Category Archives: Pyramid of success

The Pressure Of Winning

winningsource

Never mention winning. My idea is that you can lose when you outscore somebody in a game. And you can win when you’re outscored. I used to say that when a game is over, and you see somebody that didn’t know the outcome, I hope they couldn’t tell by your actions whether you outscored an opponent or the opponent outscored you.—John Wooden

I understand this philosophy and I even hold it to a certain extent.  But I’m going to deviate (!) from my man Wooden here and say that I disagree.

Where I agree with his philosophy:

  • You can beat a team that you’re just better than and still play poorly.
  • You can play to the absolute best of your ability and still get beat by a team who is more talented than yours.



Where I disagree:

I used to not talk about winning very much, but rather the process of getting there (hard work, commitment, consistency, good mental mindset) and would always say the rest will take care of itself.  And that works for some teams, especially those that are internally driven to succeed.  But you will have teams, with good skill sets, who are not internally motivated and you will then need to provide the motivation or the pressure.  Whether it’s through punishments for not correctly completing drills or, and this is where I disagree with Wooden, through talking about winning.

There is inherent pressure in talking about winning.  It’s like talking about a diet that you’re on.  Once you start telling people you’re on a diet, then you don’t want them seeing you munching on cookies and sipping pop.  The whole point of talking about it is so that others can hold you accountable…right?  It’s the same with talking about winning.  There’s a pressure associated with talk of winning, with getting picked to win conference, or whatever accolade your team is “supposed” to accomplish.

My question is: what’s wrong with having that level of expectation?  What’s wrong with seeing the pressure, recognizing the pressure, and acknowledging the pressure?  The pressure doesn’t go away if you don’t talk about it!

And what if your team has low expectations?  What if, like in the example I used before, your team is an externally driven team?  What if they need you to raise their expectation level?  It will be uncomfortable, sure, but I believe it’s necessary.  For teams that don’t know how to win or haven’t had a history of success, the coach has to provide that incentive to take the next step.

To me, talking about winning is about holding your team accountable for their goals.  Writing down that you want to win on a poster, but never talking about it doesn’t seem like a good way to accomplish much.  For externally motivated teams, they may not even know what steps to take in order to go down a winning path.

It’s our job to tell them.

 

John Wooden’s TEDtalk:  The difference between winning and succeeding

The John Wooden series:

John Wooden TEDtalk
Leading With Integrity
Wooden’s Three Team Rules
When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?

Wooden’s Three Team Rules

Rules listsource

Are you one of those coaches with a page full of team rules?  Or do you not believe in team rules?  Or perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle.  Personally, I don’t have a lot of team rules because I don’t know if it’s possible to enforce a lot of rules…and why have them if they aren’t going to be enforced?

Check out John Wooden’s rules and see if they can be applied to your team:

  1. Be on time.  I’ve talked to coaches at every level and of many sports and they all are sticklers about time.  I’m not big on team rules, but it’s one of mine.  Maybe it’s because we spend so much time on practice plans and the athletes can screw it all up with one late appearance.  Maybe it’s a respect thing.
  2. Be neat and clean.  I think this one is the product of the time in which Wooden coached.  Though I do hear of some coaches, usually football or men’s basketball, where the coach will have a “no facial hair” or “no long hair” rule.
  3. No profanity.  I can count the number of times I’ve sworn in front of my teams on one hand.  Notice I said “in front of them”, I’m sure I’ve sworn under my breath during many a practice and game!  For our athletes, there’s nothing positive that comes from swearing:  officials don’t appreciate it, opponents think it’s obnoxious, and moms in the stands shouldn’t have to cover their kid’s ears.
  4. Never criticize a teammate.  I know the title of the post is three team rules and this is very obviously number four, but this is how he presented it.  Since he didn’t elaborate on it, I’ll put my spin on it.  Here’s the definition of criticism: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.  Using this definition, which seems to put teammates on two different levels (the teammate who is right or doing things the right way and the teammate who is wrong) and that can never be good for team unity.



