Posts tagged teaching values

More than a national championship coach



EDITOR’S NOTE: Well, another college basketball season is in the books. With Duke celebrating the national championship with their win over Wisconsin, it seems like an appropriate time to remember back to a man who was synonymous with national championships. 

Long-time UCLA coach John Wooden was interviewed on the FamilyLife Today® radio broadcast more than a decade ago. For Dennis Rainey, it was more than just an opportunity to interview a basketball legend and a childhood idol. It was also an opportunity to talk to a man with a championship legacy in his personal life.

WoodenNetOne of my heroes growing up was John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood.” He won 10 national championships at UCLA and is considered the greatest basketball coach of all time.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Coach Wooden a few years ago for a series of broadcasts on FamilyLife Today.   The only thing that betrayed his age was a cane that he used to balance himself. Everything else about Coach was sharp and steady. His daughter sat in on the taping of those broadcasts and said later it was one of her favorite interviews because my co-host and I didn’t just “talk to Daddy about basketball.”

Before I get to the essence of that interview, I have to share with you what happened at the end of our time together. Coach Wooden had a way of making you feel like he really liked you … at least that’s how I felt as we wrapped things up. He signed his book and handed it to me. Being a basketball player who played on scholarship at a small junior college team during the “Wooden Era,” I smiled and handed it back to him and said to him, “Coach, you don’t know this about me but I still have the school record in high school when I scored 44 points. Why don’t you just write in the front of the book, ‘Dennis, you could’ve played for me at UCLA!’” He got a sly grin on his face and took the book back.

I watched as he smiled and scratched out a few words and closed the cover. He looked up and handed me the book and said with an even bigger grin, “Dennis, I’m a man of integrity.” After I thanked him and said goodbye I sneaked a peak at what Coach had written to me. 

Thank you Dennis,
Since I never initiated contact for an out-of-state player, why didn’t you contact me?
John Wooden
8/12/2002

After more than 3,000 interviews, my time with Coach remains one of my great favorites.

The story of Joshua Wooden

After John Wooden died earlier this month at the age of 99, a chorus of tributes arose from former players and writers. It’s hard to think of a sports figure more admired.

Few of the tributes mentioned Wooden’s father, Joshua Wooden, and that’s the story I’d like to tell. When you read about Joshua Wooden, you realize that lessons taught during childhood can reverberate far into the future.

Joshua raised four sons on a small Indiana farm in the early part of the twentieth century. Life on a farm was not easy in those days—there was no electricity or running water, and the family had to grow most of what they ate. To keep his boys warm on cold winter nights, Joshua would heat bricks on the family’s potbelly stove, wrap them in blankets, and place them at the foot of their beds.

From the beginning, Joshua knew he was not just raising boys but also building men. The boys could play, but only after they had done their chores for the day. You can imagine that on a farm with no electricity or running water, where the family grew most of what they ate, there was plenty of work for four growing boys to do!

Joshua was a strong man—“strong enough to bend a thick iron bar with his bare hands,” one of his sons wrote—but also gentle. Each night, by the light of a coal-oil lamp, he would read to his family from the Scriptures, and he also read classic books and poetry.

He believed in building character, and continually emphasized the importance of making right choices. Two of his favorite phrases that he taught his sons were:

  • “Never lie, never cheat, and never steal.”
  • “Don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t alibi.”

When his third son, John, graduated from eighth grade in his small country school, Joshua gave him a card and said, “Son, try to live up to this.” On one side was a verse that read:

Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust in God and heaven securely.

On the other side was a seven-point creed that read:

Be true to yourself
Help others
Make friendship a fine art
Drink deeply from good books
Make each day your masterpiece
Build a shelter against a rainy day
Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.

John kept that card in his wallet for decades until it fell apart. Eighty years after receiving it, he still knew the words by heart.

Joshua lost his farm during the Depression and wasn’t able to pay for his sons’ college education. But all four of them graduated from college with English degrees. Every son but John became a school administrator. John became a teacher of another sort: a basketball coach.

One of the reasons I would have liked playing for Coach Wooden was that he was more than a national championship coach. He was a teacher of character. He built men, not just players. He was a friend and mentor to his players. He called them to step up.

He developed what he called the “Pyramid of Success,” which he taught his players every year. Looking at this pyramid today, with its building blocks of industriousness, enthusiasm, friendship, cooperation, loyalty, etc., you can’t help but realize that this is a man whose entire outlook on life came from the influence of his father.

Lifelong lessons

John Wooden’s desire to influence others remained strong for another 35 years after he retired in 1975. Many of his former players called him regularly to seek his advice on everything from raising children to coaching to battling cancer.

One of those players, John Vallely, recently said, “The interesting thing about playing for Coach was not necessarily the championships, but what he taught us about living life was far more important. I just recall the importance of the Pyramid of Success and the characteristics. What he taught us were lifelong lessons. So much of what he was teaching really had a parable of how you live your life.”

