Thursday, 22 October 2009
Can you imagine kissing one person your entire life, and your lips would never kiss another? Does that sound incredibly romantic to you, or incredibly silly? The story is told by a man who did just that in his latest book A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring, which just came out last week.
His name is John Wooden, and he's been retired longer than I've been alive. Truth is, the man is 99-years old. (Can you imagine releasing a book if you reach 99?) He used to be the head basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins, and his string of 10 championships in a dozen years is unmatched by any other coach. Since retiring in 1975, he's been a mentor of other athletes and young men. John Riley of ESPN writes of Wooden, "I like going to Wooden's house for the same reason people like going to church: It makes me want to be a better man."
Wooden enforced upon the teams he coached that they would 1) not speak a word of profanity, and 2) they would not criticize each other as teammates, but help to build each other up. "If the players see you out of control," he said, "they won't believe that you have control of them." He's not just talking about sports. That's an application that fits into any leadership role.
He put this into practice in his own life. He lived what he preached. Wooden confesses in his book that he has not said a swear word since 1924. He and his brother were mucking stalls, and his brother threw a pitch fork over the top of one of the stalls and "it caught me," Wooden recalls. He ran after his brother calling his brother a name which, actually, was more of an insult to his mother than it was to his brother. Wooden got whipped for it. "I had it coming," he says. And he hasn't cussed since.
As extraordinary, Wooden hasn't touched alcohol since 1932. And how many girls do you think the most successful coach in the history of college basketball has kissed? Just one. His wife Nell, who passed away in 1985. He still writes her a love letter on the 21st of every month -- the day of the month she died. I'm jealous of the man's fortitude.
The forward of Wooden's book is written by John C. Maxwell, who has also written Christian books on leadership. With the exception of Maxwell's forward, Wooden has said that he hasn't tried to be overtly "Christian" in the advice he gives on being a mentor, nor did he try to force it on his players when he was a coach. It was more important that he lived it with his life. His values, he admits, are undergirded with the true principles that Jesus Christ taught, and that has been his game plan for life. The book is on my wish list.
Proverbs 21:30 "There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord."
Could you or do you follow John Wooden's example?