Inspirational Quotes From UCLA Coach John Wooden

Words on Leadership, Integrity, and Values From a Sports Legend

John Wooden UCLA Coach

Bettmann/Getty Images

Basketball enthusiasts can quote John Wooden's winning basketball statistics, but leaders around the world can quote his character-centered leadership principles. While people are impressed with Wooden's 10 NCAA championships in 12 years and his 88 consecutive wins, it is the coach's unwavering commitment to building character, demonstrating integrity, and focusing on values that most impressed those who worked with him and those who admired his work from afar.

Numerous books, movies, and leadership training programs have been written about Coach John Wooden's legendary leadership. Wooden stands out because he didn't just have a leadership style, he had deeply-rooted leadership beliefs that other leaders in a wide variety of management roles wanted to adopt and adapt for themselves.

Coach Wooden's Woodisms

Luckily, Wooden also had a talent for articulating his leadership philosophy in the form of quotable quotes that many people refer to as "Woodisms." What follows are some of the many often quoted Woodisms from Coach Wooden which explains his philosophies about putting character, integrity, and values into leadership. These quotations have relevance for business leaders in general and retail industry managers in particular. Read these quotes, share them with other leaders, managers, and coaches, and then click the links below for more inspiring quotable quotations:

  • "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
  • "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."
  • "Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."
  • "Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability."
  • "Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then."
  • "Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."
  • "Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."
  • "It isn't what you do, but how you do it."
  • "It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."
  • "I deeply believed that the teacher and coach who has the ability to properly plan... from both the daily and the long-range point of view together with the ability to devise the necessary drills to meet his particular needs for maximum efficiency, has tremendously increased his possibility of success."
  • "Never mistake activity for achievement."
  • "I would spend almost as much time planning a practice as conducting it. Everything was planned out each day."
  • "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
  • "A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment."
  • "Men, I've done my job, the rest is up to you." - (At the beginning of every pre-game locker room speech)
  • "Sports do not build character. They reveal it."
  • "Although I wanted my players to work to win, I tried to convince them they had always won when they had done their best."
  • "Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character."
  • It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it."
  • "Be prepared and be honest."
  • "A player who makes a team great is much more valuable than a great player."
  • "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes."
  • "Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow."
  • "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."
  • "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."
  • "You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."