How to Build Your Coaching Philosophy – John Wooden

Over 14 years at UCLA, John Wooden crafted his coaching philosophy into a 15 step Pyramid of Success. His character-based approach led to unrivalled success, winning 10 national basketball championships in 12 years. In 2009, John Wooden was named ahead of Vince Lombardi and Phil Jackson, as the Greatest Coach of All Time by The Sporting News.

Whether you are a teacher, parent, or coach; there is much to learn from this inspirational leader. By exploring Wooden’s life and legacy, you can build your own coaching philosophy through identifying your values and vision of success.

Know Your Values

As a teenager, John Wooden’s father gave him a handwritten note which listed a Seven Point Creed. These values established the principles that Wooden would go on to coach and live by.

The Wooden’s Seven Point Creed

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Make each day your masterpiece.
  3. Help others.
  4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

Creating your coaching philosophy begins with considering the traits that you want to be measured and remembered. What are the values you identify with from the list below?

Coaching Values

  • Achievement
  • Challenge
  • Community
  • Competition
  • Confidence
  • Contribution
  • Development
  • Enjoyment
  • Fame
  • Honour
  • Influence
  • Integrity
  • Knowledge
  • Loyalty
  • Relationships
  • Reputation
  • Respect
  • Success

Once you have defined your coaching values, live by these words in your every decision and action. Let them represent a trademark for your approach and a base to build your philosophy around.

Build the Vision

Wooden’s desire to help others led him into a teaching career. However, he disagreed with the standard grading method to assess students. After becoming disillusioned with the way parents expected their youngsters to get an A or a B, Wooden sought to create his own definition of success.

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable” – John Wooden on success.

Through his career, Wooden expanded this definition into a 15-step Pyramid of Success, which illustrated the building blocks required to achieve success not only in sport but life.


Attention to Detail

Through applying the principles of his pyramid through his career, Wooden became renowned for his short and simple inspirational messages, along with close attention to detail. When Wooden first met a group of players, he would sit them down to teach them how to wear their socks and tie their shoelaces correctly, as he didn’t want them getting blisters on their feet.

Interestingly, for a man that broke so many records that Wooden never mentioned winning to his players. He believed that the result would be a reflection of the work done during the week. He would be happy with playing well and losing, but not winning and playing poorly.

“I didn’t want people to know if my side had won or lost by looking at them”

“If you make your effort to do the best you can regularly, the results will be about what they should be, not necessarily what you’d want them to be, but they’ll be about what they should”.

John Wooden leaves a legacy as a remarkable motivator, mentor and role model. When considering the longevity of his success, perhaps more coaches should adopt a focus of valuing traits and characteristics, over points and the win/loss column.

Leave us a comment with how you define your coaching philosophy and where its inspiration was born.




2 thoughts on “How to Build Your Coaching Philosophy – John Wooden”

  1. My coaching philosophy is “caring, courage, commitment.” Three words derived from Claude Thomas Bissell, who wrote “Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.” John Kessel provides excellent advice – state your philosophy in three words. I have found this invaluable in messaging to my teenage athletes and assisting in deepening both their retention and understanding

    Liked by 1 person

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