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Tony D'Amelio

By: Tony D'Amelio on July 11th, 2017

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Bill Walton: Learning to Lace My Shoes  was a John Wooden Success Lesson

Motivation | Leadership


Basketball legend and top sports motivational speaker BILL WALTON will never forget his first practice under the legendary UCLA Bruins coach John Wooden.  Walton and the other star recruits, plus famous seniors and members of national championship UCLA teams, were anxious to get started.  But first, John Wooden says, “Men, this is how you put your shoes and socks on.”  Some of the returning players had been through this before; no matter - they were going to learn it again.
Walton, the country's top-recruited player that year, thought “WHAT!!!???!!!  We're top players!  We don't need this!"
But learning to tie shoes properly was vital to Wooden.  It meant star players would never get a blister which would keep them from playing.  The team can’t be its best unless everyone’s able to play. 
John Wooden is arguably the greatest coach of all-time, regardless of sport yet he never talked about winning.  Wooden taught his players to focus on doing their best; which meant practicing the fundamentals well.  Like the proper way to lace up shoes.  It was a John Wooden success lesson.
No matter what we do, the brilliant execution of the fundamentals is essential. Bill Walton credits the leadership lessons he learned from Coach John Wooden for creating the foundation for his success on the court and in life.  A top sports motivational speaker, Bill draws on the wisdom of John Wooden and brings that message to audiences, as he does in this video:


What makes Bill so special is his positive attitude.  He is one happy man!  This piece from (Bill Walton Loves Life…) is a great example. One other great print piece from the San Diego Union-Tribune – “I’m 63 Now and Just Getting Started”.

Bill Walton tells the story of learning Coach Wooden's lesson for lifelong success in this excerpt from his bestselling book, Back from the Dead


“I had dreamed about playing basketball at UCLA since I was twelve. Now, here I was, and the reality was better than the dream. The first day of practice, October 15, was also the day after John Wooden’s birthday and also, by tradition, media day. The harmonic convergence of Coach’s birthday with the annual renewal of the sport never escaped us—for ninety-nine years. There was always a cake and lots of smiles and laughter at the beginning. The transition to real practice the next day was seamless. It was all so exhilarating, even though Greg, Jamaal, and the rest of the new guys—not allowed to play with the varsity in those days—would spend the season playing exhibition games for the freshman team while the varsity went out to try to win UCLA’s fifth straight NCAA championship—and sixth in seven years. They were led by the incomparable Sidney Wicks, along with Curtis Rowe, Steve Patterson, Henry Bibby, Terry Schofield and Kenny Booker.

We were ready to roll all day that first time out. Just before the start, always at 3:30 p.m. sharp, Coach Wooden called all the freshmen together and walked us into the locker room. There, he sat down on a stool and began his lecture to us. We sat there like dutiful sponges ready to soak it all up, knowing that he was about to give us the key to heaven on earth, show us the path, guide us to become the next great team in history. 

His first words were, “Men, this is how you put your shoes and socks on.”  

We were stunned. We looked around and at each other. Are you kidding me? We’re all high school All-America players and here is this silly little old man showing us how to put on our shoes and socks! 

Meticulously, he demonstrated exactly how we were to apply the socks over our toes and pull them up tight to eliminate the possibility of any wrinkles, which could cause blisters. And then how to open our shoes so that they would slide on easily and not disturb the wrinkle-free socks, and how to then properly lace and tie them snuggly and completely. Over the course of time, he showed us how to tuck in our shirts and tie the proper knot on the drawstring of our game shorts, how to shower and properly dry ourselves, especially our hair (which we were always to keep short and neat), how we would practice and prepare for games, and also how we should study for our classes and conduct our lives. 

We were rolling our eyes and could barely keep from laughing out loud.  When he took off his own shoes and socks for the demo, we were appalled. He had these grotesque varicose veins covering his lower legs, feet, and ankles. He had terrible hammer-toes, and disgusting fungus under most of his nails. Gross!!!

Talk about weird? We wanted to play ball, and get running. But it is very safe to say that practice never once started with these words from Coach Wooden: What do you guys want to do today? When we finally were ushered back onto the court, Coach directed the eight new freshmen (six of us scholarship players) into the stands on the north side of the main court in Pauley. And then varsity practice started. 

Oh my gosh!

Such precision, flawless execution, incredible pace, non-stop chatter from everybody, and an ever-faster celebration of a team playing with determination, pride, structure, discipline, organization, passion, and purpose. A few minutes in, Coach stopped the train its tracks, and everything became eerily and instantly silent. He turned to us in the stands and crisply delivered a most pointed and succinct message: “From this moment on, you new players are expected to know what to do out here, and when. There will be no further explanation of what and why we are doing these things. Now let’s go!”


SUPPLEMENTAL READING:  Leadership Lessons: Bill Walton’s Favorite John Wooden Quotes 
Best Sports Motivational Speakers: The Key to Success by BILL WALTON


We thought at the time that a lot of the stuff Coach Wooden was selling—his Pyramid of Success, Seven-Point Creed, Two Sets of Threes, Four Laws of Learning, his maxims, his tools to overcome adversity—were the stupidest things ever. But we never doubted the honesty, righteousness, dedication, preparation, commitment, and excellence that was behind it all. “Your best is good enough,” he repeatedly told us. “Don’t beat yourself, don't cheat yourself, don't short-change yourself. That's the worst kind of defeat you'll ever suffer, and you'll never get over it.” He was able to distill into one or two sentences the greatest lessons of life. To this very day, whenever I’m going through the routine of preparing to get ready for something big, whether it’s business, personal or physical, I just keep repeating it all to myself. Inevitably, the right rhythm, beat, and pace finds its way to the surface, enabling me to go get it done.”





About Tony D'Amelio

Tony has spent his career putting talented people and audiences together, first in the music business and later representing the world's leading speakers. After concluding 27 years as Executive Vice President of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Tony launched D'Amelio Network, a boutique firm that manages the speaking activities of a select group of experts on business, management, politics and current events. Clients include: Mike Abrashoff, Mariana Atencio, Chris Barton, Lisa Bodell, Geoff Colvin, Daryl Davis, Suneel Gupta, Ron Insana, Katty Kay, Polly LaBarre, Nicole Malachowski, Ken Schmidt, and Bob Woodward.

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