Recent controversies involving two “big time” college football coaches (i.e. former head coach Mark Mangino at Kansas and former head coach Rick Leach at Texas Tech) again raise issues about what the leadership responsibilities of a coach are (of any sport at any level) and how they would be best served. My own background includes teaching varsity football and varsity basketball for thirteen years at two boarding schools in New England, then coaching the Pop Warner football teams and Little League baseball teams on which our three sons competed.
However, I am unqualified to discuss specific coaches, with one exception: John Wooden, retired head coach of the U.C.L.A. men’s basketball team. I met him at a high school basketball coaches’ conference at which he conducted two clinics. We became friends and maintained frequent contact for several years. I have since read all of the books written by or about someone who is, in my opinion, the greatest coach who ever lived. There are so many reasons. Here are two:
1. Although Coach Wooden’s U.C.L.A. teams won ten N.C.A.A. national championships in 12 years and his overall record during a 15-year period was 620-147, he never discussed or even used the word “winning.” The emphasis was always on character, on making personal sacrifices to support teammates, on sportsmanship at the highest level, and on conduct worthy of one’s religious faith (whatever it may be), family, and community.
2. He has lived throughout his entire life the values he learned in childhood and continued to affirm during his career as a player and coach. His attitude and behavior set an example when he was an all-state high school player and then an All-American at Purdue, one that remained the same throughout his life until now.
Note: He was born on October 10, 1910, and hopefully will celebrate his 100th birthday next October.
Yes, Coach Wooden led by example but he also had non-negotiable values to which he held everyone else as accountable as he did himself. Revealingly, he was never involved in or associated with controversy. For example, he never earned more than $35,000 a year as a coach at U.C.L.A. and never once asked for a raise. Much has been made about his greatness as a coach but, in my opinion, his greatest achievement was and remains his impeccable integrity.
As Coach Wooden so clearly demonstrates, great leaders are great teachers as well as an inspiration to those whom they feel privileged to serve.
Next Thursday, January 7, at noon at the Urban Engagement Book Club sponsored by Central Dallas Ministries, I will present a synopsis of the book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid. It provides great and comprehensive information about the health care issue, and if you have the time, I invite you to attend. (Details here). For me, it has been an important book to read.
Here are a few key quotes from the book:
Twenty two thousand Americans (USA) die each year from treatable diseases (because they do not have health care).
Does a wealthy country have an ethical obligation to provide access to health care for everybody? Do we want to live in a society that lets tens of thousands of our neighbors die each year, and hundreds of thousands face financial ruin, because they can’t afford medical care when they’re sick?… Every developed country except the United States has reached the same conclusion: Everybody should have access to medical care. Having made that decision, the other nations have organized health care systems to meet that fundamental moral goal…
At the start of the twenty-first century, the world’s riches and most powerful nation does not have the world’s best health care system. But we could… We can heal America’s ailing health care system – and the world’s other industrialized democracies can show us how to do it.
Whereas all other nations work from the time the line turns blue to introduce a healthy new person into their health care system, the United States first attends to its poorest mothers and newborns in the hospital on delivery day… Until we adopt a health care system that encourages it, preventive health care sill remain largely inaccessible to far too many Americans.
(Though there is legitimate debate re. the health care rankings of countries, this is clear and not in dispute): there is a coterie of developed countries that are providing quality health care, distributing it fairly and equitably – and doing all that for much less money than the United States is spending.
1. Grab your coat and get your hat.
2. Leave your worries on the doorstep.
3. Then direct your feet.
4. To the sunny side of the street.
Recently, my friend Larry James (CEO of Central Dallas Ministries) left his cell phone at home, and lived to tell about it. (Read his account here). He discovered that he went from cluelessness (he didn’t realize it), to panic (oh, my…), to a strange sense of calm. He had a quiet day, for a change. And it was almost…restful.
I’ve sort of had a week like that. First, we are still settling in to our new house. Boxes are disappearing, and it is feeling like home. And, by the way, we threw away a lot — I mean a whole lot — of “stuff.” In the move, I disposed of many, many boxes, and I am feeling less cluttered and much less claustrophobic. I like it!
We still have no land-line phone service. It’s complicated – we could not predict our exact moving date, and then the holidays hit, and we are awaiting a quick drive to Austin for the birth of our first grandchild. So – the land-lines, with fax, are not yet in. Next week, we think – if we are not in Austin. So, far fewer phone calls ringing have allowed for a quieter environment.
I have had only one appointment this week (a current events presentation at an area retirement community). Practically no phone calls, no meetings, no deadlines except self-imposed ones. I have leisurely read the two books I am presenting next week, with time to read and ponder. I think I may have learned more than usual.
And I have blogged quite a bit.
Next week, I return to “normal” (actually above normal – we still await that call from Austin). But I’m trying to figure out how to slow things down a little bit, at least occasionally.
How do I schedule time to slow down? I don’t know. But I’ve liked this week.