Is Skill The Most Highly Sought After Trait In Athletes?


“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.


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.