Turning To Wooden (Again) In 2020

New decade.  Same Goals.

When you’ve done this for 10 years, you don’t have to re-create the wheel, just give it some fresh air and some tire shine. Ours wheels have been validated as “tread worthy”  by our student success past and present.

But, preparing for the new year in 2020, my semester prep took me back to one of my notebooks from 2015 and 2018.

Then, we had a good 2014 (and 2017) overall in Sports Link, but as I recall — and my notes detail — we were coming off a perhaps sub-par fall semester for us heading into the new year.  We did good work, and a lot of it, but like most fall semesters, we hadn’t reached our combined potential.

My notes remind me I turned to Wooden in January of 2015 and 2018.   I’m turning to him again in the new decade and adding some “fresh air and shine” to this blog post.

As many of my students past and present know, I’m a sucker for a good quote. I like motivating through words, mind and action.

I’m all about the details. I like to out-think my competitors. I like to look them in the eye and not say anything.  I reserve my opinions — and words — so they are more powerful when spoken.

Just like Wooden.

Unfortunately, looking back at last semester,  I didn’t say much.

I let other people’s attitudes — and perceptions — drag me into their misery. I let others question my character and competitiveness.

It’s no secret the great John Wooden is an idol.  You ask me the “who would you like to have dinner with” question … my answer always includes Wooden — and Garth Brooks.

I own every book.  I’ve watched his videos hundreds of times (and rewatched some over this winter break). I also recently read this tremendous article from friend Don Yaeger with a reference to Wooden.

Wooden was raised as a farmer, often times referring in his books about canning fruits and vegetables with “those glass lids that were made by the Ball Company in Muncie”.

He even spent time in Muncie and almost played basketball here, for the mighty Ball State Teachers College.  It’s true.

After he graduated from Martinsville High School, he went to work on a garbage truck in Muncie, Indiana.  Ball State Teachers College wanted Wooden to play basketball here and helped him get a job.

In his book, “They Call Me Coach”, Wooden recalls:

About the second day of work, while going down a narrow alley, the truck ran over two puppies.

‘Scoop them up and throw them on’, the driver told me.  ‘No,’ I said.

‘If you don’t throw them on, you’re fired.’  ‘I’m fired,’ I said.

Wooden then went back to the Muncie YMCA, packed his stuff and went to work in Anderson at Delco-Remy.  Oh, how the legend could’ve been different.

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

The above is one of my favorite Woodenisms.  It’s particularly poignant as we begin this new 15-week semester with my group in Sports Link. Students, if you are reading this, get that quote in your head now. Trust me, you’re going to hear it again… and again … and again.

We lost a successful class in December to graduation and the “real world”.  Talented individuals who excelled at their craft, but were better leaders.  If we find those leadership traits and motivation in the weeks ahead, big things are about to happen for this group.

I know the talent level they possess.  I’ve known most since high school and “recruited” them to Ball State. The chance for this year’s freshmen class to define themselves. The chance for this year’s seniors to leave their mark.

But, per my notes, one thing is missing, just like it was in 2014 and 2017 — a collective attention to the details and overall team effort. We are capable of producing amazing work, we’ve shown that.  The challenge is for everyone to contribute and to now do it consistently.

woodenJust like Wooden, I see the true potential in our students.  To reach it, however, starts with attention to the little details.

On the first day of every Wooden practice at UCLA, they practiced putting on their socks.

For the next three days the Bruins hit the court, but not with a ball. They practiced balance, footwork, movement … and putting on their socks.

He was a stickler for the little details. Appearance. Being courteous. Routine.  Everything has its place.

He even had a no facial hair rule with his team.  One that the great Bill Walton challenged. Wooden replied that he respected Walton’s convictions. “And we’ll miss you,” he said. Walton shaved immediately.

“I think very definitely it’s the little things that make the big things happen. It’s putting your shoes on properly. It’s getting the wrinkles out of your socks so you won’t get blisters. Those are important things. It’s making sure that no soap is left on the shower room floor where someone — maybe not you, but somebody else — might slip and fall and hurt themselves. Just little things like that.

“They may seem inconsequential, but I think they’re important. I think teaching your youngsters to be courteous to airline stewardesses, courteous to waitresses, courteous to all people in hotels, I think makes you a better team. I think that helps your basketball. I think that makes you a better basketball player. I think it brings you together more. I think it makes you more considerate of others. Team spirit is just being considerate of others, in my opinion.”

Starting Monday, Jan. 6, Sports Link will have a renewed focus on the details. We will renew our commitment to video and storytelling. Things our competition overlook.  Things that will take our quality even higher. Details that will make our students better.

I feel like I did in 2015 and 2018 — not quite sure what will happen or what the next 15 weeks will look like, but I know we have the talent.

I’ve turned to Wooden again. We just have to practice putting on our socks.

By the way, 2015 and 2018 turned out pretty darn good, too.  Here’s to a new decade!

Author: Chris Taylor

Senior Director of Ball State Sports Link & Digital Sports Production | Lecturer of Telecommunications | 2019 Dean's Faculty Award Winner | 2017 Recipient of SVG College Sports Summit Pioneer Award | Storyteller | Producer | Emmy Award Winner | Sports Media Junkie | Social Media Strategist | Certified Bob Ross® Instructor | Country Music Enthusiast | Goldendoodle Owner | Follow me on Twitter @BallStateCT

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