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Issue 488 - "Statistics are a good resource but they don’t always measure performance" (Coach Wooden 10 for 10)

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 10 Issue 488
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



Between 1964 and 1975 Coach Wooden coached five different groups of players in ten National Championship Games. Coach Wooden's teams won all ten games.
Coach Wooden's definition of success is: "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable." Coach's definition was based on his father teaching him to: "Never try to be better than someone else, but always be learning from others. Never cease trying to be the best you can be. One is under your control, the other isn't." This message was the cornerstone of his communication to his players.
Coach Wooden was amazingly detailed when it came to statistics. He had student managers who kept complete statistics in 18+ categories at every practice in the preseason. These statistics were posted on the equipment room door after every practice before the players left for their team dinner. The results were for that day and cumulative for all practices that year. They were posted for all 14 players and they were also posted by position. So, if you were a guard you could see how you compared to the other three guards. He also had shooting charts by type of shot and whether it was a result of a Fastbreak or set offense and an ongoing +/- analysis for each player. These were not posted. Examples of these charts for his 1961 team are in his book Practical Modern Basketball.
How did John Wooden's posting of these statistics fit with his constant message of: Never try to be better than someone else, but always be learning from others. Never cease trying to be the best you can be. One is under your control, the other isn't."?
Coach Wooden posted the statistics but he never had any team meetings about them and never initiated a conversation with a player based on his statistics. He was constantly correcting proper execution of a fundamental. He kept the focus on the performance not on a statistic and never compared one player to another. He viewed statistics as a teaching aid, not a goal. Players could look at the statistics and see how they were doing in different areas for themselves if they wanted to.
If a player requested a meeting with Coach Wooden or one of his assistants to discuss rebounding statistics the conversation would be directed and kept on his individual rebounding statistic and what techniques he could use to improve his rebounding. His rebounding performance was never compared to another players rebounding statistics. Your benchmark was your own improved performance, not how you compared to others.
Coach Wooden applied the same principle when talking to his players about their grades. If he felt, you were capable of being a B student and you got C's, he would talk to you about improving your performance, but he would not compare you to a gifted straight A student and ask why couldn't you be like him.
How do you use statistics?

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman




Watch Video

Application Exercise



Playing The Game

When the umpire calls you out,
It's no use to stamp and shout,
Wildly kicking dust about—
Play the game!
And though his decision may
End your chances for the day,
Rallies often end that way—
Play the game!
When the umpire shouts: 'Strike two!'
And the ball seems wide to you,
There is just one thing to do:
Play the game!
Keep your temper at the plate,
Grit your teeth and calmly wait,
For the next one may be straight
Play the game!
When you think the umpire's wrong,
Tell him so, but jog along;
Nothing's gained by language strong—
Play the game!
For God’s will must be obeyed
Wheresoever baseball's played,
Take the verdict as it's made—
Play the game!
Child of mine, beyond a doubt,
Fate shall often call you 'out,'
But keep on, with courage stout—
Play the game!
In the battlefield of people
There'll come trying moments when
You shall lose the verdict—then
Play the game!
There's an umpire who shall say
You have missed your greatest play,
And shall dash your hopes away—
Play the game!
You must bow unto God’s will
Though your chance it seems to kill,
And you think he erred, but still
Play the game!
For the Great Umpire above
Sees what we see nothing of,
By Wisdom and Love—
Play the game!
Keep your faith in Him although
His grim verdicts hurt you so,
At God’s will we come and go—
Play the game!

Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)

Respectfully for Mister Guest I edited references to God as a male with love for my granddaughter Emi who may read this one day. I do not believe our outcome is pre-determined. We can write our own script but the universal laws of kindness are universal. Help at least one person every day without any interest in getting something back and “Keep Showing Up” and keep your self-control. Write your own story. Love, Craig Impelman 3 21 2021.






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