Coach Wooden explained the importance of patience this way: “From this last block, competitive greatness, leading up to the apex on which success rests (according to my definition), on one side I have patience and on the other side I have faith.” He viewed patience as a trait that is essential in achieving success. “Good things take time,” he explained.
He was quick to acknowledge the reality of life, however, that we rarely want to wait for the necessary progress to reach the end result. This impatience is something that is often tempered by maturity and wisdom. On the other hand, there is often a complacency that comes with age that can stifle potential growth. Coach remarked that young people “seem to want things to happen too quickly. They think all change is progress, but sometimes, as we get older, many of us are satisfied with the status quo. We forget that there is no progress without change. There is an even spot there somewhere. We must realize both. There is no progress without change, but not all change is progress.”
Coach Wooden’s upbringing on a farm in Indiana gave him a foundation for patience. He learned that there was a season to plant, a season to water and a season to harvest. The planting and watering required hard work, but without that work and patience through the growing season, there would be no harvest.
When Coach Wooden became the head coach at UCLA in 1948, he was led to believe that his team would have a new arena by the end of his third season. The arena was not ready for the team until 1965, at the start of John Wooden’s 18th season. The wait was sometimes incredibly frustrating, but Wooden always felt it was worth it. Similarly, despite his famous record of 10 national championships in his 27-year coaching career at UCLA, he did not win his first championship until his 16th season with the Bruins.
Coach viewed it this way: “When we are patient, we’ll have a greater appreciation of our success.” Patience is the mortar that supports many blocks of the Pyramid of Success.
We must have patience to maintain our enthusiasm and industriousness when pursuing our goals. It is patience that reminds us that our hard work will pay off, that worthwhile goals take time to achieve. As William Shakespeare wrote, “How poor they are that have not patience! What wound did ever heal, but by degrees?”
We must have patience to be a good listener, which is a requirement of cooperation. We must have patience with our students to have the self-control required to become a successful coach. In his book Practical Modern Basketball, Coach Wooden wrote: “Lack of patience is possibly the greatest fault of the beginning coach. Don’t expect too much. Progress comes slowly in many respects. The formation of new habits and the breaking of old are no quick change propositions.”
Patience is required to maintain our intentness in the face of adversity. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Genius is nothing but a greater aptitude for patience.” Or as Isaac Newton wrote, “If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.”
Coach was always quick to remind us that patience, like faith, requires work. He did not view patience as waiting on the sidelines to find out what the future might bring but rather, as he stated in his book The Essential Wooden, “It is calm self-possession in confronting the necessary fits and starts, obstacles and delays that are part and parcel of achieving anything worthwhile.”
Being patient with ourselves is what allows us to bounce back from adversity. “All change may not be progress, but all progress is the result of change.”
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, www.woodenswisdom.com. He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.