SI Vault
Adolph Rupp
December 08, 1958
At the invitation of Sports Illustrated, America's most controversial basketball coach puts down in writing the resolute philosophy that has led to a remarkable record. It is summed up best in his own words: 'DEFEAT AND FAILURE TO ME ARE ENEMIES'
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 08, 1958

'defeat And Failure To Me Are Enemies'

At the invitation of Sports Illustrated, America's most controversial basketball coach puts down in writing the resolute philosophy that has led to a remarkable record. It is summed up best in his own words: 'DEFEAT AND FAILURE TO ME ARE ENEMIES'

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

"This obvious truth should not be so hard to understand. There is nothing less democratic, in the usual sense of the word, than sports and games. Championship is the triumph of carefully cultivated natural inequalities. There is no point in pretending that, in a democracy, every citizen should be able to beat Olympic records. We simply cannot do it, however hard we try, but we do not resent the fact. We do not ask our directors of athletics to prevent some students from running as fast as they can, because if they did, they would run faster than others. We do not consider it democratic to set athletic standards as low as possible. On the contrary we fully realize that the exceptional performances of a few world champions act as a fruitful challenge whose effects are actually felt in stadiums and on all athletic fields. In short, the only sound policy for any democracy is to raise the average level of its people by cultivating the excellency of the best among its citizens."

Again let me repeat, it is the exceptional performances of the few which act as a challenge to all. In sports, the challenge is open to all. Every boy in this country can break an Olympic record if he so desires, if he has the ability and if he applies himself.

If a young man is to become successful in anything, he must have loyalty. In basketball he must, first of all, be loyal to himself, his teammates, his coach and his school. Loyalty means playing up to his capabilities. At times a boy is defeated on the basketball floor. Defeats, intelligently used, are steppingstones to success. We tell our boys, when they are defeated, we want them to be broad-minded and hold their heads high, accept defeat graciously, but learn a lesson from the defeat that will pave the way to victory. These are the qualities we want in our boys.

Maybe it would be well to make a routine check of the methods that we employ here at the university. The boys who have been entrusted to my care, the same as those who have been entrusted to all the professors on the campus, have not been sent here by their parents to fail. They have been sent here to become successful. Therefore, I am of the opinion that my classes in basketball should be taught the same as any other class on the campus.

I was greatly amused at a sports-writer who visited us here this past winter. He came out to watch our practice. My boys shot their free throws, took their warmup practice shots and then went to our fundamental drills and to our organized play. When the practice was over, the sportswriter said, "Don't these boys ever talk?" I said, "Yes, they talk occasionally, but it is generally understood out there that no one is to speak unless he can improve on the silence!" He said, "Don't your boys ever have any fun?" I said, "Yes, they have as much fun, or more, than any other players. Why should boys constantly chatter in a class in basketball any more than they do in a class in English? Why should they whistle and sing? I don't believe that you can get the maximum efficiency from a boy and have his undivided attention whenever you have a lot of noise at a practice session."

These words came home to haunt this sportswriter, for, as I am told, he sat in the press row at the NCAA finals and watched this same group of boys who had been well disciplined win the NCAA Championship and derive more fun out of winning than any group in America. While those boys who employed "horseplay" in practice sat home and listened to our boys play, our players walked off with all honors and had the mark of excellence stamped on their record.

How did they accomplish this? They achieved their success with an intense desire to win, to win fairly and by the rules. We feel that when we have taught a boy this lesson we have taught him the finest philosophy of life.

We hear coaches say, "We aren't winning this year, we're building character!" I have always disagreed with that. The finest character is built when you have a winning team and when you teach the boys to be successful in all their undertakings. We believe that success in sports has a carryover value in the life that is ahead of these boys. We told our boys last year, as we came down the homestretch and everyone prophesied that we would not win, that if we would all get together and work as a unit, pay careful attention to fundamental details, that, possibly, we could become the Cinderella team of all time.


Up to that time the praises that were passed out to our boys were not great. Our boys were considered average in ability by everyone. However, you cannot measure the desire in a boy, you cannot measure the heart in a boy. I told them that if we would all work together as a unit, we could win. I told them, "Boys, it is just this simple; individually we will not go anywhere, as a unit, we can. The time has come when either you have to fish or cut bait," and those who could not fish were certainly cutting bait on the bench by shouting encouragement to the boys who were playing.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4