So what do you think?  Do these line up with your team rules?

John Wooden’s TEDtalk:  The difference between winning and succeeding

The John Wooden series:

John Wooden TEDtalk
Leading With Integrity
The Pressure Of Winning
When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?

John Wooden TED talk

John Woodensource

How did I miss this?  I hadn’t seen this TEDtalk until recently.  You all know how much of a John Wooden fan I am…I’ve written about him extensively.  There are many quality nuggets in this talk, check it out:

The difference between winning and succeeding

I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to leave it at that.  The talk is so interesting and he’s so amazing, just sitting there speaking without notes and absolutely killing it.  The video is just over seventeen minutes…well worth it!  Over the next couple of days, I’ll break down some cool themes from his talk:

  • Reputation vs. character
  • His definition of success
  • The three rules he had for his teams
  • On why he never talked about winning
  • Are your players reaching their full potential?



Coach Wooden is a treasure and those of us who follow in his footsteps would do well to listen to what he has to say.

The John Wooden series:

Leading With Integrity
Wooden’s Three Team Rules
The Pressure Of Winning
When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?

The Ultimate Trifecta For Success: Your Team, Patience, And Faith

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John Wooden is a coaching rock star and legend.   So I thought, what better gift to give my readers during my blog vacay than a series on Wooden’s Pyramid of Success?  Join me for a series of posts that will delve into both the foundation and apex of his Pyramid and examine Wooden’s thoughts on Industriousness, Enthusiasm, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Competitive Greatness, and finally, Faith & Patience.

Faith & Patience

Wooden calls faith and patience the mortar that keeps the blocks of the Pyramid of Success together and I couldn’t agree more.  I’ll bet you’re wondering why…well I have some answers for you!

Why Patience?

  • Because it takes time to create excellence.  Do you remember your first year coaching?  Just how awful were you?  I don’t know about you, but I was pretty bad.  And not to toot my own horn (toot, toot!), but I’m not doing too badly right now and I bet you aren’t either.  The same process we go through as coaches, our athletes will have to muddle through as well.
  • Because your team needs time to gel.  They’re not going to walk into the gym or onto the field and be battle tested in the first week.  So after you’ve fired them up for the season and they’ve come up with goals for the season…be patient and trust the process.
  • Because you’ve got to figure out how to be the best coach for your team.  You’ve got to find out the different personality types that make up your team and how they’re motivated.  And just as important, they’ve got to figure you out and all of your idiosyncrasies…what ticks you off and what gets you all fired up and excited.


Why Faith?

  • Because there’s no reason to play if you don’t have faith that you could win it all in the end.  You may not, but if you don’t think that you will…why play?
  • Because that’s what gives meaning to your goals.  We all set goals months before we’ll ever know if they will come to fruition.  Without faith that you can accomplish your goals…what are you playing for?
  • Because it’s built into the fabric of sports and we, as coaches, have to teach faith and belief just like we teach the more tangible skills of our sport.


We should all be able to stand in front of our teams and say, like Wooden:  “The values, ideals, and principles of the Pyramid of Success are the qualities that will allow you to stand tall.  You have success within.  It’s up to you to bring it out.”  Isn’t that what we want for our players at the end of the season and at the end of their careers?  To be able to stand tall and be proud of what they did?  I believe the Pyramid is a huge step in the right direction.

The 3 Principles of Competitive Greatness: How To Be Good When It Counts

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John Wooden is a coaching rock star and legend.   So I thought, what better gift to give my readers during my blog vacation than a series on Wooden’s Pyramid of Success?  Join me for a series of posts that will delve into both the foundation and apex of his Pyramid and examine Wooden’s thoughts on Industriousness, Enthusiasm, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Competitive Greatness, and finally, Faith & Patience.

