What a basketball coach can teach us about learning how to code

Power Up Web Dev
4 min readDec 14, 2020


That’s the winning percentage of his entire career as a coach.


That’s the season he started at UCLA. In a cramped gym with a little-known basketball program.


National Championships during his reign.
The most successful rebuilding project in college basketball history that turned UCLA into a national powerhouse. No other coach has ever won more than 4.


The Sporting News “Greatest Coach of All Time”

Coach John Wooden.

He has developed legendary NBA players with the likes of Kareem-Abdul Jabar and Bill Walton. He is an inductee to The Basketball Hall Of Fame for his achievements as a player and as a coach. ( A comprehensive list of his accomplishments)


of the most revered and winningest coaches in the history of basketball had a simple philosophy that he attributed most of his success to.

In fact, his secrets to success are no secret at all. In fact, we all know it.

It is the importance of understanding the fundamentals.

The most skipped, the most overlooked, and the most underrated aspect to everything in life.

Photo credits to James Motter




forming a necessary base or core; of central importance.

It is the laying of a good foundation before the construction of a building, the grasp of the alphabet before spelling a word, and the seatbelt buckle and mirrors before the drive.

There was no one who emphasized and obsessed over fundamentals more than Coach Wooden.

Coach Wooden believed that one of the keys to success was not star players, innovative plays, or complex rotations but simply in understanding and executing the basics very well. From the way the players wore their socks and tied their shoes — without learning these fundamentals, players often developed painful blisters that sidelined them — to their punctuality for practice, from the way they dribbled to the way they passed, every detail was just as important as the next for him.

From an observer’s point of view, there was nothing that stuck out about his methodology or about his players, there were no flashy plays or unconventional play styles that gave away his success. However, if one were to look at the results he produced and take just five minutes to listen to him explain the keys to success, the importance of fundamentals might just become fundamentally important to them.

Photo credits to Kobu Agency

Priming ourselves for success

I feel that a lot of the frustrations we go through is because we’re trying to move onto advanced concepts without first solidifying a good understanding and grasp of the basics that it is built and dependent upon. We’re building the walls without laying a good foundation.

Why study CSSGrids and Flexbox when one doesn’t fully know how the Box model works? Why learn bootstrap when one doesn’t know responsive design? Why learn React, when one can’t even dribble Javascript?

The most important skill a web developer can have, it can be argued, could be reading and understanding documentation — oh gee! — that sounds a lot like the fundamentals! It seems like this skill is crucial for this line of work, and this line of work is for people who throw IKEA instructionals to the side, figure it out themselves, and end up reading it anyway because the bunk-bed now looks like a crib.

But what if we get the fundamentals right? we will have saved ourselves a hundred headaches and we’ll have primed ourselves for success.

If we start putting our learning socks on properly, then we won’t develop blisters that slow down and impede our progress, but rather we’ll find ourselves playing in the game much longer.

Photo credits to Paul Wallez

“You can’t have confidence unless you are prepared. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”

— UCLA Anderson | John Wooden Global Leadership Award ceremony (May 21, 2009)

“These seemingly trivial matters, taken together and added to many, many other so-called trivial matters build into something very big: namely, your success.”

— Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, New York: Simon and Schuster.


This “publication” is called Power Up and I hope to have empowered your learning.

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Additional Resources:

Coach Wooden’s Ted Talk
The Life and Legacy of John R. Wooden
Leadership And Success Advice



Power Up Web Dev

Hoping to empower and clarify your learning. Web Development focused.