34 John Wooden Quotes to Help You Coach Through Tough Times

Coaching is something that takes determination. It can be hard to coach a team through tough times, like a losing streak.

How do pump up players that are so down they don’t even want to go to the field? How do you get them motivated to play their best, even though their best wasn’t enough to win the last game?

You reach down inside yourself, and you find your own motivation. Use your own strength for them to lean on, and then learn about your team so you can give them the perfect speech to get them pumped. If you’re having a hard time with that, these John Wooden quotes will help you coach a team through anything.

John Wooden Quotes Every Coach Needs to Hear

John Wooden Quotes for Practice

  1. “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.”
  1. “When you improve a little each day, eventually big changes will occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens, and when it happens, it lasts.”
  1. “The work that you do each and every day is the only true way to prepare yourself for what is to come. You cannot change the past and you can influence the future only by what you do each day.”
  1. “You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.”
  1. “Teaching players during practice was really what coaching was all about to me.”

John Wooden Quotes for Coaching

  1. Good coaching is about leadership and instilling respect in your players. Dictators lead through fear; good coaches do not.”
  1. “No individual should take the blame for a loss because no individual should credit for the victory.”
  1. “A player who makes a great team is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group for the good of the group, that’s teamwork.”
  1. “A strong leader accepts blame and gives the credit. A weak leader gives blame and accepts the credit.”
  1. “No matter how you total success in the coaching profession, it all comes down to a single factor: talent. There may be a hundred great coaches of whom you have never heard in basketball, football or any sport who will probably never receive the acclaim that they deserve simply because they have not been blessed with the talent. Although not every coach can win consistently with talent, no coach can win without it.”
  1. “A coach is someone who can give correction without resentment.”
  1. “Young people need models, not critics.”
  1. “You have to really love your people to get the most out of them.”
  1. “A coach must never forget that he is a leader and not merely a person with authority.”
  1. “Essentially I was always more of a practice coach than a game coach. This is because of my conviction that a player who practices well plays well.”
  1. “Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses.”
  1. “Players with a fight never lose a game. They simply run out of time.”

John Wooden Quotes on Success/Failure

  1. “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
  1. “The most important key to achieving great success is to decide upon your goal, get started, take action, move.”
  1. “Success is a peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best…”
  1. “Success is never final. Failure is never fatal.”
  1. “If you are afraid to fail, you will never do the things that you are capable of doing.”
  1. “If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

John Wooden Quotes to Inspire You

  1. “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.”
  1. “It is the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
  1. “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
  1. “What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.”
  1. “Have the utmost concern for what is right rather than who is right.”
  1. “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”
  1. “Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do.”
  1. “Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.”
  1. “Things turn out the best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
  1. “Profound responsibilities come with teaching and coaching. You can do so much good or harm. It’s why I believe that next to parenting, teaching and coaching are the two most important things.”
  1. “Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”


Coaches are more than just another person on the side-lines in a player’s life. They are the very foundation that a team is built upon. When a coach has the talent and strong leadership skills, they can take a team to heights that they never imagine were possible.

Having talent is simply not enough, though. You need to have motivation and drive in order to motivate your players to get out on the court and fight for their win. Being a wonderful role model is something that most leaders also do.

As a coach, you are helping to shape people into the best that they can be, both on and off the court. If you’re not feeling your best before interacting with players, remember some of these quotes to get you back on the right track.

image credit: csmonitor.com