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Issue 42 - The Coach as a Teacher - Part 4 (How To Avoid Grievances)

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 1 Issue 42
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login


The Coach as a Teacher - Part 4 (How To Avoid Grievances)

In order to be effective in our discipline (teaching, not punishing) we must have tact. Often how we say things is just as important as what we are saying.


This issue will focus on the art of discipline.


In his book “Wooden, A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court” with Steve Jamison, Coach Wooden recounts an episode where he had to discipline his great All-American center Bill Walton.


There was a rule against facial hair for players on the UCLA basketball teams. One day Bill Walton came to practice after a ten-day break wearing a beard. I asked him, "Bill have you forgotten something?"


He replied, "Coach if you mean the beard, I think I should be allowed to wear it. It's my right."


I asked, “Do you believe in that strongly?” He answered, “Yes, I do coach. Very much."


I looked at him and said politely, “Bill, I have a great respect for individuals who stand up for the things in which they believe. I really do. And the team is going to miss you."


Bill went to the locker room and shaved the beard off before practice began. There were no hard feelings. I wasn’t angry and he wasn't mad.


The key rule of effective discipline that Coach Wooden followed was that he did not attack Bill’s character or intent. He only dealt with his action.


If an employee is having a tardiness issue it is ineffective to say: “You have been late three times in the last two weeks. That is so irresponsible. Don't you even care about your job?" This would be attacking character and intent.


A more effective approach would be: “You have been late three times in the last two weeks. I know it is not your intention to be late; however the position we have to offer at our company requires that you are on time for work. What is causing this situation?” When we use this approach we are focusing on the action and leaving character and intent alone.


Discipline that uses shame, guilt or fear weakens people. Discipline that uses reason teaches and improves them.


The following is an essay Coach Wooden wrote entitled: “How To Avoid Grievances”


There is a definite art to criticizing others. If you want your criticism to yield positive results, observe these rules:


Get all the facts. Only then are you prepared to appraise the situation fairly. The best way to get a man to give you the facts is to ask, "What happened?" It boils down the whole issue to what went wrong rather than who is to blame.


Stay calm. You'll create a climate of ‘let’s find a solution together,’ in which you ally yourself with the fellow against the common enemy – a mistake. He'll respond in kind.


Criticize in private. Test after test has proved that this gets better results than criticism in public.


Commend before you criticize and follow with "a pat on the back". That way you take the sting out of what is to follow. You provide assurances that you still have great regard for the person you are criticizing. And you subtly suggest that you recognize his error as merely a departure from the norm – his customary high caliber performance. In short, you help him "save face."


Keep your criticism constructive. The purpose of criticism is to "teach better ways." Collaborate with the other fellow to discover "what happened." and indicate ways to prevent the mistake from happening again. That's positive, purposeful, criticism – the only kind that gets lasting results.



Yours in coaching,



Craig Impelman



Twitter:  @woodenswisdom



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Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry

With doubt and dismay
you are smitten,
You think there's no chance
for you, son?
Why, the best book
hasn't been written
The best race hasn't been run,
The best score hasn't
been made yet,
The best song hasn't
been sung,
The best tune hasn't
been played yet,
Cheer up,
for the world is young!
No chance? Wy the world
is just eager
For things that you
ought to create
Its store of true wealth
is still meager
Its needs are incessant
and great,
It yearns for more power
and beauty
More laughter and love
and romance,
More loyalty, labor and duty,
No chance--why there's
nothing but chance!
For the best verse hasn't
been rhymed yet,
The best house hasn't
been planned,
The highest peak hasn't
been climbed yet,
The mightiest rivers
aren't spanned,
Don't worry and fret,
faint hearted,
The chances have
just begun,
For the Best jobs haven't
been started,
The Best work hasn't
been done.

Berton Bailey

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