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Issue 92- That We Might Fail Ought Not Deter Us From the Support of a Cause We Believe to be Just

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 2 Issue 92
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



This famous quote from Abraham Lincoln was a favorite of Coach Wooden's. It brings to mind the idea of doing the right thing, no matter what the outcome might be.
Alexander Hamilton put it this way:
A person who stands for nothing will fall for anything.
In 1947 Coach Wooden’s Indiana State Sycamores received an invitation to play in the NAIB national playoffs. It was held in Kansas City, Missouri, and drew top teams from all over the country.
In his book My Personal Best with Steve Jamison, Coach recounted what followed:
The invitation carried with it a prohibition against black players. Like most people, I had been raised to believe segregation was wrong.
Now, as a coach, I was being asked to participate in segregation, a system based on the belief that some people are better than others.
Clarence Walker, a student-athlete from East Chicago, was a ninth or tenth man on the Sycamore team and worked hard, attended class, and was a good fellow. He also was black.
I quietly turned down the invitation.
The following year it happened again. We finished 27–7 and had attracted nationwide attention with our so-called racehorse style of basketball.
When the invitation from the NAIB arrived, it was difficult to say no quietly—we would be one of the main attractions in Kansas City. Nevertheless, I informed the committee that the Sycamores would not attend and gave my reason.
They offered a compromise: "Walker can play in the games, but he must not be seen publicly with the team. He must stay in a private home away from the other players. He must not attend publicity functions with the Sycamores."
I felt this humiliation was worse than leaving Clarence behind in Terre Haute. The answer was easy: "No"
Then I received a call from the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) suggesting I reconsider, "If Clarence agrees to the impositions, he will become the first black player ever permitted to play in a national college basketball tournament."
I talked it over with Clarence, who then talked it over with his parents in Chicago. They all agreed that it was worth it, so I accepted the NAIB's invitation to play in Kansas City, starting March 8, 1948.
Clarence Walker became the first black student athlete to play in a national college basketball tournament.
As Coach liked to say:
If you sacrifice principle trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.
Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman
Twitter: @woodenswisdom




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Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry


 The Impossible Dream


 To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
To right ... the unrightable wrong ...
To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...
To try ... when your arms are too weary ...
To reach ... the unreachable star ...


This is my quest, to follow that star ...
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...
To fight for the right, without question or pause ...
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ...

And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm,
when I'm laid to my rest ...
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach ... the unreachable star ...

Joe Darion







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