I discovered early on that the player who learned the fundamentals of basketball is going to have a much better chance of succeeding and rising through the levels of competition than the player who was content to do things his own way. A player should be interested in learning why things are done a certain way. The reasons behind the teaching often go a long way to helping develop the skill.
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The goal in life is the same as in basketball: make the effort to do the best you are capable of doing--in marriage, at your job, in the community, for your country. Make the effort to contribute in whatever way you can. You may do it materially or with time, ideas, or work. Making the effort to contribute is what counts. The effort is what counts in everything.
I always tried to make clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes nowhere.
A Dominican monk, Father Henri Didon, used it as a watchword for his pupils in sports at Arcueil College in Paris. Baron Pierre De Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, made it the Olympic Games ideal adopted at the Antwerp Games in 1920. I never mentioned winning to my players. I mentioned constantly that all I wanted them to do was the best they could. If they're good enough, the score will be to their liking; if they're not, it won't be but that's nothing to hang their head about. Sometimes the other fellow is just better than you are.
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No matter how you total success in the coaching profession it all comes down to a single factor - talent. There may be a hundred great coaches of whom you have never heard in basketball, football, or any sport who will probably never receive the acclaim they deserve simply because they have not been blessed with the talent. Although not every coach can win consistently with talent, no coach can win without it.
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It is difficult for young players to learn - because of the great emphasis on records - but, ideally, the joy and frustration of sport should come from the performance itself, not the score. While he is playing, the worst thing a player can think about in terms of concentration - and therefore of success - is losing. The next worst is winning.
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In 1948, I began coaching basketball at UCLA. Each hour of practice we worked very hard. Each day we worked very hard. Each week we worked very hard. Each season we worked very hard. Four fourteen years we worked very hard and didn't win a national championship. However, a national championship was won in the fifteenth year. Another in the sixteenth. And eight more in the following ten years.
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My bench never heard me mention winning. My whole emphasis was for each one of my players to try to learn to execute the fundamentals to the best of their ability. Not to try to be better than somebody else, but to learn from others, and never cease trying to be the best they could be; that's what I emphasized more than anything else.
The coach must never forget that he is, first of all, a teacher. He must come (be present), see (diagnose), and conquer (correct). He must continuously be exploring for ways to improve himself in order that he may improve others and welcome every person and everything that maybe helpful to him.
How many of us have conflicts with someone else- and how many of us pray for that person? We have individuals with whom we are competitive, or whom we dislike or have a quarrel with; but very few of us have true enemies in the martial sense. And yet if Lincoln could pray fervently- and contemporary reports indicate he did- for the people who were opposing him, how much more can we do for someone we just find a little irritating?