73 Coach John Wooden Quotes And Sayings About Basketball And Life

motivational quotes Nov 07, 2023
coach john wooden quotes

Coach John Wooden was more than a teacher of basketball, he was a teacher of life

John Wooden was a legendary basketball coach known for his success on the court, but even more importantly, for the impact he had off the court.

As the head coach of the UCLA Bruins from 1948 to 1975, Wooden lead his team to 10 NCAA national championships in just 12 years, including an incredible streak of seven consecutive titles.

His coaching philosophy, known as the "Pyramid of Success," emphasized the importance of character, hard work, and teamwork.

Beyond his success on the basketball court, Coach Wooden became known for his inspirational words of wisdom, otherwise known as "Woodenisms."

Learn valuable lessons on success, character, leadership, basketball, and life with these famous sayings and quotes from Coach John Wooden.

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Coach John Wooden Basketball Quotes

Coach Wooden was well known for his attention to detail. To him, the little things in basketball mattered and it was those small habits that had a huge impact on the growth and development of his players.

1. “Just try to be the best you can be; never cease trying to be the best you can be. That’s in your power.”

2. “Earn the right to be proud and confident.”



3. “You can lose when you outscore somebody in a game. And you can win when you’re outscored.”

4. “I had three rules for my players: No profanity. Don’t criticize a teammate. Never be late.”

5. “Just do the best you can. No one can do more than that.”

6. "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."

7. “When you hurry you’re more apt to make mistakes. But you have to be quick. If you’re not quick, you can’t get things done.”

8. “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”

9. “Defense is a definite part of the game, and a great part of defense is learning to play it without fouling.”

10. "It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it."

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The Best John Wooden Quotes About Life

John Wooden impact on his teams and players went beyond the basketball court. His philosophy helped them in life as well. Here are some of the many life lessons that Coach Wooden had to offer.

11. “If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.”



12. “All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.”

13. “It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.”

14. “Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.”

15. “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”

16. “Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.”

17. “Discipline yourself, and others won’t need to.”

18. “Today is the only day. Yesterday is gone.”

19. “Well, if you’re true to yourself you’re going to be true to everyone else.”

20. “I think you have to be what you are. Don’t try to be somebody else. You have to be yourself at all times.”

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

22. “Love is the most important thing in the world. Hate, we should remove from the dictionary.”

23. “We can have no progress without change, whether it be basketball or anything else.”

24. “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

25. “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

26. “Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.”

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John Wooden Motivational Quotes About Character

Coach Wooden placed a lot of value on character. In fact, he placed more value on who you were as a person than who you were as a basketball player. 

Wooden was a man of morals and integrity, something he learned from his father, and it led to a lot of great quotes about character which you'll find below.

27. “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

28. “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”



29. “You can do more good by being good than any other way.”

30. “Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.”

31. “What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.”

32. "Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character."

33. “Well, your greatest joy definitely comes from doing something for another, especially when it was done with no thought of something in return.”

34. “Tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember a story.”

35. “Be prepared and be honest.”

36. “Never lie, never cheat, never steal.”

37. “Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

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John Wooden on Success and Failure

One of Coach Wooden's most famous quotes is about his definition of success. He always emphasized the importance of focusing on the process rather than the outcome. He believed that success isn't just about winning games or championships, it's about the relentless pursuit of improvement and the satisfaction in always giving your best effort. 

38. “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

39. “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

40. “Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

41. “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”



42. “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.”

43. “You are not a failure until you start blaming others for your mistakes”

44. “Never try to be better than someone else. Learn from others, and try to be the best you can be. Success is the by-product of that preparation.”

45. “It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.”

46. "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."

47. "Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."

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John Wooden Quotes on Leadership and Coaching

Wooden's leadership style could be characterized as disciplined, yet compassionate. He truly cared about his players. He was committed to getting the most out of his players and helping them to become better human beings along the way.

Coach Wooden certainly led by example, demonstrating the values that believed in. Wooden wasn't just a basketball coach, he was a mentor and a teacher of life.

He was known for his meticulous attention to detail, preparation, and the belief that small things make big things happen.

48. “If there’s anything you could point out where I was a little different, it was the fact that I never mentioned winning.”

49. “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”

50. “Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”



51. “In the end, it’s about the teaching, and what I always loved about coaching was the practices. Not the games, not the tournaments, not the alumni stuff. But teaching the players during practice was what coaching was all about to me.”

52. “I talked to the players and tried to make them aware of what was good and bad, but I didn’t try to run their lives.”

53. “Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating…too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life.”

54. “I think that in any group activity—whether it be business, sports or family—there has to be leadership or it won’t be successful.”

55. “If a player’s not doing the things he should, put him on the bench. He’ll come around.”

56. “I worry that business leaders are more interested in material gain than they are in having the patience to build up a strong organization, and a strong organization starts with caring for their people.”

57. “Young people need models, not critics.”

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Other John Wooden Sayings ("Woodenisms")

Woodenisms are the name given to memorable quotes and sayings from Coach John Wooden.

These nuggets of wisdom from Coach Wooden give you a glimpse into his philosophy on life, leadership, and basketball.

58. “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

59. “Make each day your masterpiece.”



60. “Nothing will work unless you do.”

61. “The best competition I have is against myself to become better.”

62. "Happiness begins where selfishness ends."

63. "Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there."

64. "Be quick, but don’t hurry."

65. “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.”

66. “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”

67. “No one can really honestly be the very best, no one.”

68. "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."

69. “Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.”

70. “I am just a common man who is true to his beliefs.”

71. “If I am through learning, I am through.”

72. “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

73. “Listen if you want to be heard”

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