Winners Make The Most Mistakes

In an excerpt from John Wooden's book, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, Coach Wooden writes,

My coach at Purdue, Piggy Lambert, constantly reminded us: "The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win."

That may sound a bit odd, but there is a great deal of truth in it.  The doer makes mistakes.  Coach Lambert taught me that mistakes come from doing, but so does success.

The individual who is mistake-free is also probably sitting around doing nothing.  And that's a very big mistake.

When we are doing individual skill workouts in our program, we encourage and push our players to make mistakes.  It's not that we want them making mistakes all the time, but we want them to push themselves past their limits.  We want our players to go so hard that they can realize and achieve something that they didn't think was possible.  When players know that they can go hard and make mistakes without a coach yelling and screaming at them, it allows them to take risks that will ultimately lead to success.

For example, if we are doing a two ball dribbling drill we will make our players go "harder and faster" until they can't keep up with the drill.  We are OK if they lose a handle or bounce the ball off of their foot, as long as they are going hard.  If we are trying to work on a players shot, sometimes they will feel uncomfortable and air ball a few shots.  They know it's OK as long as they are striving to improve.

Obviously, in games we want to have as few mistakes as possible.  Our goal is to make a lot of mistakes in workouts by going hard, so that when games come we will be able to handle the pressure.  You will need to find a balance for your program as to what type of mistakes are acceptable during a game.  Mistakes in games are OK as long as the player learns from it and doesn't do it again.  They become a problem when they are repeated over and over again.   

I would love to hear your perspective on mistakes and how you handle them.  As Coach Lambert told John Wooden, "mistakes come from doing, but so does success."  Winners make the most mistakes, but they do so because they are doing everything they can to be the best they can be.  

The doer makes mistakes.
— Coach John Wooden