, Coach had a relatively new team with the Walton gang. Some of his key players were going to be sophomores who Coach had never coached directly before. Some of his yearly plan that season included such entries as:

  • Significant time given to fundamentals
  • Determine if the full-court press or the half-court defense will be the primary defense
  • Develop an outstanding fast-break by working Walton and the guards together on the outlet pass, getting the ball out of the back court quickly and safely
  • Find out how to use Bibby’s shooting ability to maximum advantage

His general weekly plan took into account that games were usually played on Friday and Saturday, so his outline for a Monday practice was different than it was for a Thursday practice. The following is a general example:


  • Complimentary remarks and constructive criticism to those who played
  • Individual work for those needing improvement in certain areas
  • More warm-up since players had one day off
  • Shooting
  • Introduce new options not used previous weekend
  • Extra scrimmage for those who did not see much playing time


  •  Fundamentals
  •  Shooting (game shots)
  • Review and stress important points of full-court defense
  • Brush up on important defense points relative to upcoming games
  • Review set and out of bounds plays
  • Lots of free-throw shooting

His planning was extraordinary, and so were his results.

Related: The Importance of Self-Discipline

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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.