John Wooden is one of the most legendary figures in the world of basketball. A longtime head coach at UCLA, he was known for developing players including the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Wooden was known not just for helping his players reach their potential on the court, however. He was also an important role model for his players when it came to life in general. In fact, this was one of Wooden’s core purposes as a leader. He strove to be a great role model for the young men he coached.

John Wooden

During his coaching career, Wooden led the UCLA Bruins to 10 national championships. There is plenty of evidence that suggests his methods work. His players also stayed in close touch with him for decades after they left the university, proving that Wooden’s strategies were a great way to foster lifelong relationships. 

How did he accomplish all these things? First, Wooden strongly believed in leadership by example. He knew that no one likes hypocrisy, and that one way to lose players’ loyalty and attention is to say one thing and do another. People respect those who talk the talk and walk the walk. But, it’s difficult for a coach to inspire loyalty if they are always contradicting themselves. Wooden’s honesty and direct style showed players they could trust him.

Another one of John Wooden’s precepts is the importance of positive feedback. If players are always being yelled at, eventually they’ll simply tune their coach out. Many coaches find their careers are truncated because of this. It’s true that constructive criticism is a must for any leader. However, there’s a proper way to give this type of feedback. Players won’t respond well to someone who is simply yelling at them. This can be alienating and makes them feel like they’re being mocked. The way to do it is to show them how to improve, not just yell at them.

Coaches need to be self-aware to model themselves after Wooden effectively. One of the most important traits in a role model is self-awareness. Many coaches have found that making a list of their goals and objectives and tracking their progress towards it is helpful. This helps them to know that they’re staying on track. It also makes them constantly check in and make sure they’re being the role model they really want to be.