Coach Wooden Started with Socks

Posted: February 24, 2018 in Discipleship, Preaching, Stories
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At a June 13, 2008, event honoring John Wooden and famed sportscaster Vin Scully and raising money for pediatric cancer research at UCLA and other local institutions, Coach Wooden had an opportunity to demonstrate his famed socks-and-shoes lessons.

Wooden began the first day of practice each year with his most important basketball lesson. Players gathering for that first day  were full of anticipation. They wondered how their coach would set the tone for the long season to come. They didn’t have to wait long. Socks

At the event one of Wooden’s most famous players, Bill Walton, introduced the coach and recalled his first days at UCLA as a basketball player. Walton related the shock that he and other new players felt when the first thing Wooden did was set them down and teach them how to put on their shoes and socks. Doing this properly, Walton said, was the initial lesson for “everything we would need to know for the rest of our lives.”

Following Walton’s introduction, Coach Wooden came out on stage holding a box with athletic shoes and socks, bringing with him 12-year-old Robert, who was introduced as having tackled cancer at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. There was much good-natured laughter as Wooden gave Robert the socks-and-shoes instructions.

“You know, basketball is a game that’s played on a hardwood floor,” Wooden said. “And to be good, you have to…change your direction, change your pace. That’s hard on your feet. Your feet are very important.”

The team veterans knew this lesson was coming at the first practice, but  first year players were no doubt perplexed by the initial lesson imparted by their Hall of Fame coach: He taught them how to put on a pair of socks. He did not teach this lesson only once, but before every game and practice. Why?

Wooden had discovered many players didn’t properly smooth out wrinkles in the socks around their heels and little toes. If left uncorrected, these wrinkles could cause blisters that could hamper their performance at crucial times during games. Many players thought the practice odd and laughed about it then. Wooden knows some of them still laugh about it today. But the coach would not compromise on this basic fundamental principle: “I stuck to it. I believed in that, and I insisted on it.”

In our desire to grow as Christians, we can easily forget about the fundamentals of our faith. If we do, we run the risk of developing painful spiritual blisters that can hurt us as we run our race.

 

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