Wooden on Motherhood: What the UCLA Coach Taught Me About Leading and Loving my Children


I recently read Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison.

John Wooden is known as the “best coach in history”.

Not only did he lead his UCLA basketball team to many victories (10 NCAA Championships), but he also – and more importantly – poured his life into teaching his athletes to thrive as human beings. Though the book never mentions “motherhood”, Wooden’s insights about effective leadership inspire me regarding my job as a mother.

Before I return the book to the library, I thought I’d share 3 of its many highlights with you:

  • Do your best.

    Despite his incredible winning record, Wooden never spoke about winning. Never. Winning wasn’t his objective, because it wasn’t in his control. Instead, he continually encouraged his players to do their best work at very practice and every game. He strove to offer his best every day, and he expected the same from his team.
    “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.” – John Wooden

    I want this mentality to be a part of our daily lives, too.  Instead of getting wrapped up in accomplishment, the status quo, or competition, I simply want us to do our best. As I sit at the breakfast table with our children and we prepare to begin the day, I want to remind us to do our best work today: each one of us, working unto the Lord and not unto man, being faithful with the gifts and opportunities God has given us.

    I hope I’m a mother who rallies the troops with, “Let’s all give today our very best effort!”

  • Don’t despise the little details, the daily grind, the fundamentals.

    The habits that form each day add up to shape a lifetime. Coach Wooden is famous for the time he invested in teaching his athletes precisely how to put their socks on. He cared about the shoes they wore, the laces they used, and the length of their fingernails. He cared about where their elbows were when they ran, where their eyes were when the passed the ball, and where their attention was when they scored a point (on acknowledging the player who assisted).

    Details were important to Coach Wooden because they dramatically affected the way the game was played.It’s not hard to draw the comparison to motherhood: just think of all the little details that we notice and tend to throughout the day, from sun-up until sun-down. I’m often tempted to invest my time and attention on “bigger things” and lose focus on training my children in the “little things” from bed-making to apologizing. But Wooden’s coaching inspires me to notice the details of our day-to-day and not to give up reminding, shaping, and encouraging my children to build a beautiful life upon one small decision at a time.

  • Prepare and plan each day, making it your masterpiece.

    Every morning, Coach Wooden met with his assistant coaches to evaluate the previous day’s practice and plan the day’s upcoming practice. They talked about what worked yesterday, what needed more work, and what they would like to add. They looked for adjustments and refinements. Then, they’d format the new day – minute by minute – focusing on fundamentals, conditioning, and team unity.

    A year ago, I discovered the 5-minute Journal (glorious) and have been successful at incorporating the daily questions into my morning devotional time. I’m in the process of trying to figure out how to quickly and efficiently evaluate our homeschooling experience a day at a time using this format.

    Heading into the new school year, I may add a few questions specifically about motherhood. I think it would be beneficial to begin each day considering the basic character qualities, life skills, and family dynamics that I want to build in our home.

    • “What worked yesterday?”
    • “What needs more work today?”
    • “What would I like to add today?”

I appreciated Wooden’s insights about leadership so much that I plan on borrowing some of his other books in the future. In fact, I’d love to incorporate one as a family read-aloud at some point. I think our kiddos would learn just as much about “being a team player” and “following a good leader” as they will about leadership itself.

What have you read lately that impacts your view of motherhood??







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