The greatest basketball coach of all time is Coach John R. Wooden, who coached for 29 years and had a record of 664 wins and only 162 losses, this being a winning percentage of over 80 percent of all the games he coached. He coached at Indiana State University for two years before moving on to UCLA, where he would win 10 national championships, seven of those in a row, a feat that will probably never be duplicated. He is also the author of a number of books, and his wisdom is still being promoted and shared today, long after his death in 2010 at age 99.
One of those books is titled “My Personal Best” with Steve Jamison, and is chock full of wisdom that is great reading for the sports fan. However, the book is much more than that, as it could also be a manual for successful parenting. One of his favorite quotes is “Ability is a poor man’s wealth.”
In the book he describes the home he grew up in near Martinsville, Indiana, as “a white farmhouse with a sparse living room and a kitchen, a black potbelly stove in the former and a wood burning stove for cooking in the latter. There were two small bedrooms for the six of us; my brothers and I slept two to a bed. Near our old barn was a smokehouse for curing meat, and next to that, a well where we pumped our water by hand. Over to the side, all by itself, was the outhouse … We had no electricity, plumbing or conveniences. For my brothers and me, growing up on that little farm in Centerton was almost perfect.”
It was on this little farm where he grew up that John Wooden began to develop his greatest wealth -- his own ability. Later in his coaching days he said, “We can either help or hinder those we love or supervise to develop their own ability.” One of his greatest heroes was Abraham Lincoln, who he quotes as saying, “The worst thing you can do for those you love are the things they can and should do for themselves.”
The “helicopter parent,” who soars in to the rescue every time their child makes a mistake or has a problem, is stopping the child from developing their own ability. He also quotes famous motivator and entrepreneur Zig Ziglar, whose father died when he was age 5. Ziglar was the 10th of 12 children and was selling peanuts on the street at 6 years old in Yazoo City, Mississippi, in the heart of the Depression. Zig had a favorite quote that motivated him that goes: “God don’t make no junk.”
While the coaching exploits of Coach John Wooden are legendary, he always said that he was not a coach but was really a teacher. Could this be why he was so successful because he also excelled at teaching? Now, please allow me to spend the rest of our time -- especially if you are a parent of a young teachable child -- on ways your child will become a happy, productive and successful human being. It has been said that if you are looking for a helping hand, look at the end of your arm. In other words, look first at your own ability, what you have and what you can develop.
To develop our own ability, there are only two requirements: first, we must like what we are doing, and next, work hard at it. This wealth (your ability) is waiting for you and me. It is a wealth no one can take away. Now, I know this does not apply to everyone, but if you or a loved one has young teachable children, don’t be a “helicopter parent” and rush in before giving the child a chance to learn something truly worthwhile. It could become a wonderful habit.