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Issue 63 - It is Amazing How Much Can be Accomplished if No One is Concerned Who Gets the Credit

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 2 Issue 63
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



The idea that much can be accomplished with teamwork when no one is concerned with who gets the credit was a central theme in Coach Wooden's leadership and coaching style.

Coach was adamant that you had to have great talent to win. But he also was quick to point out that just having great talent did not assure you of victory. The talent had to work together.

An unselfish team starts with a leader who gives away the credit when things go well and accepts the blame when they don’t. As Coach liked to say: There is only one thing a great leader doesn’t share: the blame.

In his book A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring with Don Yeager, Coach explains this approach:

As my father reminded me more than once, “Great leaders give credit to others and accept the blame themselves.” If one of my assistant coaches made a suggestion that we decided to implement, I would make sure to praise him for his foresight in the press conference afterward. But if one made a suggestion that didn’t prove to be as successful, I accepted the blame myself rather than pinning it on the assistant. After all, as the head coach, I had decided to go forward with it. I found that this was the most effective way to keep my assistant coaches feeling engaged with the game, willing to make suggestions and ready to contribute to the betterment of the team.

It worked with my players, too. I would never publicly criticize a player for poor performance. Even in moments of extreme frustration, I would check myself because it just didn’t seem right—because it didn’t seem like something my father would have done. And I’m proud to say that to the best of my knowledge, I never did slip up in that regard.

In Coach Wooden’s book, The Essential Wooden with Steve Jamison, Kareem Abdul Jabbar (formerly Lewis Alcindor) described his former Coach this way:

We understood that if we played up to the standard he had set in practice, we'd probably win. If not, if we lost, he took the blame and tried to fix it the next practice. He was very focused, very intense. Always, always with his emotions under control.

Coach Wooden had this to say about Kareem:

Lewis Alcindor (later, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) believed the team came first. I told him, "Lewis, I can design a system that will make you the greatest scorer in the history of college basketball." Lewis said, "I wouldn't want that, Coach." (Of course, I knew he would say that, or I wouldn't have brought it up in the first place). A great player who is not a team player is not a great player. Lewis Alcindor was a great team player. Why? Because his first priority was the success of the team, even at the expense of his own statistics.

It seems as if it was very difficult to get either one of these gentlemen to take any credit.

Together with the coaching staff, trainers, managers and great teammates, they accomplished amazing things: three consecutive national championships.

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman
Twitter: @woodenswisdom



Watch Video

Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry

"Indispensable Man"

Sometime when you’refeeling important;

Sometime when your ego’s in bloom
Sometime when you 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 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 do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There’s no indispensable man.
Saxon White Kessinger

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