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Wooden Legacy Goes Around the World


By Andriana Trang '12

Published Feb 7, 2012 2:21 PM


Ugandan coaches come to UCLA to learn from Coach and his Pyramid of Success. From left to right: Ayeet Timothy Odeke, Nicholas Twesigye, Immaculate "Chocho" Nalwadda and Caroline Nyafwono. Photo courtesy of UCLA Athletics.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Make each day your masterpiece.

It isn't what you do, but how you do it.

UCLA's beloved icon and legendary men's basketball coach John Wooden left behind a long list of famous sayings. Through them, Coach taught people how to be better — in life as well as on the playing field. Those sayings travel well. And in one particularly powerful example, all the way to the other side of the world.

After Ugandan soccer coach Kyambadde 'Stone' Ndibassa discovered Wooden's philosophy online, he began incorporating Coach's ideas into his program for inner-city youth. He hoped the sayings would inspire his young players, many of whom had been traumatized by civil conflict in North Uganda.

In 2007, Ndibassa met Jens Omli, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, who was struck by the fact that Ndibassa had taken Wooden's teachings to heart without reading any of his books or hearing him speak. He was also impressed by the impact of Ndibassa's program on the young athletes and offered to collaborate with the coach to extend sporting programs throughout Uganda, starting with a coaching-development program.

With the support of the U.S. State Department, Omli began a cultural-exchange program, International Sport Connection. Over the past two years alone, the program's clinics have trained nearly 400 Ugandan coaches. One day of each clinic is devoted to Coach Wooden's philosophies and his Pyramid of Success.

Last month, four of those coaches got the rare opportunity to visit UCLA to learn more about Coach Wooden.

"The reason we should be coaching is to make a positive influence on the people who are coming through our hands," says one of the quartet, Ayeet Timothy Odeke, basketball coach at Nkumba University in Kampala, about how Wooden impacted on his own coaching philosophy. "The real gratification in coaching — and particularly in coaching, because that's how Coach Wooden saw it — is to see people successful afterwards."

After a tour of campus and the recreated Wooden Den in the J.D. Morgan Center, the four coaches watched a video of Wooden speaking to a UCLA psychology class. (Professor Tara Scanlen invited Coach to speak to her psych class every year, and he did so until his death in 2010 at age 99.)

Hearing the legend speak, and then walking through the same campus Coach walked through was "surreal" for Odeke. But what moves him most was the universality of Wooden's teachings.

"It transcends religion, it transcends race, it transcends barriers," he says. "That's why he's had so much impact across the globe."



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