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Issue 27 - Confidence

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 1 Issue 27
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login


We will now continue discussing the fourth tier on the Pyramid of Success: Poise and Confidence.


We covered poise last time; now, we are turning to confidence, defined on the Pyramid of Success as: “Respect without fear. May come from being prepared and keeping all things in proper perspective.”


This definition reflects one of Coach Wooden’s favorite quotes: “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”


Coach Wooden believed that confidence was an essential part of success. “You can't expect others to have confidence in you if you don't have confidence in yourself,” he said.


When he was asked how a person could acquire confidence, Coach responded in much the same manner as when he was asked how a person could gain poise. “Is it easy?” he wrote.


Not at all. It's very very difficult. How can we acquire it? By being industrious, enthusiastic, friendly, cooperative and loyal. By maintaining our self-control. By being alert and alive and constantly observing the things that are going on around about us and not getting lost in our own narrow tunnel vision. By having initiative and not being afraid to fail, realizing that we are not perfect and we're going to fail on occasion. By being intent and persistent on reaching the realistic goals that we set for ourselves. By being conditioned morally, mentally, emotionally and physically. By being skilled. By knowing what we are doing. By being able to do it and doing it quickly. And by having consideration for others. This foundation will bring poise and confidence that will be real.


It may come as a surprise to some readers that in his book Practical Modern Basketball, Coach Wooden does not mention either confidence or poise as desirable personality traits of a coach or an assistant coach. That does not mean he didn’t think they were an important part of leadership; on the contrary, he considered them essential.


But Coach believed they could only be present as a byproduct of the blocks on the pyramid listed below them. In other words, poise and confidence do not exist in a vacuum. Confidence without a strong foundation is simply arrogance. “Have respect without fear for every opponent and confidence without cockiness in regard to yourself,” Coach warned his players.


Coach Wooden made it clear that his level of confidence was unrelated to who the competition was. His confidence was a result of the knowledge that he had done everything within his capability to prepare himself and his team to perform at their highest level - not only with regard to their basketball skills, but in terms of their personal character as well.


Coach also cautioned us about the pitfalls of false or unearned confidence that gives us the assumption that our success in the past would somehow repeat itself without the same hard work and preparation. He was very fond of the saying, “When success turns your head, you face failure.”


Swen Nater’s poem on confidence reflects this philosophy of his old UCLA coach quite well:


Confidence, a noble trait,
Surprisingly cannot be bought.
With preparation at the gate,
You’ll doubtless find that it's been brought.”


Yours in coaching,



Craig Impelman


Twitter:  @woodenswisdom



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Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry

It’s knowing that I did my best,
Preparing for that day,
That puts the smile of courage on,
And leaves it there to stay.
That one more shot, or rebound too,
Or maybe one more run-
Just one more shot or one more pass
When everyone is gone.
The sweat pours out and hits the floor,
Like cheers that fill the game.
So when I'm tired and want to quit,
I press on just the same.
It's work that harvests all success,
So well into the night,
I’ll try it time and time again
Until I get it right.
I’ll play against someone this week.
I wonder where he is.
Whatever he is doing now,
He can't have worked like this.
But if, by chance, he's just like me,
My shoes stay on my feet.
I’ll put an extra hour in
And smile the day we meet.
And when we meet upon that day,
My smile will not show fear,
For work and sweat, yes they have put,
The smile of courage there.

Swen Nater

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