The question that I see the most often from fellow coaches, whether directed to myself or others, is something along the lines of, "what should I read next to become a better coach?"
To be honest, my answer is a quick "read everything in sight".
Because, regardless of how many certifications and alphabet soups you have in your title, we all need to develop as humans, as leaders, as communicators, as helpers, as teachers, and as athletes. When we get too bogged down with the science of coaching, we put ourselves at risk for an underdeveloped coaching philosophy, for poor communication, for inability to build buy-in with athletes and peers, for managing and organising, and the list goes on forever.
Besides, some things just won't be taught to us in school. If you're in sport science, you probably won't learn about management, psychology, finance, or marketing. If you are in sport management, you probably won't learn about sociology, kinesiology, or brain science either.
So, read everything. And once you've build your philosophy and practices, start narrowing down into the niches of science.
(Think: you've now mastered the squat/hing/push/pull basics, so you can start learning the snatch and reactive COD sprints. You've got to build the broad, strong foundation before even thinking about building up from there.)
For me, that basis is accountability, authenticity, discipline, and strategical thinking. The science and practice builds atop and is shaped by those things.
Here are ten of my favourite and most influential reads, corresponding to all parts of human existence and have made me a more effective coach and (candidate) psychologist.
Jocko Willink & Leif Babin
From a U.S. Navy Seal point of view, this book is packed with lessons on leadership, accountability, and strategy. I love their emphasis on discipline as freedom and taking complete responsibility for your own actions/results and those of your team.
If you like this book, keep an eye out for it's sequel at the end of this year, and you may enjoy Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. Jocko's podcast (Jocko Podcast) is also great and covers a new book every week with similarly deep insights and themes.
Brené Brown, PhD
Dr. Brown actually shaped my research journey into Choking Under Pressure with her first book, The Power of Vulnerability, and the corresponding TED Talk. Daring Greatly uses the metaphors of gladiators (stepping into the arena for the work that you believe in, accepting and overcoming doubt as a part of the process, getting your ass kicked, allowing others to support you, and getting back out there for more). Shame is something most of us face when being innovative, and it blocks us. Vulnerability is the way - to lead, to share, to work, to live.
If you like this book, the sequels (Rising Strong and Braving The Wilderness) are equally wonderful.
Never Split the Difference
This book shocked me - it is an excellent guide to any kind of transaction, whether in business or coaching. Identifying needs, naming fears, showing empathy, persuasion, and not compromising, with all the FBI-supported tactics to back it up. I really enjoyed the stories as well.
Start With Why
If you haven't heard of this book, you probably live under a rock. A classic - it will force you to take a hard look at your philosophy and needs.
If you like this book, Leaders Eat Last is also excellent and I highly recommend it.
Year of Yes
I have read this book every year since 2015. Not only is Shonda a brilliant storyteller (and makes you want to be one as well), she clearly lines out how we allow fear to stand in the way of good things - sometimes we even block ourselves from what we want as a result. A good one.
If you like this book, you may also like The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, which takes lessons on how to live from Taoism, and The Subtle Art of Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson.
This is a strength & conditioning-specific book, but it applies to anyone in any management role, whether a sports coach, an AD, a department head, etc. My only qualm with this book is that the athlete archetypes were strictly based on Brett's extensive personal experience and not on research or psychological practice, but this is such an excellent introduction to behavioural theory that it doesn't really matter. If you're a coach, read this yesterday!
Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking
As an introvert, this book was important for me early on as I navigated through my first years in the loud, male-dominated, and highly ego- and money-driven sports industry. Even if you're not an introvert, this offers many insights into how to work with those in your team who are and the gifts they bring in their quiet.
You may also enjoy Grit by Angela Duckworth.
The Thank You Economy
Gary is known for being super gregarious and sometimes repetitive, but this book, one of his earlier ones, is full of gems on how to make your products and services adaptable to client needs and receptive to feedback. Saying "thank you" and giving value excessively are golden.
If you like this book, Crushing It! is a good and more modern sequel.
The Tipping Point
The moment of critical mass. The things that add up in order to make a difference. This book is like a sociology class that's relevant to how we work, and taught me to value the process to the minutia of each step, instead of zooming out.
If you like this book, Outliers, Blink, and David & Goliath are also great.
The Body Keeps The Score
Bessel van der Kolk, MD
This book is extremely dense with stories and literature, but extremely educational. Dr. van der Kolk explains in depth how the brain and body deal with and heal from trauma - it is one of first books that really linked sport and psychology to me in a tangible, holistic way. He is also a brilliant writer.
If you like this book (or are looking for something more sport-specific/less dense), you make also like The Sports Gene by David Epstein, The Brave Athlete by Lesley Paterson, Endure by Alex Hutchenson, or The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler.
So now I ask you - what are your favourites?
What has helped shape you?