110% - A Lesson from Coach Wooden

One of the great privileges I experienced over the course of my ministry was the opportunity to meet Coach John Wooden. I attended UCLA in the late 1960’s, finished my course work in late 1970 and walked in 1971. During that span of time, Coach Wooden’s basketball record was 120-4 with four consecutive National Championships.

As we were preparing to have Coach Wooden speak at our Asian American Christian Counseling Service fundraising event, I was able to visit him at his home along with my daughter, Bethany, also a UCLA graduate. A good friend, Ron Fukushima, arranged the meeting.

Coach Wooden was a gracious, friendly, humble man who loved to quote poetry and was full of thoughtful insights. I was having a marvelous time.

We started talking about his various basketball teams when I stated that my favorite teams were the 1963-65 teams featuring Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazard and Keith Erickson because they were overachievers who used the full court press. I said that they gave 110%.

Coach Wooden politely said to me that no one is capable of giving 110%. The most effort anyone can give is 100%. I didn’t want to say that I was speaking in hyperbole. Instead, I stood corrected and learned something from him.

I learned that, indeed, no one can really give 110% effort. However, when we give 100% effort, it seems like 110% because we usually give far less than 100%.

I also realized how much we can learn from our mistakes. In fact, that is one of the ways I have learned things over the years… through a myriad of my mistakes and the mistakes of others.

I appreciated Coach Wooden correcting the error of my thinking. It’s the moment I remember the best during our visit with him (along with him personally signing a basketball for me and for Bethany).

Ever since then, 1 Corinthians 10:31 has taken on a significant meaning for me whenever I coach. I never ask a team to give 110% effort. Rather, I ask them to do as Paul commanded when he wrote, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

I ask them to give their maximum effort to the glory of God.

In the things that we do, do we give maximum effort to the glory of God?

Something to think about…


Note: In the future, if I write about what I have learned through a mistake, I will entitle the piece “110%”.