A Tribute to John Wooden

Yesterday, June 3rd 2010, John Wooden, 99, was hospitalized and he is reported in critical condition. Today I write to honor him and share the impact he has made on my life.

I was lucky enough to spend two summers in my early twenties coaching at a basketball camp in Huntington Beach that was closely associated with Mr. Wooden and met him a handful of times. His philosophy was one that left a definite imprint on my being. It was after listening to his life story and strategy for living a full and balanced life that I vowed I would attempt to live a bold life.

Coach John Wooden

Here are some of the things that I heard him say that I'll never forget:

  1. "Make each day a masterpiece."
  2. "No snivilin!"
  3. "I don't understand why these basketball players need to wear such long bloomers these days!"
  4. "If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
  5. "Don't let what you can't do interfere with what you can do."
  6. "It's doing the little things that make the big things happen."
  7. "You are only as good as your word."
  8. "Without a doubt, the slam dunk has made a negative impact on basketball." (Back when he lectured at the basketball camp at which I coached, he emphasized how basketball had become an ego driven sport...and he surmised that the slam dunk is less about team effort and more about personal gratification.)
  9. "There is no I in team."
  10. "Always, always be more worried about your character than your reputation. Always stand for what is right and just."

There are few men and women who have dared to be as bold as Mr. Wooden. He is an amazing man and mentor for all current generations and for those to come. With humiliy, hardwork and dedication to his players, he was able to lead UCLA to 10 national championships in 12 years.

Coach Wooden and Kareem

Additionally, he has always been so very proud of his basketball players which include greats Walt Hazzard, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, Henry Bibbi, and 175 others.

Regardless of his success, I was always put at ease when he would walk into a room. His graceful and kind manner made me realize that you can be great at what you do, yet humble at all times.

I'd like to close with his Seven Point Creed that was given to him by his father Joshua upon graduating from grammar school:

  • Be true to yourself.
  • Make each day your masterpiece.
  • Help others.
  • Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  • Make friendship a fine art.
  • Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  • Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

Thank you so much Coach for your guidance and strength! You have made a huge impact on my life!!

Coach's Website for more information on his life and bold philosophy:

Coach John Wooden

- Jen Engevik of Project BE Bold