Why Conditioning Isn’t Just for Your Body

Coach Wooden was deliberate about the placement of the blocks on his Pyramid of Success, and placed at the center three traits he believed formed the core of his philosophy: “One of the most important organs in our body is the heart. Three outstanding essentials—condition, skill and team spirit—comprise the heart of the Pyramid. All are of equal importance.”

Related: How John Wooden Led His Teams to a Victorious Life

Coach emphasized that this tier does not apply only to athletics; these qualities are required for any individual or team to be successful. “Ability may get you to the top,” he liked to say, “but it takes character to stay there.” It was condition Coach referred to as the “character block of the Pyramid.”

As defined by Coach, condition consisted of several parts: “Mental, moral, physical. Rest, exercise and diet must be considered. Moderation must be practiced. Dissipation must be eliminated.”

Because he had worked so long with basketball teams, Coach knew that most people would automatically assume that his interest in condition was strictly physical. “That is true,” Coach explained, “but only to a degree. For how can you attain and maintain desirable physical condition without moral conditioning and mental conditioning? There is no way and you cannot have moral conditioning without spiritual conditioning. You must have spiritual, mental and moral condition to come close to achieving the type of physical conditioning that we want.”

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Each fall, before the start of the basketball season, Coach would meet with prospective candidates for the team. He stressed to them the importance of being the best-conditioned team possible, warning them: “Your responsibility begins when practice ends until you come back for the next practice because you can tear down between practices more than we can build up during practice. You can do this by a lack of moderation, by dissipation and by immoral conduct. So you have a responsibility, too. Each of us must live up to our responsibilities if we are going to be as close as possible to the type of condition to which we aspire.”

In Coach’s eyes, a failure to address spiritual, moral and mental conditioning will leave even the best physical or professional conditioning limited. He felt it was essential to identify the training demands required by the job in order to attain proper conditioning.

The following are the training demands Coach identified for his players.

Clearly, Coach Wooden’s training demands went far beyond just physical requirements. Coach did not believe moral conditioning required a long list of rules. His suggestion was simply to “practice moderation and balance in all that you do.”

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Coach once commented that many believed that his players were simply in better physical condition than their opponents. Coach added, “They may have been, but they also had tremendous mental and emotional conditioning.”

Every profession requires unique and specific conditioning.

Whether you are a surgeon, lawyer, salesperson, teacher, construction worker, journalist or deep-sea diver, your profession requires a specific type of conditioning. Whatever specific conditioning your job requires must be preceded by spiritual, mental and moral conditioning if you are to reach your potential. Try to identify what the specific training demands are needed for your own life and career, and commit yourself to following that regimen.

Whether you are currently a coach or team member, you have responsibility. As we climb Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, we should all be aspiring toward optimal conditioning for whatever our pursuit in life might be.

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Craig Impelman

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