“The best competition I have is against myself to become better.” – John Wooden

John Wooden is the number one American coach, author of the books, and an inspiring and wise leader of the epoch. His leadership coaching style and life lessons motivated millions of people to focus on doing the best instead of just winning. 

There is no need to be a basketball fan to feel excited about John Wooden’s philosophy. His wisdom encourages millions of people and makes us think about the importance of being a true leader in our own life. Here is the collection of the best John Wooden quotes on leadership, success, teamwork, gratitude, and failure.   

Who is John Wooden

John Wooden (1910-2010) is known as a high school coach, who trained the basketball college team and won 10 championships over the period of 12 years. The lessons he shared with his team were based on his father’s life wisdom that influenced John Wooden’s strong character and made him a star basketball player. 

While working as an English teacher and a basketball coach, John Wooden created his famous teaching model called the Pyramid of Success. The main principle of this model was to teach students to be focused on getting the most from their potential.   

He wrote many great books such as Wooden on LeadershipCoach Wooden’s Pyramid of SuccessCoach Wooden’s Leadership Game Plan for SuccessThe Essential Wooden.

Best coaching quotes by John Wooden

Best John Wooden quotes on coaching

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” – John Wooden

“I had three rules for my players: No profanity. Don’t criticize a teammate. Never be late.” – John Wooden

“Young people need models, not critics.” – John Wooden

“Teaching players during practices was what coaching was all about to me.” – John Wooden

“I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession.” – John Wooden

“What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.” – John Wooden

“You can do more good by being good than any other way.” – John Wooden

“If I were a young coach today, I would be extremely careful in selecting assistants.” – John Wooden

“If a player’s not doing the things he should, put him on the bench. He’ll come around.” – John Wooden

“I don’t think I was a fine game coach. I’m trying to be honest. I think I was a good practice coach.” – John Wooden

Quotes by John Wooden about being the best

Best John Wooden quotes about being the best

“Your reputation is what you’re perceived to be, your character is what you really are.” – John Wooden

“Do your best every day. Live each day as if it’s your masterpiece.” – John Wooden

“The best competition I have is against myself to become better. – John Wooden

“Never lie, never cheat, never steal.” – John Wooden

“Just try to be the best you can be; never cease trying to be the best you can be. That’s in your power.” – John Wooden

“Earn the right to be proud and confident.” – John Wooden

“No one can really honestly be the very best, no one.” – John Wooden

“Champions never complain, they are too busy getting better.” – John Wooden

John Wooden quotes on gratitude

Best John Wooden quotes on gratitude

“I am not as good as I ought to be. I am not as good as I want to be. I am not as good as I’m going to be. But I am thankful that I am better than I used to be.” – John Wooden

“Today is the only day. Yesterday is gone.” – John Wooden

“If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” – John Wooden

John Wooden quotes on teamwork

Best John Wooden quotes on teamwork

“Condition your team to love the struggle.” – John Wooden

“Each member of your team has the potential for personal greatness; the leader’s job is to help them achieve it.” – John Wooden

“I did not want a person on our team who was reluctant to sacrifice for the good of the team. I prized the individual who was eager to sacrifice for our common good.” – John Wooden

“A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player.” – John Wooden

John Wooden quotes on talent

Best John Wooden quotes on success

“Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses. You get out there and whatever your doing, do to the best of your ability. And no one can do more than that.” – John Wooden

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” – John Wooden

“It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.” – John Wooden

“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.” – John Wooden

John Wooden quotes on adversity

“Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admiers then.” – John Wooden

“It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.” – John Wooden

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

“We must be challenged to improve, and adversity is the challenger.” – John Wooden

“Adversity often produces an unexpected opportunity. Look for it!” – John Wooden

John Wooden quotes on leadership

“Good values attract good people.” – John Wooden

“A strong leader accepts blame and gives credit. A weak leader gives blame and accepts the credit.” – John Wooden

“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” – John Wooden

“I worry that business leaders are more interested in material gain than they are in having the patience to build up a strong organization, and a strong organization starts with caring for their people.” – John Wooden

John Wooden quotes on success

Best John Wooden quotes about success and failure

“Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” – John Wooden

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” – John Wooden

“When the opportunity comes it is too late to prepare.” – John Wooden

“I don’t believe in praying to win.” – John Wooden

“The most important thing in the world is family and love.” – John Wooden

John Wooden quotes on failure

“If you let your emotions take over you’ll be outplayed.” – John Wooden

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” – John Wooden

“Don’t permit fear of failure to prevent effort. We are all imperfect and will fail on occasions, but fear of failure is the greatest failure of all.” – John Wooden

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” – John Wooden

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” – John Wooden

“Without proper self-evaluation, failure is inevitable.”  – John Wooden

Ted Talk by John Wooden

Here is one of the most popular John Wooden Ted Talks about the difference between winning and succeeding where he explains what success means to him and why we should teach our kids to treat success, not as a win. 


So, what is your favorite John Wooden quote?



Tetiana is a business coach and owner of IStartHub, a business media for ambitious female entrepreneurs and small business owners.