(Strength) Coach Wooden

It seems like I post quite a bit about what I’m reading and not always about some kind of new revolutionary training going on inside the tall, cold, concrete walls of Ambition Athletics.  But, this is what popped into my head this week so I’m going with it.  I am currently reading “Wooden On Leadership” by John Wooden and Steve Jamison.  Now, my Dad was highly involved with Student Leadership Training Program back when I was a youngster so one might think that I have some experience and valuable insight that I learned in the past and could relate it to that of Coach Wooden.  However, that isn’t the case and one of the reasons I’m reading the book.  For some reason I was “too busy” back then and as a teen didn’t exactly see the value in such a program.  Imagine that.  Kind of reminds of when I started college as Business undeclared major only to choose Marketing when they told me I had to choose something now if I was going to keep attending class.  Hindsight is a bitch ain’t it? 20/20.  But I digress.  Although I am only about half way through the book two things have really stood out to me.

Good Habits

In the preface of the book Steve Jamison addresses the question of how John Wooden was so successful at so many levels and for so long?  His answer, “Coach Wooden taught good habits.  That’s it – that’s the answer.”  This answer puts a smile on my face.  If there is one thing that I try and instill in those that I train, especially kids and those who are new to training, it’s good habits.  I’m in love with fundamentals so learning to do the basics well, with good habits, I think is essential and provides a strong foundation to build off of.  These habits will not only be steps toward accomplishing your body or athletic goals but will also keep a person from injuring themselves as well as others while in the weightroom.  Demonstrating good habits makes the training system, or practices in Coach Wooden’s case, a term we frequently use, more efficient and effective.  The same can be applied to nutrition.  Small steps toward building better food habits are the stepping-stones toward reaching your goals.  A massive overhaul doesn’t need to happen all at once but start practicing good habits one by one.


Merriam Webster defines character as “one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual”.  I only know this because I went over to my extensive book collection and thumbed through the pages of my dictionary until I found the definition.  (Do people actually still do that?)  Others define it as what you do when no one is looking.  I like this example quite a bit.  Certainly character can relate to morals, ethics and many other aspects in life but for our purposes we are sticking to the training and health realm.  Wooden points out that Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.”  I think this quote is great because it keeps you honest.  You have to look at yourself and ask if your behavior matches your goals.  Then it’s much easier to determine why you may or may not be where you want to be currently.  Wooden mentions that he told parents he could not teach their sons character, but I think on a smaller scale when you can get someone to buy into your system and they create good habits and pay attention to detail then that can become a part of their character.  On a larger scale the person/athlete has “got to want it”.  You can’t simply make people do something they don’t want to do.  The book talks about effective leadership not necessarily being about being hard or soft, a preacher, or sensitive, but setting a good example through standards.  I personally think about this as a coach frequently because I am not the yelling type or the person who is going to be real tough on you.  I want you to want to get better and I believe that we can show you the best way to get there.  We as coaches can’t be with someone every hour of the day so it has to be important to him or her.  It will always be important to me to give people my best but sometimes I wonder how good I am at expressing myself.

Finally, relating back to the standards that Wooden held, his players said he was respected because he was very hands-on with practice.  He wasn’t afraid to get in there and show his players what he was talking about.  In other words, he could demonstrate it because he practiced what he preached.  I feel that is in an important aspect in the training world.  I can remember Coach Mike Boyle saying that as a coach you have to be able to demonstrate what you want your athletes to do.  The visual aspect is important.  Not only that, but practicing what you preach can mean a great deal to others as they may look up to you in different ways.  I don’t want to require anything of those that I work with that I wouldn’t be willing to do or couldn’t physically do myself.

– Mike Baltren

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2 Responses to (Strength) Coach Wooden

  1. Cheri says:

    That’s a great book. Also, I just printed the pyramid to pin up near my desk. John Wooden was an incredible human being. I was privileged to have met him and Nell.

  2. Cheri says:

    D’oh! I popped down to fill in my info, hit enter after my name, and it posted the comment before I was through.

    Anyway, great post. I really like the work you and Max do in your gym as well as putting great info out into the world via blog, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. You both serve a greater good. I think John Wooden is totally loving you guys.

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