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Issue 44 - The Coach as a Teacher - Part 6 (Rules vs. Suggestions: You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.)

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 1 Issue 44
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The Coach as a Teacher - Part 6 (Rules vs. Suggestions: You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.)

In order to be effective in our discipline (teaching, not punishing) we must have rules and suggestions.


This issue will focus on Coach Wooden’s suggestions for his team members. In an interview with Marv Dunphy for his dissertation: “John Robert Wooden: The Coaching Process”, Coach Wooden describes the evolution of his approach to rules and suggestions:


In my early years of coaching I had a lot of rules and a few suggestions. In my latter years of coaching I had a lot of suggestions and few rules.


As we discussed last week, Coach Wooden ultimately only had three rules for practice: be on time, no profanity and never criticize a teammate.


Coach Wooden provided his teams with his suggestions in the following handout.


Our chances of having a successful team may be in direct proportion to the ability of each player to live up to the following sets of suggestions:


1. Be a gentleman at all times.

2. Be a team player always.

3. Be on time whenever time is involved.

4. Be a good student in all subjects – not just in basketball.

5. Be enthusiastic, industrious, dependable, loyal, and cooperative.

6. Be in the best possible condition-physically, mentally, and morally.

7. Earn the right to be proud and confident.

8. Keep emotions under control without losing fight or aggressiveness.

9. Work constantly to improve without becoming satisfied.

10. Acquire peace of mind by becoming the best that you are capable of becoming.




1. Never criticize, nag or razz a teammate.

2. Never miss or be late for any class or appointment.

3. Never be selfish, jealous, envious, or egotistical.

4. Never expect favors.

5. Never waste time.

6. Never alibi or make excuses.

7. Never require repeated criticism for the same mistake.

8. Never lose faith or patience.

9. Never grandstand, loaf, sulk, or boast.

10. Never have reason to be sorry afterwards.




The player who gives his best is sure of success, while the player who gives less than his best is a failure.


Coach Wooden wanted his players to exhibit the twenty behaviors he listed. If he had presented these twenty suggestions as rules with a "do it or else" attitude he may have had some players that complied out of fear and certainly would have had some resentment with his long list of demands.


Coach, with his opening statement of “Our chances of having a successful team may be in direct proportion to the ability of each player to live up to the following sets of suggestions:” appealed with reason to the one thing he knew all his players wanted: “a successful team”!


When a team is governed with fear and intimidation it may be compliant but not energized in the long run. Teams in this mode typically don't perform well when "the pressure is on."


When a team is governed with reason and inspired for a noble cause its energy and excellence are consistent and self sustainable. Teams in this mode perform their best when "the pressure is on."


Coach Wooden was a strict disciplinarian who always remembered that the purpose of discipline is to teach, not to punish.


As Coach liked to remind us: You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.



Yours in coaching,



Craig Impelman


Twitter: @woodenswisdom



Watch Video

Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry

Sometime when you're
feeling important;
Sometime when your
ego's in bloom;
Sometime when yo
take it for granted,
You're the best qualified
in the room.
Sometime when you feel
that your going,
Would leave an
unfillable hole,
Just follow these
simple instructions,
And see how they
humble your soul.
Take a bucket and
fill it with water
Put your hand in it
up to the wrist,
Pull it out and
the hole that's remaining,
Is a measure of how much
you'll be missed.
You can splash all you wish
when you enter,
You may stir up the
water galore,
But stop, and you'll find
that in no time
It looks quite the
same as before.
The moral of this
quaint example,
Is to do just the best
that you can,
Be proud of yourself
but remember,
There's no
indispensable man.

by Saxon White Kessinger

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