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Issue 348 - Mental Conditioning - (Ward "Piggy" Lambert - Part Two)

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 8 Issue 348
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



John Wooden's college coach at Purdue was Hall of Famer and Basketball Coaching Pioneer Ward "Piggy" Lambert. Coach Lambert believed the mental condition of his players was as important as their physical condition. He wanted his players free from worry on and off the court and viewed it as part of his responsibility to be proactive in helping his players in this regard.
In his book A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring, Coach Wooden described how his college coach Coach Lambert helped him and his teammates mentally:
"Coach Lambert never neglected to talk to us about our personal lives. He wouldn't probe if a topic was clearly sensitive, but he was attentive to anything that might be distracting us from fully concentrating on a game. If it was trouble in a class or trouble in a relationship, he just seemed to know what to ask. And feeling that the coach cared enough about us to find out and wanted to check with us to make sure everything was all right meant that we could relax a bit, knowing that there was someone on our side. I know he did it because he cared about us, first and foremost; but I think he got better performance out of us as an added benefit of giving us a chance to vent.
Coach Lambert always let us know that he genuinely cared for us. He would ask how our parents were doing and if there were any health concerns; he knew our girlfriends and our siblings by name. I remain convinced to this day that compassion like that—sincerely caring for your players and maintaining an active interest in their lives, concerns, and motivations—is one of the most important qualities a coach can have."
Coach Lambert wrote Practical Basketball in 1932, one of the first "bibles" of the game (a 243 page textbook). In his book Coach Lambert discussed the importance of coaching the mental conditioning of his players:
"It has been previously said that, in close contests of evenly matched teams, the game of basketball is a mental fight. Proper mental training must be given by the teacher or coach. Mental stability and control must be preached to the boys. They must understand that all that can be expected .of them is that they perform up to their capability regardless of the success of the other team. When the mental courage of a player is destroyed, he is indecisive. If the mind is not aggressive, the drive in the legs is gone. Experience teaches us to recognize ailments of physical condition, but a close study of each individual is necessary to learn the method by which he may attain aggressiveness of mind. There are many psychological factors which influence the condition of mind."
In addition to the technical aspects of basketball, John Wooden and Piggy Lambert were committed to coaching mental conditioning.
How do you coach the mental conditioning of your team members?

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman




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Application Exercise



Character of The Happy Warrior

Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
That every man in arms should wish to be?
--It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought:
Whose high endeavours are an inward light
That makes the path before him always bright;
Who, with a natural instinct to discern
What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn;
Abides by this resolve, and stops not there,
But makes his moral being his prime care;
Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,
And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train!
Turns his necessity to glorious gain;
In face of these doth exercise a power
Which is our human nature's highest dower:
Controls them and subdues, transmutes, bereaves
Of their bad influence, and their good receives:
By objects, which might force the soul to abate
Her feeling, rendered more compassionate;
Is placable--because occasions rise
So often that demand such sacrifice;
More skilful in self-knowledge, even more pure,
As tempted more; more able to endure,
As more exposed to suffering and distress;
Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.
--'Tis he whose law is reason; who depends
Upon that law as on the best of friends;
Whence, in a state where men are tempted still
To evil for a guard against worse ill,
And what in quality or act is best
Doth seldom on a right foundation rest,
He labours good on good to fix, and owes
To virtue every triumph that he knows:
--Who, if he rise to station of command,
Rises by open means; and there will stand
On honourable terms, or else retire,
And in himself possess his own desire;
Who comprehends his trust, and to the same
Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim;
And therefore does not stoop, nor lie in wait
For wealth, or honours, or for worldly state;
Whom they must follow; on whose head must fall,
Like showers of manna, if they come at all:
Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
But who, if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
Is happy as a Lover; and attired
With sudden brightness, like a Man inspired;
And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw;
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need:
--He who, though thus endued as with a sense
And faculty for storm and turbulence,
Is yet a Soul whose master-bias leans
To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes;
Sweet images! which, wheresoe'er he be,
Are at his heart; and such fidelity
It is his darling passion to approve;
More brave for this, that he hath much to love:--
'Tis, finally, the Man, who, lifted high,
Conspicuous object in a Nation's eye,
Or left unthought-of in obscurity,--
Who, with a toward or untoward lot,
Prosperous or adverse, to his wish or not--
Plays, in the many games of life, that one
Where what he most doth value must be won:
Whom neither shape or danger can dismay,
Nor thought of tender happiness betray;
Who, not content that former worth stand fast,
Looks forward, persevering to the last,
From well to better, daily self-surpast:
Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth
For ever, and to noble deeds give birth,
Or he must fall, to sleep without his fame,
And leave a dead unprofitable name--
Finds comfort in himself and in his cause;
And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause:
This is the happy Warrior; this is he
That every man in arms should wish to be.

William Wordsworth Longfellow (1770 to 1850)






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