John Wooden Quotes

John Robert Wooden, 1910 – 2010

Born: 14 October 1910, Hall, Indiana
Died: 4 June 2010, Los Angeles, California

In 1918 the Wooden family moved to Centerton, and John started watching high school basketball. When he was fourteen they moved to Martinsville where he played the game, leading the team to three consecutive state finals and meeting Nell Riley at a carnival. He went to Purdue where he earned a degree in English in 1932, was the first ever three-time All-American, and married Nell in August. He taught high school English and coached basketball (and often baseball and tennis) until 1942 when he joined the Navy for three years. He coached basketball at Indiana State Teacher’s College at Terre Haute for two years, not to mention coaching baseball, serving as athletic director, and completing his master’s degree in education. In 1948 he was hired at UCLA. His teams there won 620 games and lost 147, including an 88-game streak, four perfect 30-0 seasons, and seven consecutive NCAA championships. In 1975, going for the Bruin’s tenth championship, between winning the semifinal game and getting to the locker room, Wooden decided to retire. His team responded by winning the final game. His ten championships is unlikely to be beaten in men’s basketball, although Pat Summitt’s Tennesee Lady Vols, currently with eight, could top Wooden. (Her team has been to the Final Four thirteen times, beating Wooden’s twelve.) Wooden considered himself a teacher first and coach second. He was the first person to be inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (1961) and coach (1972), and was NCAA basketball coach of the year six times. A lot of coaches sound like walking collections of motivational quotes, with Wooden they were original, and by all accounts he lived them as well as spouted them. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor in 1975. His marriage to Nell lasted until her 1985 death from cancer, he wrote her a love letter every month until his eyesight failed a few months before his death, stacking them up for her. Although he had a number of health issues in his later years, including both knee and hip replacements, his final hospitalization before succumbing to natural causes was just a week.

John Wooden quotes:

A life not lived for others is not a life, a game not played for others is not a game.

John Wooden

Interview with Charlie Rose on PBS (15 December 2000)
Ability is a poor man’s wealth.

John Wooden
Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.

John Wooden
Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.

John Wooden
Although there is no progress without change, not all change is progress.

John Wooden

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)
Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

John Wooden
Be quick, but don’t hurry.

John Wooden
Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.

John Wooden

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)
Class is an intangible quality which commands, rather than demands, the respect of others.

John Wooden
Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.

John Wooden
Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.

John Wooden

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)
Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

John Wooden
Do not mistake activity for achievement.

John Wooden

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)
Don’t beat yourself. That’s the worst kind of defeat you’ll ever suffer.

John Wooden

Interview with Charlie Rose on PBS (15 December 2000)
Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.

John Wooden

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)

Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.
    John Wooden – Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)

Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.
    John Wooden

Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be.
    John Wooden

Happiness begins where selfishness ends.
    John Wooden – Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)

I do not have the right, Bill [Walton], but I do have the right to say who is going to play on my team and we’re going to miss you.
    John Wooden – Interview with Charlie Rose on PBS (15 December 2000)

I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.
    John Wooden

If I am through learning, I’m through.
    John Wooden

If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me.
    John Wooden – Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)

If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.
    John Wooden – Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)

If you lose self-control everything will fall.
    John Wooden

If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.
    John Wooden

It is impossible to attain proper physical condition without being sound both mentally and morally.
    John Wooden

It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.
    John Wooden

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big thing happen.
    John Wooden

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
    John Wooden

Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow.
    John Wooden – They Call Me Coach (2003)

Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.
    John Wooden

Never let your emotions overrule your head.
    John Wooden

Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.
    John Wooden – Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)

People ask me if I’d permit fancy things, like dunks. Well, if they did dunk, it was with no fancy flair. No behind-the-back dribbles or passes unless necessary. If it was for show, you were on the bench.
    John Wooden – The New York Times interview (1995)

Players with fight never lose a game, they just run out of time.
    John Wooden

Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.
    John Wooden

Sports do not build character. They reveal it.
    John Wooden

Success is peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you’ve made the effort, do the best of what you’re capable.
    John Wooden – Interview with Charlie Rose on PBS (15 December 2000)

Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
    John Wooden – They Call Me Coach (1988)

Tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember a story.
    John Wooden – Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)

The first [law of learning] is demonstration of what you want. The second is the criticism of the demonstration. The third is the imitation of the correct model, and the fourth is repetition, over and over until it becomes habit where you don’t think about it.
    John Wooden – Interview with Charlie Rose on PBS (15 December 2000)

The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.
    John Wooden – They Call Me Coach (1988)

The outstanding coach is a teacher that gets all his squad to accept the role that he considers to be the most important for the welfare of all.
    John Wooden – Interview with Charlie Rose on PBS (15 December 2000)

The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.
    John Wooden

There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.
    John Wooden

There is nothing stronger than gentleness.
    John Wooden – Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.
    John Wooden

We are many, but are we much?
    John Wooden – Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)

What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player.
    John Wooden

Winning breeds winning.
    John Wooden – Interview with Charlie Rose on PBS (15 December 2000)

Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.
    John Wooden

You better play together as a team or you sit.
    John Wooden – The New York Times interview (1995)

You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.
    John Wooden

You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
    John Wooden

You should never try to be better than someone else, you should always be learning from others. But you should never cease trying to be the best you could be because that’s under your control and the other isn’t.
    John Wooden – Interview with Charlie Rose on PBS (15 December 2000)

Young people need models, not critics.
    John Wooden – They Call Me Coach (2003)

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