John Wooden is a coaching rock star and legend. So I thought, what better gift to give my readers during this holiday season 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.
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.