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Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with Humanitarian and Coach John Wooden to Help 'Make Each Day Your Masterpiece'

     As a longtime newspaper sports columnist in Southern California I am often asked to speak to civic groups – and the person audiences invariably want to hear more about during the Q&A afterward is Coach John Wooden. Listeners at these talks, as well as readers of my columns, over the years have encouraged me to write a book about my experiences with Coach.

     Now I have, with the memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece.”

      It was in 1987 as a young sports writer and near-newlywed that I met Coach, who soon became a friend and mentor through the births of my two children and their growth into young adulthood; the death of my mother; career decisions; and more. As I note in my completed manuscript: “One did not have to play for Coach Wooden in order to be one of his students, and of this I am a privileged example. I was not one of his basketball players – except for one glorious week at his youth camp in 1975 – but make no mistake, I was his pupil. No coach or teacher or professor has taught me more, or taught me more important things.”

     Just as Coach Wooden was beloved and revered by people of all ages and all backgrounds, readers from teens to parents to grandparents, basketball fans and non-fans alike, will find WOODEN & ME enlightening and inspiring.

     WOODEN & ME is an inspiring combination of Tuesdays With Morrie and Chicken Soup for the Soul is how author Randy Robertson described my book after reading the manuscript.

     Coach not only passed on priceless life lessons to me, but also to my daughter Dallas (now 26) and her younger brother Greg (23), who were fortunate to meet Coach and are featured throughout the book from their young childhood to the present day. Dallas’ Masters degree in Creative Writing at Purdue University (coincidentally Wooden’s alma mater) and recent John Steinbeck Fellowship selection, and Greg’s Pac-12 Leadership Award (from the athletic conference Wooden famously coached in) and Rhodes Scholar Finalist honors attest to the continued relevance and impact of Coach’s teachings.

     My writing credentials include being a sports columnist for more than twenty-five years in Southern California, with The Ventura County Star and The Daily Breeze in Torrance; and now back with The Star in Ventura as a general interest essayist. National recognition includes First Place for Column Writing by the Associated Press News Executive Council; Column Writing honors by the Associated Press Sports Editors; E.W. Scripps Newspapers “Columnist of the Year” and Copley News Service’s “Columnist of the Year”; and the James S. Copley “Ring of Truth” award. In 2003, I was inducted into the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s Journalists Hall of Fame. My work has appeared in The Best American Sports Writing anthology, The Sporting News, and The Los Angeles Times Op-Ed pages. I also co-authored Raising Your Child To Be A Champion In Athletics, Arts and Academics (Kensington Publishing/Citadel Press, 2004) with nationally renowned speaker and coach Wayne Bryan.

     As I ask for your generous support in helping make this worthy book and e-book a reality, let me leave you with my dedication on the opening page of WOODEN & ME:

     For Coach – “The journey is better than the inn” you often reminded me, and in my life journey I feel extremely thankful and blessed to have had you walking ahead of me as a role model; walking beside me as a teacher, mentor and friend; and now walking behind me in spirit as a source of continued inspiration to myself – as well as to my daughter Dallas, son Greg, and wife Lisa – for pursuing true “success.” Too, I am forever grateful for your frequent reminder and constant shining example that “love” is the most important word in the English language.

     Thank you, Dear Patrons, for joining this journey with me.

     -- Woody

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

The major challenge was writing the manuscript, which took two years and has been successfully completed; revised, revised, revised; and copy-edited. The front cover design has been finalized and the back cover is awaiting only the addition of the generous Pyramid of Success, Manuscript, and MVP level supporters. Similarly, the book's interior layout is nearly ready except for the final list of Kickstarter supporters on the "Patrons" acknowledgment pages.

The funds raised through Kickstarter from your generous support will be used to overcome the final challenge: printing costs, final design work for the front and back covers, and interior layout (both for print and e-book formatting).

When this Kickstart campaign finishes at the end of June, I will provide the Patrons' names to the graphic designer to include on the back cover and inside acknowledgements pages.

Once the exterior design and interior layout is then complete by the end of July, the finalized product will be given to the book printer and e-book publisher. The paperbacks will then be delivered to me by the end of August, around which time the e-book should also be made available for download.

I will then excitedly sign and mail WOODEN & ME (along with your bookmarks and other rewards) to be in your happy hands in September.

FAQ

  • Coach Wooden earned the nickname as the “Wizard of Westwood” by achieving the following feats: 10 NCAA men's basketball championships in a span of 12 years at UCLA, including seven titles in a row, and 88 consecutive victories during one amazing stretch – all are NCAA records.

    As a basketball player himself, Wooden was a three-time All-American at Purdue (back when freshmen were ineligible for varsity play) and named the NCAA Player of the Year in 1932. He was the first person inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (1961) and as a coach (1973).

    John Robert Wooden was also renowned as a role model and humanitarian. In 2003 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor.

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  • There are so very many “Wooden-isms” I find meaningful, including “Be quick, but don’t hurry” and “Good things take time; usually a lot of time” and “Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” My favorite, however, is the one I have on my cell-phone screen saver and in the subtitle of WOODEN & ME – “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece.”

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  • You bet! In my heart of hearts I am confident you will love it. Despite all his coaching accomplishments, John Wooden always considered himself first and foremost a teacher. His life lessons, wisdom and inspiration are applicable to everyone in all stages and stations of life.

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    “Pyramid of Success” Level -- Limited in honor of the 15 building blocks in the Pyramid of Success -- You will be acknowledged for your generosity by name on the BACK COVER of WOODEN & ME as well as the inside “Patrons” page – and you will receive five paperbacks signed by the author and personalized to your requests. Plus bookmarks.

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    “Manuscript” Level -- In addition to being acknowledged for your generosity by name on the BACK COVER of WOODEN & ME, as well as on the inside “Patrons” page, you will receive one of the three final drafts of the manuscript I had printed out and bound with a cover page as keepsakes for my three most valued reviewers/copyeditors/supporters (my wife and two children) who have generously donated them to this Kickstarter project. Yours will be signed by the author and personalized to your request, as will be five paperbacks of WOODEN & ME. Plus bookmarks.

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    “MVP – Most Valuable Patron” Level -- On the BACK COVER of WOODEN & ME you will receive the top-billing acknowledgement by name as thanks for your kind generosity, as well as on the inside “Patrons” page. Additionally, I will gratefully gift to you one “Seven-Point Creed / Pyramid of Success” card (a double-sized unfolded business-size card measuring 3½ x 4 inches and preserved in an acrylic holder) AUTOGRAPHED BY COACH WOODEN and originally given to me. (I have another one I will forever keep with me and cherish!) You will also receive seven paperbacks of WOODEN & ME signed by the author and personalized to your requests. Plus bookmarks.

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