Competitive Greatness

Have you ever had an athlete who was the most amazing player to have ever played the game…when you were playing a team that wasn’t as skilled as yours?  Or a player who was a walking highlight film in the first month of the season, but come tournament time…she disappears?  This is where competitive greatness comes into play.  What does that phrase mean?  To me, it means being great when you have to be.  Whether it’s game point and the team is counting on you or it’s the conference tournament and the entire team needs to step up.  Whatever the situation, it’s being great when greatness is required.  Check out these three ways that coaches can nurture competitive greatness on their teams.

  • Be patient.  I’ve talked about seven of the blocks that make up the Pyramid of Success, but there are fourteen in total and competitive greatness is the culmination of all of those blocks.  Oftentimes, I think we coaches think that the team is going to be ready to go on the first day of practice…and we start grouching, and rolling our eyes, and shaking our heads.  But, in actuality, we’re in the wrong because competitive greatness takes time and experience.  We’ve got to internalize that thought and we’ve got to get it across to our teams as well.  Greatness is out there and will be part of our team’s future…we’ve just got to be willing to go through the process first.
  • Create challenges. Getting through all of those blocks of the Pyramid won’t be easy and it certainly won’t happen without you being intentional about it.  Challenge your team’s industriousness and their enthusiasm through drills in practice, because they should be enthusiastic about their hard work and work hard at their enthusiasm.  Challenge them to create time in their busy schedules to create friendship and loyalty within the team.  All of that takes time, but it will pay off in the end.
  • Embrace competition. Years ago, I sat down with an athlete who said that she learned how to not equate competition with hating the opponent in our practices.  What’s wrong with hating the opponent, you ask?  Well, if you set up competitions in your practice (of course you do, right?), you don’t want your players to hate each other…they’re teammates after all!  You want your teams to love to compete, but not make it personal.  Even in competitions versus other schools, I try to emphasize that the two sides have opposing goals and that’s why we want to win.  Quite honestly, I don’t want my team to care enough about the opponent that we hate them.  We don’t care about the other team…we just care our team and creating success within our group.


Here’s a great quotation from Wooden’s book:  “What is competitive greatness?  It’s being at your best when your best is needed.”  I’m pretty sure that I can’t say it any better!  Next up:  faith and patience.

3 Keys To Unlock The Confidence That Will Lead To Your Success

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After writing for two years straight, I think it’s time for a blog vacation! But never fear, dear reader, I won’t leave you alone during my vacay. Please enjoy some of my oldies (but goodies!) about something near and dear to my heart: The Pyramid of Success.

“You must have confidence.  You must believe in yourself if you expect others to believe in you.”
—John Wooden

Confidence is the result of preparation.  Don’t believe me?  Go into a meeting with your boss without knowing what the topic will be and see how you feel.  I’ll bet you’d feel a lot less than confident.  But if you know the topic ahead of time and you’re able to get some info together so that you can speak intelligently…then you’ll feel confident.  So we agree…preparation is key.  But how do we prepare our athletes?  I think confidence has got to be on three different planes: they’ve got to be confident in themselves, in their teammates, and in their team goals.  If one of those three is missing, then success may be just out of your reach.  Read on to see how you can properly prepare your athletes to be confident.

3 reasons why confidence is essential for your athletes

In themselves. As Wooden says in that opening quotation, you’ve got to believe in you…because if you don’t, why should I?  The beauty of confidence is in the preparation.  Your athlete feels confident at the free throw line when the game is on the line because you’ve put her in that situation a million times in practice. Even when she makes a mistake in the game, that athlete understands that she will have more successes than failures during any given competition, so she’s not too high when things are flowing and she’s not too low when nothing is working right.  She’s confident that things will work out for her because she’s done everything within her power to be prepared.

