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Issue 293 - Eagerness and Willingness

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 6 Issue 293
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



Mark Twain said: The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
John Wooden thought eagerness was the right word and willingness the almost right word when it came to Team Spirit. Coach explained the difference when he spoke at the John Wooden Course in 2002:
I once heard team spirit defined as a willingness to lose one’s self for the good of the group and I used that for some years, but it never quite satisfied me and it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I didn’t know why and I finally came up with something that improved it as far as my feeling was concerned.
I changed the word willingness to eagerness. If you’re eager to do something you want to do it and you’ll try; you’ll work your best. If you’re willing to do something, well: somebody asked me to and I’ll do it. I really don’t want to, but I will.
I don’t think you can force yourself to execute near your level of competency unless you’re eager to do something.
The key idea of creating eagerness, and not just demanding willingness, was a cornerstone of John Wooden’s thinking and success.
Coach Wooden defined Alertness as: Be observing constantly. Stay open-minded. Be eager to learn and improve.
He defined Team Spirit as: A genuine consideration for others. An eagerness to sacrifice personal interests of glory for the welfare of all.
In his 1970 preseason letter to the team he said:
The past cannot change what is to come. It is what you do today that counts, and I sincerely hope that you are looking forward to an outstanding 1970–71 season and are eager, not just willing, to make the necessary personal sacrifices to reach that goal.
The Art of Leadership, by Wilferd A. Peterson, (Coach Wooden’s favorite text on Leadership) says:
A leader displays humility with: a humble sense of humor, eagerness to admit mistakes, sharing content without bragging and not engaging in false modesty.
In an interview with Steve Churm for a 2005 edition of the OC Metro, Coach described good leadership:
A good leader must have followers who are eager, not just willing. If you have people who are eager, they bring an enthusiasm to their work and they will be successful. Simply being willing to do something is not good enough. You must have followers who are eager to accomplish great goals.
Coach Wooden said: The truly great competitor is not just willing to share the spotlight, but rather is unselfish enough to be eager to shine the spotlight on his or her teammates.
The willing person says: "No problem"; the eager person says "My pleasure".
The willing teammate helps you when you ask for help. The eager teammate helps you before you ask for help.
A life or a team built on willingness is almost right, A life or a team built on eagerness is the right life; the right team. Are you just willing or eager? Do you create eagerness from others or just demand willingness?

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman




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Application Exercise




Not for the sake of the gold,
Not for the sake of the fame,
Not for the prize would I hold
Any ambition or aim:
I would be brave and be true
Just for the good I can do.

I would be useful on earth,
Serving some purpose or cause,
Doing some labor of worth,
Giving no thought to applause.
Thinking less of the gold or the fame
Than the joy and the thrill of the game.

Medals their brightness may lose,
Fame be forgotten or fade,
Any reward we may choose
Leaves the account still unpaid.
But little real happiness lies
In fighting alone for a prize.

Give me the thrill of the task,
The joy of the battle and strife,
Of being of use, and I'll ask
No greater reward from this life.
Better than fame or applause
Is striving to further a cause.

Edgar Albert Guest (1881 to 1959)






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