August 10, 2010

How the Team With No Rules Won 300 Games

“Never try to be better than someone else. Always learn from others. Never cease trying to be the best you can be.” – John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach, winner of ten national championships


He had no rules. He always talked about love and respect and building others up, especially opponents. What he never talked about was winning.


His name is Frosty Westering and he is one of the winningest college football coaches of all time (most of them spent at Pacific Lutheran University).


His methods were unique. Timeouts, even possibly in a championship game (he won four national championships), were a chance to play rock/paper/scissors. How did he do it?


You can’t talk about Frosty Westering without thinking about legendary basketball coach, John Wooden. Wooden didn’t recruit (neither did Westering), didn’t have long practices (neither did Westering), and didn’t talk about winning. They both, however, focused on developing good people, even more than good athletes. That’s why they won.


How they won was to focus on being their best selves, creating positive energy, and eliminating fear.


Wooden had three rules:

  1. Never be late.
  2. No swearing.
  3. Never criticize a teammate.

(Listen to Wooden talk about success on here.)


Frosty’s teams had no rules because they simply learned to do what was right. They learned by example. When they didn’t do what was right, there were consequences, but no rules. The older ones taught the younger ones, and they all helped each other. You can read about Frosty in Sports Illustrated and in the Seattle Times.


In my five years of research on peak performance for the book Inner Excellence, I saw a few characteristics that kept coming up. Athletes and teams that played with poise under pressure played from the heart, had an expansive vision, and learned how to be fully engaged in the moment. Extraordinary performance, I realized, came down to love, wisdom, and courage, respectively.


Extraordinary performers win because they focus on connecting with their true selves, not beating the other team. It’s probably the biggest mistake athletes and coaches make: trying to beat the other team instead of focusing on being their best selves each moment.


When you focus on beating the other team, you introduce fear, because now you’re focusing on the future, and on something you can’t control–the opponent’s performance.


One of Frosty’s players summed it up well before a big game, “They’re here to beat us, we’re here to be us.”