"Coach" at Purdue Coach John Wooden Coach on the sidelines at UCLA game
Wooden Way Leadership

A Business Management Seminar Based on the Leadership Principles of the "Coach of the Century"


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Seminar Description

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The Formative Years

Born in 1910, John Wooden was raised on a farm without running water or electricity in Centerton, Indiana. As one of four boys, his chores included feeding the stock and tending to the crops.  His father was a strict disciplinarian, who instilled in young John the Puritan work ethic with its attributes of hard work, respect of others, and self-reliance. Playtime, which included shooting baskets on the side of the barn with a homemade "ball," was only undertaken after the daily tasks and homework were completed.

Growing-up in this era, John and his family were not immune to the hardships of the Depression. He often worked part-time jobs that were fairly labor-intensive in order to help his family make ends meet. Yet despite all their efforts, his family lost their farm when John was in high school because the pigs died after a bad inoculation.

Though painfully shy and introverted, John was a very good student, and he excelled in sports. Earning all-state recognition throughout high school, he led his team to three state finals - winning the championship his junior year. After being accepted at Purdue, he was a three time All-America, and he led his team to two national championships. He was also named 1932's College Player of the year; he was the recipient Big 10 Scholar Athlete Award; and he was generally considered the finest player of this era.

After graduation, he commenced teaching, while spending weekends playing in what we might today consider as semi-professional basketball. In fact, it was while playing here that he set a record for making 138 consecutive free throws in competition, a record that still stands. It was not until years later that he ultimately gravitated full-time toward his ultimate vocation of coaching.

In 1942, he voluntarily enlisted in the Navy (after Pearl Harbor), and he served in active duty through 1945.

A man of Christian faith, John does not drink alcohol (although Andy did get the Coach to admit that he once tried a beer in the Navy); he does not smoke; and he does not use foul language (unless you consider "Goodness gracious, sakes alive" to be profane!).

It is with this upbringing and with these influences that John formed and later memorialized his values.