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.
For more on the life and career of this legendary teacher, visit this website devoted to Coach, and this wikipedia site.
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.
Some key teaching practices of Coach Wooden:
- Preparation, preparation, preparation: failure to prepare is preparing to fail;
- Know your subject matter well, & learn to make it understandable to learners;
- Teach concepts & blend with practice, practice, practice – he wanted his players (and students) to understand concepts so well they could come up with solutions to novel problems;
- Never stop evaluating how you teach, never stop experimenting with new approaches, never stop learning to teach a little better;
- Steadily, relentlessly, and continuously seek incremental teaching improvements instead of big gains all at once.
In 2003, I asked Coach Wooden what is the most important idea teachers need to know, and he repeated what he’d been saying for years to anyone who would listen:
“Way back in the mid-'30s I picked up something and I never forgot it:
No written word, no spoken plea can teach our youth what they should be.
Nor all the books on all the shelves, it's what the teachers are themselves.
(Wooden, personal communication, February 12, 2002).
He believed that "Profound responsibilities come with teaching and coaching. You can do so much good—or harm. It’s why I believe that next to parenting, teaching and coaching are the two most important professions in the world" (John Wooden).