John Wooden and the Mental Game

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RIP Coach John Wooden (1910-2010)

As a young coach, I really enjoyed not only the training and the competition, but learning and improving my skills, just as I had done as an athlete. To get better I liked hanging out with other coaches and talking soccer and taking coaching courses. I also developed quite an appetite for reading books by and about great coaches. Why not learn from those who have been there and done that.

I have read books by all kinds of coaches from all different sports, and I find that I pick something up from all of them. But none more than Coach John Wooden.  Knowing that the man had won 12 NCAA basketball titles at UCLA, a book about him was the first I read. 

Looking back now, I realize that Coach Wooden’s wisdom not only made me a better coach, but it started me on my path to a career in sport psychology.  His philosophy is contains great insights on the mental game that are so important in sport psychology:  Setting expectations and being firm with them, focusing on the controllables, focusing on the performance rather than the outcome, and being a good teammate, among others.

Here is Coach Wooden’s famous “Pyramid of Success:”


I high recommend any books by or about Coach Wooden. But not only him – what coach or player do you admire?  Do a little research, find a book, read and learn!

What are some of your favorite stories or lessons from Coach Wooden?
What coaching books do you recommend?

About this Author: Brian Baxter received an M.A. in Sports Psychology.  He teaches individuals how to identify and build awareness of their difficulties, their areas of improvement and their strengths and implements strategies to make the process second nature.

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