The best books for coaches and leaders to develop their best selves and create great teams.
I add to this list, and write about books, often.
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Haruki Murakam
Books for coaches and leaders
Finding the Winning Edge by Bill Walsh. My favorite all-time coaching book. This book was indispensable when I was coaching professionally. A hundred brilliant nuggets buried within all the detail.
All his other books are good, and useful, but this book is indispensable.)
One caveat–the book is very expensive.
Alternate: The Score Takes Care of Itself.
Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey
Learn from a variety of accomplished women coaches about their experiences in sports.
The Weak Take From the Strong Pete Carrill
Legendary coach teaches you how to teach, hold standards and deliver results regardless of your talent.
Focuses on the different processes and techniques he employed in the course of working as a sports performance expert with series of elite athletes in different competitive fields.
Legacy by James Kerr Fascinating look at the culture and success story of New Zealand’s All Blacks.
Finding Flow Mihaly Csikszentmihaly
Most people recommend Flow, which is very good, but also can be dense and hard to get through. The ideas in Flow are spot on, however, and so I recommend a wonderful, but lesser known book by the same author called Finding Flow. Finding Flow, written for the non-academic, describes flow well and how to find it in life as well as sports.
The Way of Baseball by Shawn Green
A good companion to the ideas found within The Inner Game written from a player’s point of view.
Peak Anders Ericsson
If you really want to understand deliberate training forget Gladwell and go to the source. This book in combination with Flow is very useful for designing the right level of challenge for each of your athletes.
The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin
Great explication of how to learn by someone who mastered at the world-class level two entirely different domains.
The Business of Sports
Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck
Are you interested in selling your sport as well as coaching it? Read this biography of the master sports salesman. I read it first because Peter Wilt told me to and have never regretted it.
Communication and Persuasion:
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Robert Cialdini
The War of Art (Stephen Pressfield)
(Do the Work) Incredibly motivating kick in the pants to actually create and then “ship it.”
The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.
The Elements of Style (Strunk andWhite)
To achieve style, begin by affecting none.
Don’t Think of An Elephant by George Lakoff
Learn how to proactively create the narrative and framing necessary to lead a successful team or campaign.
Emotional Intelligence Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
Literally don’t leave home without it coaches.
Don’t underestimate how important your team’s leader is to their success. Culturally we emphasize the importance of coaches to the success of any team, but the reality may be different. At the minimum elevate how important it is to select, create and mentor leadership at the team level.
“It’s the notion that the most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it.”
Getting the right player in that role is the heart of the matter.
Leadership in Turbulent Timesby Doris Kearns Goodwin
This book definitely is useful to understand the leadership traits and strengths required when times are hard. But, the book also shows the pathway and the steps to becoming the leader capable of excellence when all around is falling apart. Wonderful read.
Quiet by Susan Cain
Reminds us to make room on our teams for the introverted athletes without requiring anyone to change or to be self-conscious.
Mindset Carol Dweck
Updated to include her views on “false growth mindset.” Must read for parents, coaches and athletes.
This Naked Mind by Annie Grace
Learn about how the subconscious drives behavior and learn how to make meaningful long-term changes.
Popular: Finding Success and Happiness in a World that Cares Too Much about the Wrong Kinds of Relationships by Mitch Pritkin
I sought this book out on the recommendation of my college coach. I inadvertently keep calling the book “Likeable” when I’m talking to people about it because it really does sell you on the power of being likeable on your health, as well as success. Here’s a real-life example of someone who leverages this concept for the good of all.
Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman) (The Undoing Project Micheal Lewis)
You’ve probably heard of this book by now, but if not you’ve probably ingested many of its ideas. Great explication of the different ways we think, the two systems and all the biases that impact our decisions.
Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert)
If you are like most people, than like most people, you don’t know you are like most people.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
One of the most important books I have ever read. “Between stimulus and response man has a choice.”
Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder by Nicholas Nassim Taleb.
“I want to live happily in a world I don’t understand.”
Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
A good introduction to stoicism and some prominent stoics. I was raised by a stoic and tend to lean towards the philosphy although the balance of Seneca is welcomed.
Or go straight to the source with these two:
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
The Essays ( Michel de Montaigne) (How to Live by Sarah Bakewell)
Training the Mind (Chogyam Trungpa) (Also, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism)
Investing or Running a Business
The Essential Drucker My favorite management writer is the one and only Peter Drucker.
Drucker’s great gift is clarity and simplicity. His books give me energy. They make me want to run a business. This is a good place to start.
Why is this on my desk all the time? Charlie Munger. It helps to cross the divide between investing and life. So much that makes one successful in one area can be useful to those in other disciplines. This book crosses divides.
Your Money of Your Brain Jason Zweig
Refresh your knowledge of important psychological tenets and improve your financial knowledge. Win-Win.
Be free to learn and think for yourself. The path to mastery and ultimately back to the pack. And, then to yourself again. Higher and higher.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.
Sure it’s a novel, but there is some true wisdom regarding coaching in this novel. Interesting note, the best coach in the book is a teammate. Evokes the Captain class . And, in fairness I can’t think of another sports novel that I have read. Can you? Would love recommendations.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
“And now here is my secret. A very simple secret: it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”