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Issue 33 - Adaptability

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 1 Issue 33
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login


On the left side of the Pyramid of Success, below faith, there are four additional pieces of mortar: ambition, adaptability, resourcefulness and fight. These are qualities that encompass the resolve, ingenuity and resilience of the human spirit. This week we will discuss adaptability.


In his book Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success, with Jay Carty, Coach Wooden defined adaptability and its importance in the following manner:


Adaptability is being able to adjust to any situation at any given time.


In life, we all know that we can only be sure of a few things, specifically death and taxes. We can also count on change. We need to recognize change, grow with it and learn from it. Since change is inevitable, people who are inflexible, bullheaded or stubborn will never make it to the apex of the Pyramid. If we want to succeed we must readily adapt to circumstances as they unfold – this includes both what we cannot change and what will take some time to change.


If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward.


Under each piece of mortar on the Pyramid, in parentheses, there is some brief application advice for that mortar. Under adaptability the application advice is: “to any situation.” Coach described the essence of adaptability in his book Practical Modern Basketball this way: "Be flexible enough to be able to adjust to the environment and to the occasion."


The key to being effective in our adaptability is recognizing the situation and determining whether or not we can change it or whether we simply need to make the best of it and move forward.


Coach had three great quotes that describe this strategy:


1. “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
2. “The more concerned we become over the things we can't control, the less we will do with the things we can control.”
3. “Things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”


When Coach arrived at UCLA 1948, he had a gym with only two baskets, which he shared with other sports during his practice period. At Indiana State, where he had come from, he had six baskets and a private facility. He recognized that he could not change the situation at UCLA, so he adapted and made the best of it.


When Kareem Abdul Jabbar came to UCLA, Coach adapted his style of play and practice routine to take advantage of Kareem’s unusual talent, although he had already won two national championships with his prior system. Coach recognized that this was a situation that he could and would need to change so that the team could reach its potential.


Coach summed it up this way in his book with Jay Carty:


We change what we can, but if we get too concerned, involved and engrossed in circumstances over which we have no control or can't change, those circumstances are going to have a negative impact on events and outcomes we can control.



Yours in coaching,


 Craig Impelman


 Twitter: @woodenswisdom



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Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry

I'd rather see a sermon,
than hear one any day;
I'd rather one should walk with me, than merely show the way;

The eye’s a better student, and more willing than the ear;

Fine counsel is confusing,
but example’s always clear.

And, best of all the preachers
are the men who live their creeds;

For to see good put in action,
that is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it,
if you'll let me see it done;

I can see your hands in action,
but your tongue too fast may run.

And the lectures you deliver
may be very fine and true,

But I'd rather get my lesson
by observing what you do.

For I may misunderstand you
and the high advice you give,

But there’s no misunderstanding
how you act and how you live!

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