Archive for June, 2010

Measuring Success…How John Wooden Influenced ProSwing’s Personal Lessons

June 17, 2010

“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden

John Wooden is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest coach of all time. His achievements and accolades are unbelievable and are almost impossible to surpass. In his 27 years of coaching UCLA basketball, he never once had a losing season. He led his team to 10 National Titles and compiled a winning streak of 88 consecutive games. Yet it was his character and leadership that will resonate in the minds of every sports fan, teacher, and athlete. John Wooden wasn’t just a coach, he was a teacher. He wasn’t just a leader, he was a role model. John Wooden was a giant among men. Perhaps his greatest trait, was his ability to individualize his teaching to players, enabling them to become the best that they are capable of becoming. The quote at the beginning encompasses the true meaning of success. This was one of Wooden’s best maxims, and can be carried over into athletics, education, and every aspect of our lives. John Wooden taught us how to teach, and he has an enormous influence in the way we give our personal lessons here at ProSwing.

ProSwing has a great mission statement, a beautifully written paragraph about what we do and why we do it. If you asked any one of employees what our “Mission Statement” is, they may or may not be able to recite it back to you verbatim. If you ask what our “Mission” is, the answer will be synonymous. “We are here to educate and inspire.”  Much like John Wooden’s techniques, we don’t aim to simply instruct, we aim to motivate our athletes to leave our facility better than they were when they walked in. We make our athletes mentally and physically stronger, and most importantly, more confident. “Success” for a ProSwing athlete isn’t measured by whether or not you become an MLB draft pick or a perennial MVP, it is measured in how you made yourself better. A better baseball player. A better teammate. A better person.

There is no “standardized” lesson at ProSwing. We don’t adhere to a corporate set of regulations and drills that must be achieved in our 45 minutes of instruction. Our lessons are individualized, engaging, and aimed to educate our athletes with a necessary skill set, and at the same time inspire them to become better. Let me give you a personal example.

I have two athletes that I teach here at ProSwing that physically, mentally, and talent-wise couldn’t be any more different. However, their level of success that they have achieved is identical. One is a seven-year-old boy named Zach, an energetic and eager young ball-player who just loves to put on a glove and play. He’ll squeeze the bat deep in his hands and ask for “just one more pitch!” every single week. The other is a 20 year old Division I ball-player named Ray, who can run a 6.5 second 60 yard dash and most likely will get drafted by the MLB in a couple years. Now while my drills and specificity of instruction may differ, my approach to both of my students is the same. For Zach, I may focus on having a strong fielding position and the proper footwork as he throws to first. With Ray, we’ll work on seeing a curve-ball out of the pitcher’s hand and getting the front foot down so he doesn’t leak his front side and alter his contact point. Either way, after Zach’s 50-foot throw or Ray’s swing at an 85 M.P.H. slider, I’ll always ask them how they feel. What was going through your mind? Did you notice a difference in the correct footwork? Did you feel your body leaking forward? All of our instructors don’t “tell,” we “teach.” A lot of the time we are simply teaching our ball-players how to learn. I know the talent levels of both Zach and Ray, meaning I know what both of these athletes are capable of. I know they are both capable of becoming better than they ever thought they were. Our goal as instructors is to ignite the passion within our athletes to want to become the best they can. Once they do, we’re right by their side, ready to take them to the next level.

John Wooden didn’t coach all-stars. Sure, he had Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and Bill Walton, but many of his players weren’t the greatest in the country. There have been many players that have went to UCLA after Wooden’s tenor that far surpassed the talent level of the former National Championship teams, yet never won a championship themselves. Wooden, however, knew how to get the best out of every player he had. He knew how to inspire them and taught them how to succeed, whether that meant Walton scoring forty points in a game, or the 13th man on the bench coming in to play defense for 10 seconds.

Zach, who started as a five year old who didn’t know which hand to throw with, is now one of the best players in his little league.  Zach has succeeded tremendously. It wasn’t because of the drills I made him do or how many pitches I threw to him, it was because Zach wanted to become better. He was inspired and hungry to learn, and took advantage of every minute we had together. Will Ray get drafted and play Major League Baseball? Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. That’s not how ProSwing would ever measure Ray’s success. Ray succeeded when he learned all his strengths and weaknesses, and let us help him enhance his strengths and overcome his weaknesses. If John Wooden was ever able meet or work with Zach or Ray, I think that he would believe they have succeeded.

John Wooden spent 29 years of his life as a coach, aiming to educate and inspire his players. In his passing, we remember all the great achievements and accolades he has received, but most importantly, we carry with us his teachings and beliefs. It is the latter that will live on forever.