100 Ways: Athletics


Published May 13, 2019 12:09 PM

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The Tao of John Wooden


Katelyn Ohashi stepped away from the Olympic track when she was beset by injuries and other pressures that come with the sport, including body shaming. But she rediscovered her passion when she joined the UCLA gymnastics team. “It took me finding Miss Val, and UCLA, and having a different goal and path to follow to finally find joy and love within the sport again,” she says.

Many college coaches will go down in history as being incredibly successful and greatly admired — among them, Alabama’s Bear Bryant, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.

But UCLA fans know that the most beloved coach in the country — known not only for his athletic success, but also for his impact beyond sports — is John Wooden. Talk to people who knew Wooden, and even those who didn’t, and you’ll see how profoundly his teachings affected them.

Bill Walton ’74 makes no secret of his devotion to Coach. The former Bruin and NBA star realized that Wooden was not just teaching his players the game of basketball, but also the game of life. “He taught us the ultimate skills: how to think, how to dream, how to learn and how to compete,” Walton says.

Meeting Wooden also changed the life of Valorie Kondos Field ’87, the energetic head coach of the UCLA women’s gymnastics team. Affectionately called “Miss Val,” she says that her first attempts at coaching failed miserably because she was too focused on winning. Then she picked up Wooden’s book They Call Me Coach in the UCLA Store.

“It didn’t sound like all this other coach talk I’d heard,” says Kondos Field. “It was filled with a lot of tough love, but honest love. Compassion and discipline. It’s about teaching life’s lessons through the sport that we’re a part of.”


Following Wooden’s example, she built her own original recipe for success, built on passion and love. Kondos Field’s teams have since won seven NCAA titles, and her athletes adore her, including senior Katelyn Ohashi, whose perfect (10.0) floor exercise at the 2019 Collegiate Challenge went viral in January.

Proving that Wooden’s influence reaches well beyond the world of sports, UCLA’s Anderson School of Management is taking the coach’s teachings into a whole new realm. For the Class of 2020, the school kicked off its Leadership Development Program with a two-unit course that introduced students to 12 leadership competencies, as well as to Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. Students also read The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership. Those students who continued on in the program submitted a leadership plan requiring them to map their competencies to the Pyramid.

Further, UCLA Anderson honors an exceptional leader each year with the John Wooden Global Leadership Award for exemplary leadership and service to the community (last year’s winner was Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix), and four M.B.A. students receive $25,000 John Wooden Global Leadership Fellowships.

“The leadership award goes to someone whose management style is value-based leadership of the sort that Coach celebrated,” says Alfred E. Osborne Jr., interim dean, professor and faculty director of the Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “And it goes beyond just the Pyramid of Success, which a lot of people know about, to his various writings about what it is to live a respectful, authentic, productive, constructive and honorable life.”

Primary Source

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Policy

When California's Proposition 8 on gay marriage came before the Supreme Court in 2013, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that “there are some 40,000 children in California” living with same-sex parents.

Mikaela Saelua is a former political science student at UCLA. Despite the fact that she transitioned between genders, she participated in many spaces at UCLA and was empowered to take on leadership positions in those spaces.

In March, Reuters reported on an analysis of polling data that revealed that “an estimated 4.5 percent of U.S. adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and they tend to be younger and poorer than the population at large.”

Even more pivotal than the statistics in the national debate over gay rights is the source: the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law. Directly or indirectly, the institute’s dispassionate dispensation of precise research and informed knowledge has made it the country’s premier think tank on sexual orientation and gender-identity law and public policy.

Governors, state legislators, budget chiefs, agency directors, congressmembers and senators, pundits, judges at the state and federal levels, and other analysts and policymakers across the nation use the institute’s data and constitutional arguments. Its Judicial Education Program provides international, state and federal judges and court personnel with substantive training on legal issues impacting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.



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