When I was a second-year teacher, I was asked to coach the 0-10 tennis team at my school. My only qualification was that I once had seen a tennis racket. Being an English teacher, I went out and bought a book on tennis and also stumbled across a book called They Call Me Coach by John Wooden. The book changed my life as a teacher and as a father. The main theme of the book is that the way you conduct yourself off the court has everything to do with the way you conduct yourself on the court.
I knew almost nothing about tennis, but I would stop practice for 15 to 20 minutes each day and talk to the players about the ideas I found in They Call Me Coach. Of course, that included The Pyramid of Success. Building the team around these basic steps to success, we transformed the team: 4-6 the first year; 6-4 the second; 8-2 the third; and 10-0 the fourth. I still did not know much about tennis, but John Wooden helped me learn a little about success.
I intend to write more blog entries about how I teach the Pyramid to ninth graders, but my intention now is to encourage teachers to learn about John Wooden and to teach about him as a person because he is the kind of role model that students need. He is old (99 to be exact), and he is old fashioned, but my students find something in him that is missing in their lives.
For anyone who does not know who John Wooden is, he was the legendary basketball coach of UCLA. His teams won 10 national championships in 12 years. His 88-game win streak is the best in major sports. He was chosen by ESPN as the greatest coach of the 20th century. Despite all his winning, his definition of success does not mention winning at all. Success for him is the PEACE OF MIND that comes from the SELF-SATISFACTION of knowing that you did the best you were capable of doing to be that best that you could be. That is an attainable goal for any of our students.
Wooden lived the simple values that his father taught him growing up in a small town in Indiana. He was offered 10 times what he made at UCLA to coach in the NBA, but he turned down the offer. He did not cuss, and he would not tolerate profanity from his players. He still lives in a modest apartment that he shared with his wife.
Besides, They Call Me Coach, I would recommend three resources to learn more about John Wooden. His website, which is sponsored by McDonald's, is www.coachwooden.com The second resource is his DVD, John Wooden: Values, Victory, and Peace of Mind. The third is The John Wooden Pyramid of Success by Neville L. Johnson. This last book is quite helpful because the chapters are units unto themselves. Therefore, the reader will find this book easy to use. It also is filled with articles of other people's experiences with John Wooden.
I would also recommend googling an article written by Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated. The name of the article is "A Paragon Rising Above the Madness." In this article, you will get a glimpse of the commitment that he had toward his wife, who was the only girl he ever dated. You may think that his loyalty is a bit over the top, but a student I had in summer school this year thinks that John Wooden is awesome. This young lady has lived through her mother's four marriages, and to learn of John Wooden's commitment to his wife brings hope to her life.