How to Maximize Achievement Without Stifling Initiative

UPDATED: May 16, 2023
PUBLISHED: June 20, 2018
two colleagues analyzing productivity to maximize achievement

“Never mistake activity for achievement.” 

John Wooden

Coach John Wooden’s most insightful model to discuss his idea is the methodology he used to prepare, execute and improve his practices. He was not satisfied with simply having achievement in each activity. Rather he sought to maximize achievement without stifling initiative.

How to maximize achievement

The four components Wooden utilized were proper planning and execution of the plan, relentless attention to detail, maximizing the use of time and post-practice analysis for improvement. He described the importance of each in his book Practical Modern Basketball.

1. Proper execution of the plan

“A daily practice plan should be prepared and followed. If you fail to follow the program on one thing, it may affect many others. If you planned poorly, make the corrections for the following day, but never alter your program on a specific day once practice has started. Running overtime can be distasteful for both you and your players and should be avoided. The practice day should end on a high note in order for both coach and players to look forward to the next day with pleasure,” Wooden wrote.

2. Attention to detail

“The coach should be on the floor early to make certain that everything is in readiness for practice. I like to have a checklist for the managers to go by, but the coach must make sure. Some of the points on the checklist are: See that the floor is clean; see that the desired number of balls are available and that they are clean and properly inflated; be sure that the scrimmage shirts are on hand and that extra shoelaces and other emergency equipment items are near at hand; have the statistical charts ready for use; and be sure that towels, tape and anything else that might be necessary to insure a smooth practice are available. Anticipate from past experience and be prepared,” Wooden wrote.

3. Maximize use of time.

“Even though a particular drill may be emphasizing one specific fundamental, other fundamentals in use should not be overlooked. Sometimes players get careless about their passing during shooting drills, which may lead to breaking down one fundamental while building another. The coach must be cognizant of this and try to prevent it, by permitting no carelessness at any time if progress is to be made,” Wooden wrote.

When Wooden ran a rebounding drill, his players were also improving their passing, cutting, timing and movement without the ball.

4. Post-practice analysis

“The coach should make a careful analysis of each day’s practice while it is still fresh in his mind in order that he may plan intelligently for the next day. I like to sit down with my assistant immediately after practice and before my shower and briefly analyze and discuss the practice of that day. I make notes at that time to serve as reference help to me the next morning when I plan the practice for that day. If it can be done without being rude or impolite, you and your assistant should be alone and uninterrupted during both the analysis period following practice and the planning period the following morning,” Wooden wrote.

It is easy to see why “failing to prepare is preparing to fail” and “never mistake activity for achievement” get along so well.

What are the activities of your team that don’t yield the most productive results possible? How can you inspire them to maximize achievement?

This article was updated May 2023. Photo by Renata Photography/Shutterstock

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, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.