In their teammates. According to dictionary.com, confidence in your teammates would look like “belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person.”  That sounds like preparation to me!  Your passers have confidence that they will each do their jobs, because they’ve done it time and time again.  In practice, in games, in stressful situations…they’ve watched their teammates be tested and be successful.  Therefore, they have confidence that they’ll be successful in the future.

In their vision. If your team isn’t confident in their goals and vision for the future, then it likely won’t come to pass.  Why?  Because sometimes your team will not play well, sometimes they’ll lose, sometimes they won’t live up to their own hype.  But quality preparation for their goals will help them to stay focused.  Coaches can talk to their teams about the pressure of being picked to win it all, or the pressure of winning back to back, or the pressure of “must win” games.  Coaches should talk about how athletes can manage their emotions, their classwork, and their expectations through it all.  All of that qualifies as preparation.

As the Boy Scouts motto says: Be prepared.  I firmly believe that proper preparation leads to successful performances.  If we invest in our athletes through preparation, our teams will benefit in the form of winning teams.

Join me in a series discussing John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.  I believe his Pyramid can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, how we behave as professionals, and to our lives in general.  This series will cover Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness, Condition, Skill, Team Spirit, Poise, and Confidence.

Why Being Yourself Leads To Success: 5 Thoughts On Poise In Athletics

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After writing for two years straight, I think it’s time for a blog vacation!  But never fear, dear reader, I won’t leave you alone during my vacay.  Please enjoy some of my oldies (but goodies!) about something near and dear to my heart: The Pyramid of Success.

“My definition of poise is very simple: being yourself.  You’re not acting.  You’re not pretending or trying to be something you’re not.  You are being who you are and are totally comfortable with that.”
—John Wooden

Poise is near the top of Wooden’s Pyramid of Success…which means that the blocks under it have to be accomplished before poise can even be a thought in our minds.  I love Wooden’s definition of poise because it says a lot in a few words.  If you’ve got a team of individuals who are self-confident enough, self-aware enough, and comfortable enough in their own skin that they can truly be themselves with each other…that’s when the door to becoming the best opens up wide.

I’m going to break with form a bit and list a few quotations of what other folks had to say about poise.  Enjoy!

  • “The key to winning is poise under stress.”—Paul Brown
  • “To me, it was never about what I accomplished on the football field. It was about the way I played the game. I played the game with a lot of determination, a lot of poise, a lot of pride and I think what you saw out there…was an individual who really just loved the game.”—Jerry Rice
  • “For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.”—Sam Levenson
  • “To bear defeat with dignity, to accept criticism with poise, to receive honors with humility–these are marks of maturity and graciousness.”—William Arthur Ward
  • “The qualities of man comes thus, not only he is able to survive in any kind of situation but he also maintains his poise in trying times.”—Sam Veda


I believe this all applies to coaches as well.  I wrote before that once I became a more authentic coach, I became much more successful.  Know who we are as coaches, and being comfortable with it, will help us lead our teams with poise.

Join me in a series discussing John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.  I believe his Pyramid can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, how we behave as professionals, and to our lives in general.  This series will cover Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness, Condition, Skill, Team Spirit, Poise, and Confidence.

My Athletic Nirvana Smells Like Team Spirit

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After writing for two years straight, I think it’s time for a blog vacation!  But never fear, dear reader, I won’t leave you alone during my vacay.  Please enjoy some of my oldies (but goodies!) about something near and dear to my heart: The Pyramid of Success.

“Team spirit means losing oneself in the group for the good of the group.  It means being not just willing but eager to sacrifice personal interest or glory for the welfare of all.”—John Wooden

Team spirit.  It’s a tough one to define, but as has been said about other things…I know it when I see it.  Here are three different ways that we can teach team spirit within our teams.

3 different ways to define team spirit

1.      Willingness to cooperate as part of a team. I’m sure we all know the coach who is willing to turn the other way when she sees poor behavior from one of her players.  She looks the other way because that player is really good and the team would lose without her.  I’d caution that coach to reevaluate her personal coaching goals, because I’d hope that having the respect of her team is high on that list.  Players can smell BS and hypocrisy a mile away, that’s why I believe that we’ve got to be team first coaches.  Team first, you second, me third.  If each person on the team has that kind of attitude, success is sure to follow!

