Ronald GallimoreEveryone's a teacher to someone (John Wooden)

Pyramid of Teaching Success in sport

Coach John Wooden developed his Pyramid of Success for individuals. Inspired by Wooden, The Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport is a graphical conception of the qualities of effective coaches. It has been used as a tool in professional development programs for youth sport coaches.
The Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport was presented and described in a 2010 journal article by Wade Gilbert, Swen Nater, Mark Siwik, and myself. For a PDF of this article, click here.
The Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport (PofTSS) reflects a conviction that effective coaching is dependent upon teaching success. The PofTSS draws on multiple sources: (a) the authors’ experiences across diverse careers in sport psychology, educational psychology, collegiate and professional sport, coaching, business performance and occupational stress, (b) four decades of coaching research, and (c) first-hand experience studying, playing for, and working with legendary sport coach John Wooden.
The PofTSS includes 15 blocks and 10 pieces of mortar, and focuses coaches on improvement of their teaching skills. This emphasis on self-improvement rather than measuring oneself against the performances of others is consistent with current views on how best to develop human potential across domains.
Click
here for a PDF of the Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport. The Pyramid is copyrighted by BeLikeCoach and is available for public use to anyone devoted to the improvement of coaching.

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John Wooden Taught Concepts Too

Many stories about Coach John Wooden emphasize his use of repetition as a key teaching approach. It’s true that practicing until certain actions were automatic was part of his approach. But it is not true that this was the foundation of his approach. He focused on development of players’ conceptual understanding that in combination with lots of practice led to a level of performance seldom equal in athletics.

A key goal of Wooden was the development of players who were creative, confident problem-solvers. As games progress, teams change tactics, presenting new problems by to force the opponent to play in a way it might not want to. In response to changing tactics by opponents, Wooden wanted …to be as surprised as our opponent at what my team came up with when confronted with an unexpected challenge (Nater & Gallimore, 2010, pps. 89-90).

Wooden’s goal was to teach the underlying concepts of basketball, so that when opponents surprised his players with new and different challenges they in turn surprised their coach and the other team with creative and effective solution methods.

To develop his players' capacities to “surprise” him with their solution methods during games, Wooden used a systematic pedagogical approach that he describes as the “whole-part” method.

I tried to teach according to the whole-part method. I would show them the whole thing to begin with. Then I’m going to break it down into the parts and work on the individual parts and then eventually bring them together.

(Wooden, personal communication, February 12, 2002).

There’s an interesting parallel between Coach Wooden’s pedagogy and contemporary views on teaching mathematics. It is not a perfect analogy because the subject matters are different in fundamental ways. Consider Coach Wooden’s hope “ …to be as surprised as our opponent at what my team came up with when confronted with an unexpected challenge.” The desire to be “surprised” by his players is surprisingly analogous to contemporary ideas on teaching mathematics. If students are only taught to memorize solution methods, any deviation in problem structure or form may stymie them. If they were taught to understand conceptually the underlying mathematics, they are typically better prepared to devise solution methods as the need arises.

Learning the “basics” is important; however, students who memorize facts or procedures without understanding often are not sure when or how to use what they know. In contrast, conceptual understanding enables students to deal with novel problems and settings. They can solve problems that they have not encountered before.

(National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2005) ).

Coach Wooden emphasized repetition of fundamentals so that his players would be resourceful, imaginative, and creative, not because he wanted them to be robots mindlessly relying on rote memory. For him, repetition is a means to an end; he firmly believed that when students understand what they are doing and can connect the ideas they are taught, they are better prepared to solve new problems as they arise in the future. He teaches that understanding and conceptual knowledge, supported by automatic mastery of fundamentals, prepares students to tackle problems of all kinds, like those they had encountered before, and novel ones, too.

For more how Coach Wooden taught concepts and used repetition to build automaticity, see Nater and Gallimore (2010), Chapter 6.

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Studying Coach Wooden's Teaching

During the 1974-1975 basketball season, Roland Tharp and I spent many afternoons observing Coach John Wooden as he conducted practice on the UCLA campus. Using an observational coding scheme tailored to Coach’s teaching practices, we analyzed and published the results of our observations in Psychology Today (Tharp & Gallimore, 1976).
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In 2004, The Sports Psychologist published a followup to the original study including new materials and interpretation of 1970s investigation (Gallimore & Tharp, 2004). PDF

Swen Nater and I summarized the results of 30 years of investigating Coach Wooden’s teaching principles and practices in You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned (Nater & Gallimore, 2005). Some of his key approaches are summarized on this page. Read More.
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John Wooden's Timeless Lessons

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In 2003, Hank Bias called me asking about films of Coach Wooden teaching on the practice court. Hank was and still is head basketball coach. He coaches the Fairmont High’s Fairmont Firebirds of Kettering, Ohio. When he called, the team had lost 17 games, winning only 3, and Hank was thinking of leaving coaching. He called because he’d read an article Roland Tharp and I wrote about John Wooden’s teaching practices. Hank wanted films so he could learn to be a better teacher of basketball. I had made digital copies of old films Coach Wooden gave me, but I told Hank he’d have to call Coach Wooden to get permission to get copies. After some hesitation, Hank phoned Wooden who invited him out to California to talk about teaching. That began a story that some describe as “too Hollywood” to be true. But it is true, and what happened in the following years is quite a story. For ten years, beginning in 2003, I tracked Hank’s progress, visiting him twice, interviewing him in person and on the phone, and keeping up an email correspondence. Our research team recently published the first of several articles on Hank’s story. This first article describes how Hank learned to apply Wooden’s approach to steadily, continually improving his teaching, and the effects it had on him and his team. Read more about Hank and Coach Wooden: click here.
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Coach John Wooden talks about teaching

John Robert Wooden (1910 – 2010) was Head Basketball Coach at UCLA from 1948 until his retirement in 1975. Wooden’s UCLA teams earned 10 NCAA titles in 12 years, reeled off an 88-game win streak, and won 38 consecutive tournament games.
NCAA coach of the year 6 times, in 2000 he was named Men’s College Coach of the 20th Century by the Naismith Hall of Fame and ESPN. In 2003 Coach was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

When he spoke to groups, Coach Wooden often began remarks this way: “When I was teaching at UCLA…..” He believed that coaching is teaching, and that the foundation of his success as a coach was the years he spent as a high school English teacher. The Academy of Achievement site includes a video of Coach Wooden in which he describes himself as a teacher.
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