The Most Important Aspect of Coaching & Leadership - Being a Good Role Model

The legendary coach John Wooden says, "A leader's most powerful ally is his or her own example."

As a coach, it's easy to lose sight of what is truly important. It's not about the X's and O's. It's not about winning. It's not even about putting the ball in the basket or teaching fundamentals.

The most important thing is to teach players about life. Teach them how to be happy and successful. Teach them how to be a good friend and teammate. Teach them how to live with integrity and confidence.

All coaches have a tremendous impact and influence on their players (whether they know it or not). Some of these players will remember what you do and what you tell them for the REST OF THEIR LIVES. I will never forget my playing experiences and things that my coach told me.

You have an amazing opportunity to have a positive influence on the lives of your players. You have an opportunity to improve their lives and their future.

The Ultimate Compliment for a Coach

John Wooden is arguably the best coach and most influential man in the history of basketball. He won 10 college national championships, yet he is said to be no different now than before he won a single game. Personal integrity is Coach Wooden's highest goal!

Bill Walton said, "To play for John Wooden was the greatest thrill of my life. In four years, Wooden taught us everything we'd ever need to know. Not about basketball, about life."

To me, that's the true indication of a great coach and the ultimate compliment. This is what all coaches should strive for and what all coaches would hope players say about them.

So How Do You Teach Players About Life?

The place to begin (because it's the most effective method) is by setting a good example and being a good role model. This is the most important aspect of coaching. There's no question that the absolute best way to influence players is by setting a good example.

But what kind of example are you setting each day in your actions and words?

I GUARANTEE the example you set is different than you think!!!

How do you handle adversity and difficult situations? (Your players are watching you.) Do you yell at the refs? Do your actions contradict the words that come out of your mouth? How do your players really see you as a coach?

I can't tell you how many coaches (myself included) will say one thing and then contradict themselves with their actions. For example, a coach might say, "Teamwork is what this team needs to be successful! Trust your teammates. Pass them the ball. Move the ball around."

Then no more than two minutes later, the coach will run a drill and correct every thing the player does wrong. The coach will also step in front of the assistant, while the assistant stands on the sideline watching.

What do these actions tell your players? It tells them that you don't trust your players to figure things out on their own. And you don't trust your assistant coaches to help you. You try to do everything yourself instead of giving your assistant specific responsibilities and trusting them to do their job right and figure things out.

John Wooden has been quoted to say, "Be slow to correct and quick to commend."

This is a profound statement in so many ways. It's important to give your players an opportunity to learn on their own. Sure there are times when you need to correct. But doing so too often will hurt a player's confidence and shows them that you don't trust them to figure it out.

Here's another common contradiction. A coach will tell their players that rebounding is the most important thing. "Get on the boards. If you want to succeed, you need to WANT THE BALL. You need to rebound!"

We've all heard this before.

Then the coach starts practice and goes right into shooting drills and offensive plays. They might spend 5 minutes doing rebounding drills in the middle of practice. What does that tell your players? It tells them that shooting and offense is most the important thing. You spent the most time on it and that's what you did at the beginning of practice. It must be the most important thing. You might not realize it, but players pick up on these things.

Your Take Aways and Next Steps

I urge you to take time to think about the example you set and how you can be a better role model. Make a list of your coaching priorities. Review those priorities each day. This will help you keep on track.

I also urge you to read inspirational books by coaches like John Wooden and Morgan Wootten. These books remind you of what is truly important. They also remind you about the integrity and morals that the greatest coaches in the world employ. These books will help you keep on track. In fact, I suggest that you pick a couple books that you find especially inspirational. Read those books twice each year. Once before the season starts and once mid way through the season.

Things change so quickly in the season and you get caught up in the moment. Reading these books will help you stay on track and I can't tell you how much of a positive impact this will have with you. We all need reminders to stay on course.

Here are a few good books for you to consider:

Life Wisdom from Coach Wooden (This is a short and inspirational book that I read to my kids at night. You can get it at the Hallmark store.)

Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life

The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership

They Call Me Coach

Coaching Basketball Successfully (Coaching Successfully Series) by Morgan Wootten

Related Articles

How to Improve Team Bonding and Teach an Important Lesson

8 Simple Ways to Earn Your Player's Trust

Coaching Basketball Effectively by Leading the "Right" Way

Please share your thoughts and experiences...


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Daniel Uirab says:
9/4/2014 at 11:22:36 AM

Hey Basketball world

Its nice being part of this community of drills and practicality. I have learnet a lot though Break through Ball...

You guys out there in the office and in the lab doing it all for us, "BIG THANKS..."

We are in the storm of ball all afternoon with the young ones as young coaches. We are building dreams with elevators in them.

Thank you so much, keep it up all guys and you will still see us coming back to you. Books and Dvds are great but the African market doesn't really for these stuff, e bay cool.

Link up guys and you always got to remember that all you are doing is a long trail of good work, we got your back.

Basketball LOVE
Coach Dee


Noah says:
4/16/2012 at 9:30:23 PM

Very helpful for my coaching paper i am writing


Dee Danielson says:
3/10/2011 at 12:06:34 PM

I love Basketball. Ever since I have been a young book on the rush to grow before I could be in high school, I dream of playing basketball and help out the younger ones after them days when I have at least played college and University Basketball.

I did palyed college basketball 2002 - 2004,I am in Namibia. Tsandi is my home town, I found this page very informative and educate, I have a team of kids, 10 to 13 years old. These kids are good,I have learn a lot on this page,and I am transfrering the skills to the younger kids.

It's a good thing, always reaching out for more on these page whenever I need some drills.

Thank you so much, I am still doing it.

Dee Danielson
Tsandi - Namibia


Ryan says:
10/5/2010 at 8:59:52 PM

How can you go wrong with a Wooden book. Wooden on Leadership is probably the best book I have read as far as coaching and life is concerned!
I played basketball in college and received an autographed copy of the pyramid of success after one of my games and did not realize how much I needed it until I read this book. I will soon be on my 2nd year of head coaching Varsity and JV Boys. These kids need leaders to care about them more than a sport. It's an excellent book and you would not be sorry you read it. It has absolutely transformed the way I view Basketball and leadership! Don't think it!


Isaac Robert Kwapong says:
7/4/2010 at 11:46:15 AM

My organization Dynasty Basketball Association in Ghana will be holding its 2nd Annual Summer Basketball Camp and i am looking at Getting a couple of John Wooden's Pyramid of Success quotes and placing them all around the camp facility. Great Teacher & Anointed by God.


rollie says:
1/12/2010 at 8:06:07 AM

what a great truth, i have seen so many coachs do the opposite. always praise your kids, keep them hungry for the game by having fun and being positive. they will remember how you react and how you react is what you will get on the court.


Clyde says:
10/3/2009 at 4:46:33 PM

"Inch and Miles" is a children's book by Coach Wooden that all my young players are required to read,the parents are given the Pyramid of Success,and must read any book by Coach so they understand what I'm trying to instill in the kids life from an early age.I also use the words of being successful,and not talk of the win or lose of a game. NO YELLING,HARD WORK


Rubin says:
9/4/2009 at 4:17:26 AM

I found it very interesting and we sometimes do not realize on time but we are also learning everyday so as coach we must always be ready for any challenge .I have a copy of coaching basket ball successfully and every time i use it as reference


Brett Morrow says:
8/29/2009 at 9:11:58 AM

I have recently opened a training center and have been on every instruction site know to mankind my surfing and browsing has ended after finding your site. I have a "life lesson" room in my facility based on Wooden's pyramid of success. I count it a huge blessing to have all this information with one click from my desktop.....THANK YOU!


Ron Adams says:
8/28/2009 at 8:08:33 PM

I have read all of Coach Wooden's publications. What a wonderful coach, man and human being! His life lessons make you feel like your being tutored by your grandfather and he has a family type interest in making the world better by spreading his philosophy. As Coach says "There is a choice you have to make, in every thing you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you."


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