2.      The essence of a group that makes the members want the group to succeed. This definition implies a collective belief that the whole is better and will be more successful than the parts.  It’s also an acknowledgement that there are different levels of skill within each player.  In addition, this definition recognizes that those with higher level skills will represent the group in competition…but that those with lesser skills have a well-defined role within the team.  Though a smaller group will represent the whole…there will be no success without each team member having a legitimate role on the team that is valued.

3.      Willingness to sacrifice personal considerations for the welfare of all. I often sit down with my teams to make sure they understand what happens on game day, because everyone sacrifices.  I want my non-starters to understand that the starters will make infinitely more mistakes in front of their friends, families, and professors by virtue of their being on the court more.  I want those same non-starters to understand that there is a burden to be borne by those starters: wins and losses are perceived to be squarely on their backs.  The starters’ challenge is to represent our team.

On the flip side, I want my starters to understand that their non-starting teammates put just as much time, sweat, and energy into the team…without the “glory” of getting to put on a show.  Starters need to appreciate the non-starters’ willingness to get them ready for competition behind the scenes.  If both sides can respect each other’s sacrifices, then the team spirit of our team will undoubtedly be great.

We all want team players on our teams, but it’s tough to define.  Hopefully this has given you a more solid idea of what it means.

P.S.  I’m hoping you got my wordsmithery (yes, I made up that word) in the title.  Fabulous song, check out the video for some old school goodness.

Join me in a series discussing John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.  I believe his Pyramid can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, how we behave as professionals, and to our lives in general.  This series will cover Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness, Condition, Skill, Team Spirit, Poise, and Confidence.

Is Skill The Most Highly Sought After Trait In Athletes?

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After writing for two years straight, I think it’s time for a blog vacation!  But never fear, dear reader, I won’t leave you alone during my vacay.  Please enjoy some of my oldies (but goodies!) about something near and dear to my heart: The Pyramid of Success.

“You’d better be able to execute properly and quickly.  That’s skill.”—John Wooden

So often when people talk about team chemistry or leadership or team dynamics, they seem to think, “Well, that’s great…if I have time to get to it.”  I think it’s partly because coaches understand the tangibles: setting up a practice plan, putting together drills, making corrections to specific behaviors.  I also think it’s partly because coaches don’t understand the ins and outs of those intangibles (and how to measure if we’ve been successful), so we tend to stay away from them.

But if we are to believe the Pyramid, and I think we all know by now that I do, then a successful team is built upon intangibles.  Taking the next step, it seems that our success will rely on combining skill with team chemistry.

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What Coach Wooden has brilliantly given us with his Pyramid is a way to measure the success of those intangibles.  Build these blocks of the Pyramid of Success into your practice plans and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals!

  • Industriousness: Hard work seems like a tangible thing, right?  Run your team into the ground and they’ll be working hard.  Actually it’s the biggest intangible of all.  Only your players know whether they’re truly and consistently working hard.
  • Friendship: Forcing your team to hang out together at the beginning of the season is a little awkward at first.  But doesn’t knowing that it will build the foundation of your successful season make it a little more important to you?
  • Loyalty: Team first, me second.  It’s a tough sell, but if you can do it…your team will soar!
  • Cooperation: If everyone on your team is fighting to get their own way, then the team will suffer.  Imagine your team was in a row boat and each of them has their own oar.  If they row separately, the boat will just go in circles.  But together?  Now they’re going places!
  • Enthusiasm: Coming to practice should be fun.  Competing should be fun.  Your athletes may get sore.  Practices may be hard.  They may sweat through their tshirts. And because of all of that…they hopefully can’t wait to come back for more!
  • Self-Control: Getting through the highs and lows of a season will require them to have control of their emotions.  They need the discipline to not wallow in a defeat and not get too high after victory.
  • Alertness: Your athletes should keep their eyes peeled for teammates that are struggling off the court.  When they’re on the court, they should be scoping for opportunities to take advantage of an opponent’s weakness.
  • Initiative: Some folks are paralyzed by fear of failure.  We’ve got to build opportunities for big successes into our practices, always knowing that they are also opportunities for big failures.  We don’t want a team of “play it safe” athletes.  Failure?  Not a big deal.  Being afraid to try?  Big huge deal.
  • Intentness: With industriousness, this is one of my favorite blocks of the Pyramid.  It means staying relentlessly focused on your team goals.  Despite losing the big game, or a rash of injuries, or starting the season slowly.  Your team’s eyes stay on the prize.


