“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden
Coaches and teachers concern themselves with values education, a subject as integral to the construction of elite teams as defensive fundamentals or offensive skill. No good team has progressed to the excellent level and maintained that greatness over time without a core of solid values.
Frankly, the current generation of student-athletes shares a different perspective from their predecessors and this is neither good nor bad. It means that what used to pass unsaid must be constantly repeated in order to achieve clear understanding. Making assumptions will leave the teacher or coach in a lurch.
Firstly, coaches must model the way. Eschewing that responsibility is a disservice to themselves and the teams that they coach. If a coach is dishonest, it is inevitable that poor values will infect the entire program.
Players are equally accountable although they are entitled to make some mistakes. However, while the ultimate penalty for poor morals should be specific to each case, the standard for what is acceptable can never be compromised.
Wooden believed that it doesn’t matter what fans and followers may think. Student-athletes should aim for self-actualization in the classroom, on the basketball court, and in the mirror before they strive for the adulation of others. If a person cannot be honest with themselves, it is unlikely they can be honest with others.
It is easy to forgive a player for throwing a bad pass to a teammate but impossible to ignore one who lies to another. If a player turns over the ball by attempting to do much, feedback should be clear and concise; if a player takes a shortcut, the reaction may be stern and severe. In all cases, discipline must remain corrective and instructive.
If Confucius were a basketball coach, he would set lofty goals for the team that he coached and demand that players perform all work – individual, part-method, or whole-method – with game intensity and quality. Completing ten thousand hours is not merely marking time if each repetition is focused and dedicated.
A team with a journey of a thousand miles to travel will rely as much upon their principles as much as practice. Without work ethic and determination, every step that comprises the season will seem impossible. Without respect and honesty, players will feel that there are alone instead of part of something more significant.
Too often, we choose the path of least resistance, which often amounts to inaction. The reason that John Wooden ultimately left South Bend Central High School in order to assume the head coaching position at Indiana State University was because he felt that the standards of student-athletes were sliding and he wanted to be in a position where he could make more of a difference, even if it meant leading a smaller group.
Every day must be an example of how to practice hard or how to play together. It is not acceptable to quietly and gradually drift apart: players, captains, coaches, and teachers are all leaders who can light the way for others along the path.