Coach John Wooden's Success Formula

Modern Prophets Speak, Volume 1, No. 36, Perry

Excerpt from Elder L. Tom Perry’s July 2003 “Ensign” article, “Staying Power.”

L. Tom Perry

John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach at the University of California, Los Angeles, was a man who understood what it takes to succeed. In his 40 years of coaching, he worked at UCLA for 27 years, during which his teams never had a losing season. In fact, he led his teams to 10 national championships in his last 12 years at UCLA.

Coach Wooden cited some of the reasons for his “staying power”: “I emphasized constant improvement and steady performance. I have often said, ‘The mark of a true champion is to always perform near your own level of competency.’ ”

The well-known coach commented that he probably scouted opponents less than any other coach he knew—less, in fact, than most high school coaches. Instead, he taught his players the basics, because he recognized that sound offensive and defensive principles would serve them well no matter what style of play they encountered.

John Wooden: Hard Work and Character

He was as concerned with a player’s character as he was with the player’s ability. “While it may be possible to reach the top of one’s profession on sheer ability,” he said, “it is impossible to stay there without hard work and character.” Wooden looked for athletes who played a clean game and who were constantly trying to improve themselves in order to strengthen the team. “Then, if their ability warranted it,” he explained, “the championships would take care of themselves.”

Coach Wooden identified some important principles that were the bedrock of his championship teams. Perhaps we can apply those same principles as we work to better ourselves as a community of Saints. First, consistently do your best with the talents your Father in Heaven has given you. Second, concentrate on the basics, because they are appropriate in any situation or season of life. Third, worry more about developing sound character than about building reputation.

L. Tom Perry is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Read the full text of his comments here.