Let me close with one more choice verse Joshua gave to John, this time when the Coach’s son was born in 1936:

A careful man I must be;
A little fellow follows me.
I know I dare not go astray;
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.
He thinks that I am good and fine;
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see;
This little chap who follows me.
I must be careful as I go;
Through summer sun and winter snow.
Because I am building, for the years to be;
This little chap who follows me.

I can picture the Wooden household on those cold Indiana nights, when Joshua would read from the Bible to his family. He had no idea what influence he would have far beyond his death—all he knew was that he was raising sons to become men.

What a father.  What a son.  What a legacy.

Copyright © 2010 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Dennis Rainey’s post “More than a national championship coach” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“True Success: A Personal Visit with John Wooden” is a FamilyLife Today interview with the Wizard of Westwood.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistStepping Up’s John Majors is “Leaving a Legacy to Pass On to His Children.” If you don’t have a legacy to pass on, start one.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPass along character to your sons. Listen to Bill Bennett talk about “The Book of Man” on FamilyLife Today.

A character cheat sheet



This blog post originally appeared in Noah Gets a Nailgun.

CarverEdwardsWooden

We talk often on this blog about leaving a legacy. Honestly, that can feel pretty daunting, esoteric, and enigmatic. And if that isn’t clear enough, you might feel obfuscated by such pleonastic redundancies.

No doubt “Leaving a Legacy” is a big task. But where does one start? Leaving a legacy is simply the daily living out of your core convictions. More than likely, the people you admire were good at living out what they believed, in very small ways, day after day, moment by moment. They were consistent, stable, and people of integrity. They could be counted on to do the right thing at the right moment.

But here is the challenge of living that way: To live out your core convictions, you have to know your core convictions. Steven Covey says you have to “begin with the end in mind.” He isn’t talking about reserving funeral plots and picking out caskets, but knowing where you want to go before you leave the driveway. Most men struggle to live consistently because they have a moving target. They are not even sure who they want to be. So you have to start by identifying these convictions and dwelling on them regularly. And since nothing is manlier than a solid shortcut, after identifying your core convictions, your operating principles for life, you should jot these down on a 3×5 card.

Ok, I already hear the objections. “Hey … if they are ‘core convictions’ shouldn’t you be able to remember them without writing them down?” Good word. In theory they should always be at the front of your mind, but in reality, we often behave differently than we know we should. Usually more base interests like food, sex, sports, and Shiny Objects With Flashing Buttons move to the front of my mind, pushing aside all other thought or reason. In these moments, a short list serves as a great reminder of what I have convinced myself of in a saner moment. Because we all suffer from temporary insanity at times, having a crib sheet will help you through those character tests.

Not only is this decidedly manly, but a few prominent manly men have led the way with their examples.

Carver’s 8 Cardinal Virtues

Famous American scientist, botanist, educator, inventor, former slave, and all around renaissance man (dubbed the “Black Leonardo” by Time Magazine) George Washington Carver had his own list, what he called his “8 Cardinal Virtues”:

  1. Be clean both inside and outside.
  2. Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
  3. Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  4. Win without bragging.
  5. Always be considerate of women, children and old people.
  6. Be too brave to lie.
  7. Be too generous to cheat.
  8. Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.
John Wooden’s 7 Point Creed

The famous basketball coach from UCLA, the “Wizard of Westwood” (anyone with a nickname involving the word “wizard” must be manly) holds the record for most NCAA championships by any coach by a long shot (10 championships in 12 years, 7 of those in a row). Wooden was given a seven point creed to follow by his father. Seven points and seven championships in a row. Coincidence? I think not.

On one side of the card was a poem from Henry Van Dyke, and on the other side was the list his father developed. First the poem:

Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust in God and heaven securely.

On the other side was the seven-point creed:

Be true to yourself.
Help others.
Make friendship a fine art.
Drink deeply from good books.
Make each day your masterpiece.
Build a shelter against a rainy day.
Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.

Even into his 90’s, Wooden could rattle off both sides of the card from memory. No doubt these items had a profound influence on shaping his character and life.

What was the power in these lists? They were short. Which means memorable. Yes, some over achievers like Jonathan Edwards went for the long ball, weighing in with a whopping 70 resolutions, but there is definitely power in brevity.

So what is your list of “Core Convictions” or “Cardinal Virtues?”

If you had to write down what guides you on the back of a 3×5 card, what would be your list? We’d love to see your list – leave it in the comments below. Try to keep it under eight. Shoot for seven if you coach basketball. Just in case.

And consider writing these down and handing them over to your kids on their 16th birthday or before. You’re giving them a character cheat sheet, because in this case, cheaters really do win.

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