March Madness: Part One

March Madness has provided a parade of great basketball coaches, some highly successful. Of all who have coached the game few compare with Coach John Wooden, who coached UCLA to ten national championships in twelve years. He was admired for his character as much as for his coaching. Growing up in the 1920s in an agrarian society his father, Joshua, lost the family farm as a result of a series of misfortunes. Drought stunted the crops, a faulty vaccine killed his hogs, and the bank took back the farm. John learned some vital lessons from how his dad uncomplainingly and without blaming anyone responded to adversity.

It resulted in him defining success as the peace of mind “that comes from knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

When John finished elementary school his dad, Joshua, gave him a two dollar bill and a list of rules to live by. He kept that list in his wallet all of his life. There was another object he kept with him that helped him maintain his composure for which he was known. It is said that by watching him on the sideline you could not tell if his team was winning or losing. He said if he wanted his team to be composed he needed to be. As a self-aid he kept a small cross in his left hand during every game. 

Gentleness was another of his admirable attributes. Coach learned from his father that one should never mistake gentleness for weakness; in fact, quite the opposite is true. He proved the famous words of Han Suyin: “There is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness.”

His speech was always clean and composed. It was influenced by hearing his dad say, “Blaming, cursing, hating doesn’t help you,” he’d say. “It hurts you.”

Consider this one of the lists for which he was known. He and his brother grew up hearing his dad refer to what he called “Two sets of threes.”

“Never lie. Never cheat. Never steal,” was his first set. “Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses,” was his second set.

This more complete list is found in one of his books.
1. Be true to yourself.
2. Help others.
3. Make each day your masterpiece.
4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
5. Make friendship a fine art.
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day. 

Regarding number one he observed “the two great days in a person’s life, the day when we are born, and the day you discovered why.” That gave life purpose.

He complied with number four by reading the Bible daily. Number seven was also a consistent qualitative part of life.

A summary of his lifestyle is summed up in his oft quoted statement, “Trust in the Lord for He is good.”

Ten national championships in twelve years means he was quite a good coach also.