Written by Coach William Flow
Over the last year I have focused on the career of John Wooden. Coach Wooden and I share some commonalities; well, just a few things. We both taught English and we both coached basketball, the comparisons pretty much stop there. Coach lived a fascinating life and by the power of books we can study what made him a great coach. Wooden, along with other authors or players, published thirteen books. Subsequently his players have written multiple recollections of the historical coach. Just by reading one book you can delve into one of the greatest coaching minds in sports history without ever visiting a practice.
The #CoachesBookshelf can be a great key to expanding knowledge, escaping the daily tasks of running your program, or make your office walls look very sophisticated. My focus for this post will be to give you a few of my favorite reads, show you how to find great books, and give you a few tips outside of the bookshelf on how to expand your knowledge.
I cannot give you a favorite book out of my collection, just like none of you can tell who your favorite player is, but you know who they are. Throughout this post I will have links to each book, and I will identify my top books based on category. A few tips before we start…
- Books focused on coaches can be hit or miss. Sometimes it is just a recap of a certain season or a coaches career (Jim, Boeheim, Bleeding Orange: Fifty Years of Blind Referees, Screaming Fans, Beasts of the East, and Syracuse Basketball or Jay Wright, Attitude: Develop a Winning Mindset on and off the Court) or a funny take on the dynamic of the team (Mike Ditka, In Life, First You Kick Ass: Reflections on the 1985 Bears and Wisdom from Da Coach). If you are looking for their key to success sometimes it is not in the pages, but sometimes they are just good reads (John, Calipari, Players First: Coaching from the Inside).
- Self help books only work if you put the actions into motion. I have had this happen with books before, read, be inspired and then no call to action. If you take nothing from this post please take action (Nick Hays, Elite: High Performance Lessons and Habits from a Former Navy SEAL).
- Read!!! Plain and simple, read whatever you want but I want you to start reading. I was raised in Pittsburgh and I try to read as much about Roberto Clemente, the Pirates, the city, or just local sports history as I can (L. Price, Playing Through the Whistle: Steel, Football, and an American Town). I have a colleague who just reads smutty hockey novels, to each their own, but pick up a book and read!
- MOST IMPORTANTLY – I have provided you with Amazon.com links to check out the books. If you are going to purchase the books, GO TO EBAY!!! Make sure you sort by price. Once you type in the book you want, instead of buying a book for $15 and up, you can snag a book on eBay for almost less than $5 with free shipping. Also, check out for PDF, EPub, and Audio before you buy, unless you like those kind of things.
Best of the Best
Best Team Building Book:
- Jeff Janssen “How to Build and Sustain a Championship Culture”
- Janssen gives a step by step blueprint on how to create your team. As I stated earlier, I do not have a favorite, but this is a MUST for any coach. His culture tips are second to none and can really help transform your team, and your own thinking. Janssen also sends out an email with tips on culture and building mental toughness.
Most Entertaining Book:
- Mark Titus, “Don’t Put Me In, Coach: My Incredible NCAA Journey from the End of the Bench to the End of the Bench”
- If you are a basketball junkie you know Titus, inventor of the Club Trillion a statistical outreach for walk-ons to never achieve any stats in a game (a trillion 0’s). You will laugh throughout this whole book.
Best Thought-Provoking Book:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court”
- I received this book as a gift, my girlfriend knows to buy me books, and I finished this very quickly. It gives an inside view of the struggles and friendships of Kareem and Wooden, which was not always as positive as it may seem.
Best Book About a Coach (Terrible name):
- Pete Carroll, “Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion”
- Does a great job of chronicling how you might not be great in one position; but, if you work hard and have patience, someone else will believe in your goals. Carroll also documents their practice mentality of compete at everything, you can see why he has been so successful after his initial failure in New England.
Best Book for Coaching Girls:
- Tony Dicicco, Colleen Hacker, and Charles Salzberg, “Catch Them Being Good: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Coach Girls”
- I am a firm believer that there is a difference coaching girls and guys. After being a head coach of both I have noticed some differences. This book is a great example of how to work with young women, and really focus on getting them to reach their true potential.
Best Self Help Book:
- Simon Sinek, “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t”
- Great ideas to put into action, the end gets a bit dry, but before those last few chapters this is pure gold. This will shine a new light on how you lead your players to where you want them to go.
Along with books there are other ways you can increase your coach’s library. Multiple colleges send out a basketball newsletter each month. There are usually filled with plays, small team write ups, quotes, and sometimes articles to read. The ones that I receive are (all of these are the men’s programs):
- UNC Charlotte
- Michigan State
- Xavier (they have stopped but have all of the newsletters online)
One thing I am going to try this year with my players is a book club. This past season we gave them a book, and had the author come in to speak with the team. When Tami Matheny, “The Confident Athlete” showed up only a few of the guys had read the book, so I am thinking a book club might hold them a bit more accountable. Also, we have an offseason point system, and I might start adding points for books read throughout the offseason. Thank you for reading my post, I wish you and your teams nothing but success in the future. Please feel free to send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want any more ideas of great books to read, or if there is something that you read that was great that I should add to my collection.
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