Our practices can also be a time to purposefully work on the intangibles of great team dynamics.  If we do it and we do it consistently, we’re well onto the road to success.

Join me in a series discussing John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.  I believe his Pyramid can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, how we behave as professionals, and to our lives in general.  This series will cover Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness, Condition, Skill, Team Spirit, Poise, and Confidence.

Do These 3 Things To Remove The Barrier Between You And Your Success

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After writing for two years straight, I think it’s time for a blog vacation!  But never fear, dear reader, I won’t leave you alone during my vacay.  Please enjoy some of my oldies (but goodies!) about something near and dear to my heart: The Pyramid of Success.

“It is impossible to attain and maintain desirable physical condition without first achieving mental and moral condition.”—John Wooden

As we sit down and review past seasons, I wonder how many of us take conditioning into consideration.  Beyond that, I wonder how many of us build conditioning into our practice plans.  Of course, I’m talking about Wooden-type conditioning, which is deeper than running sprints and lifting weights.  Read on to find out the three types of conditioning necessary for successful players, teams, and seasons.

3 reasons why proper conditioning is vital to reaching your potential

1.      Mental condition. The season is a long haul and the players (and coaches) have to mentally prepare themselves for the ups and downs that will inevitably happen from beginning to end.  Everyone is happy at the beginning of the season because we’re all mentally and physically fresh.  But what happens a couple of months into season and some folks see the writing on the wall, that they won’t play as much as they thought, and their school work is wearing on them?  The mentally strong teams will keep pushing through, relying on their team goals to keep them motivated.

2.      Moral condition. This is a particularly timely topic.  What would your players do if they could take a pill that would help them recover faster from tough workouts, go harder in the weight room, swing faster, and hit harder?  As you know, baseball has been dealing with this issue lately and I believe it’s a moral issue.  Will you do whatever it takes within the rules…or are you willing to operate in the grey zone just outside the rules?  I’d be wary of a coach or player who didn’t see any problems with breaking rules, because where does it stop?  We’ve got to believe that things will work out for those of us that do things the right way and even if it doesn’t, we’ve taught our players a valuable life lesson.

3.      Physical condition. Some sports require massive aerobic capacity.  While others require its participants to use tremendous explosive energy.  Every sport requires different levels of exertion, but the thing that all sports require is a commitment to doing what it takes to be in the best possible physical condition in order to be successful.  I believe that mental and physical conditioning go hand in hand.  For an athlete to push themselves to the edges of their limits daily requires a resolve that is a bit unnatural…therefore a significant goal is required.  As long as the goal is large enough and the players think it’s attainable through hard work, they’ll be willing to log long hours in the gym.

As Wooden says, “you must be conditioned for whatever you’re doing if you’re going to do it to the best of your ability”.  Hopefully, conditioning our athletes for success is a top priority for all of us coaches.

Join me in a series discussing John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.  I believe his Pyramid can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, how we behave as professionals, and to our lives in general.  This series will cover Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness, Condition, Skill, Team Spirit, Poise, and Confidence.