Please join me for a fun series. My mission, and I’ve chosen to accept it, is to write a post based on each letter of the alphabet. The English major inside of me is very excited about this project…and my inner nerd is even more fired up! Keep checking back as I tackle the intangibles of sport…from A to Z.
I’m a book nerd…I love ‘em! So much so that I put a summer reading list together every year to make sure that I get my reading fix in. These are books that have helped me over the years and I’m sure you’ll find them helpful as well. At the end of each section, I’ve got a link to buy the book. I’m not making any money on it or anything…just making it easier for you to get your learn on!
Here are five books that I return to time and time again…and they never let me down.
Gender and Competition: How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently by Kathy DeBoer
I, like many female former athletes of my age, only played for male coaches. So when I decided that I wanted to be a coach, I did it the only way I knew how…like a man. The result? Utter disaster. Sound familiar? Or are you a male coach who wonders why your female team isn’t “aggressive” enough? I bet you’ll love this book because there are lots of good stories and tips in there.
DeBoer says that culturally, young girls view winning and losing as opposite of the “closeness that females value” and avoid it in play activities. As you read this, your eyes will be opened to the type of environment that you can create to help your female team embrace competition.
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
He had me at the tagline for the book: “Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown. Here’s how.” I’m sure we’ve all had those athletes who are pretty good, but we look at them and see who they could be if they just pushed themselves. We challenge them to try new things, but they are perfectionists and hate making mistakes, so they don’t reach their potential. They play it safe, they stay comfortable…they’re good, not great.
The whole concept of the book is that we are in control of our talent and our greatness…that we can work at it if we work in the correct manner: “struggling in certain targeted ways—operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes—makes you smarter.” Reading through the book, we learn how to make this happen for our players.
Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy
Unlike the first two books, this one is more biography than “how to”. I think that the title of this book could have been “Quiet Confidence” as well. Think about the inner strength and confidence Dungy must have had in himself and his way of doing things that he was able to buck the tradition and be a football coach on his own terms. What an awesome lesson for us all to learn!
To have confidence in your calling as a coach when the results aren’t turning out how you’d like. To have confidence in your coaching style and philosophy when others tell you that you can’t be successful using your methods. The book details Dungy’s career from player to Super Bowl champion…and all of the ups and downs in between. But the one thing that is a consistent theme throughout the book is his commitment to his coaching style.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Franklin Covey
When I first got into the workforce, the company I worked for had a 7 Habits seminar right there in the office. Over the course of three days, I learned how to be a professional and how to work well with others…I’d say that was a pretty impactful three day period!
The first three habits are all about us as individuals, the next three are about interacting with others, the final habit is for all of us to pursue a lifetime of learning…always looking to get better. As you work through the book, the habits work to transform us from dependency to independence to interdependence. Interdependence means mutual reliance upon one another…or a “team”! I’ve used this book as a captain’s training manual and also as a team book with pretty good success.
Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations From On and Off the Court by John Wooden
So often when people talk about team chemistry or leadership or team dynamics, they seem to think, “Well, that’s great…if I have time to get to it.” I think it’s partly because coaches understand the tangibles: setting up a practice plan, putting together drills, making corrections to specific behaviors. I also think it’s partly because coaches don’t understand the ins and outs of those intangibles (and how to measure if we’ve been successful), so we tend to stay away from them.
But if we are to believe the Pyramid, then a successful team is built upon intangibles. What Coach Wooden has brilliantly given us with his Pyramid is a way to measure the success of those intangibles. Build these blocks of the Pyramid of Success into your practice plans and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals! There’s more in this book than the Pyramid…but those are the pages of my book that are well worn.
There are so many books out there that will make us better coaches…these are my top five, but certainly not the only ones that have impacted my coaching life.