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KENSON’S KORNER: Wooden It Be Nice

by Coach Dave Kenson

As a man who has lived a very happy and rewarding life, I have been fortunate and am extremely grateful to have had many outstanding teachers, coaches and mentors to learn from. From elementary school through high school I had teachers who not only taught subjects but also life lessons. In college my professors introduced me to different ways of thinking without claiming any were the right or only way. My coaches fostered in me a love for the games that I played while encouraging and sometimes demanding the discipline necessary not only for the sport, but also for success in life.

I also had some tremendous teachers that I never actually met in person. The list includes, but is not limited to the following: Mitch Albom, Anthony Bourdain, Paul Brown, Buddha, Ken Burns, Paulo Coelho, Carol S. Dweck, Wayne Dyer, Howard Falco, Malcolm Gladwell, David R. Hawkins, Jesus, Carl Jung, Bob Knight, Lao Tzu, Dan Millman, Patanjali, Steven Pressfield, Rumi, Socrates, Eckhart Tolle, Jim Valvano, Neale Donald Walsch, and Bill Walsh. However, the mentor who had the greatest impact on the way I think and the way I taught and coached was John Wooden.

John Wooden, “The Wizard of Westwood”, a nickname that he didn’t care for (he believed he was a teacher, not a magician) is regarded as the greatest coach in history. As the head basketball coach at U.C.L.A., he won 10 NCAA championships in a 12-year period, including 7 in a row. During this time his teams also won 88 consecutive games. He was the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach (consensus 3-time All-American guard at Purdue). With all the championships, it is important to note that he always thought of himself as a teacher first and that, while he coached basketball, it was more important to him that he was coaching young men how to be successful in life. He once said, “If there’s anything you could point out where I was a little bit different, it was the fact that I never mentioned winning”. This was one of his quotes. Something that I shared with Coach Wooden was a love of quotes. A quote is a nugget of wisdom stated in an easily remembered form. What follows are some of my favorite John Wooden quotes.

“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

I grew up with parents who were children of the depression.

They lived their whole lives believing that things would bring them happiness and peace of mind. However, the more material things they acquired, the more symbols of status that came into their lives, the LESS happy they became. They always wanted more. I really identified with the idea that success was not a thing or a title, but rather a feeling; the feeling of knowing that you’ve done your best. I tried to make it the major component of how I coached.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Many people live unhappy lives because they worry about what others think about them. At some point they realize that some people will be critical for no good reason. Our time is better spent working on being the best person we can be.

“If I am through learning, I am through.” “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts” We should never stop learning. Life is about change and learning how to successfully adapt to those changes. “You are not a failure until start blaming someone else for your mistakes.”

Making mistakes is part of the process of growth. We must take responsibility for our mistakes, learn from them and not repeat the same ones.

Unfortunately, I never got to meet John Wooden in person, but one of my former players, Don DuPree, did. He spent an afternoon with him in California. Don was an outstanding running back on an undefeated Bolles School team in 1975. He is a multiple Emmy Award winner, the creator of the television show, A Piece of the Game, and a longtime producer/director of Siskel & Ebert. After listening to Coach Wooden talk about his philosophy of teaching and coaching, Don told him that it was very similar to mine. That is probably the greatest compliment I ever received. Wooden it be nice if all of us could have a mentor like Coach John Wooden?

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