Book reviews

It is that time of year again, when we highlight our favorite books of the past year. This year we are a bit “coach-centric” in our list but we all have coaches in our lives that I am confident would benefit from one of these books. And if you are interested, please click here to explore winners from past years. These links are all Amazon affiliate links so if you click on them and shop it does not cost you anything, but we do make a few cents per book which helps buy the coffee and keep the lights on. Thanks in advance for doing that! OK, let’s go!

2020 Best Book of the Year:

The Best: How Elite Athletes are Made by Mark Williams and Tim Wigmore

If you are a fan of The Talent Code, Outliers, Peak, or The Sports Gene then you will love this book. Wigmore is an award winning sports journalist and Williams is one of the world’s top experts in talent development and skill acquisition, and this book delivers the combination of the science and research in this area, combined with interviews with athletes such as Steph Curry, Marcus Rashford, and more. What we absolutely love about this book is that it takes a very nuanced approach to things like early sport specialization, practice hours versus genetics, the mental game, and so much more. Williams brings the latest research, and often concludes “it depends” based upon the specific sport you are participating in, where you live, what your birth order is, and so much more. If you want to take a deep dive into chapters such as “How to Win a Penalty Shootout,” “The Art of the Con,” “The Psychology of Greatness,” “Why Athletes Choke,” “Practicing Smarter” and so much more this is your book. You will be able to speak far more intelligently at that next talent identification meeting, or simply at dinner parties when people want to know how help their kids excel. If you are like us, you will dog-ear every page. Click here for a recent podcast we did with Mark Williams for a teaser.


Runners Up:

The Language of Coaching: The Art and Science of Teaching Movement by Nick Winkelman

Many of us took a deep dive this year during COVID into becoming better coaches, and these next two books were at the top of my list. Nick Winkelman is one of the top performance coaches in the world, currently working with Ireland Rugby and formerly preparing athletes for the NFL draft combine with Exos, and his research into motivational language, cueing, and how to best prepare our athletes to perform their best even when we are not there. This book is filled with images and will change the way you talk with your athletes. Here is our interview with Nick from earlier this year.

Coaching Athletes to be Their Best: Motivational Interviewing in Sports by Stephen Rollnick, Jonathan Fader, Jeff Breckon and Theresa Moyers

Rollnick is one of the funders of motivational interviewing, a proven approach to being better at conversations and relationship building by developing deeper trust with your athletes. The book deconstructs how we can give and receive feedback, address conflict, ,motivation, helping athletes take ownership of their journey, and so much more. We really love how he lays out example conversations that all of us coaches have had with our athletes, and shows us how we can improve them. It will also introduce you to terms like coaches who are the “deficit detective” and have “ the righting reflex.” Get out your highlighter. Our interview with Rollnick comes out December 6.

Coach to Coach: An Empowering Story About How to Be a Great Leader by Martin Rooney

If you are looking for a quick inspirational read, along the lines of books by Jon Gordon or ken Blanchard, you will love Coach to Coach. Rooney is a top trainer and strength coach and has worked with professional and Olympic athletes across the globe, and in this book he outlines some tried and true principles of great leadership. And if the last chapter doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you might not have emotions. We discussed the book with Rooney back in march 2020 if you want to listen in


Wenger: My Life and Lessons in Red and White by Arsene Wenger

We love fascinating autobiographies about leadership, building culture, and coaching, and longtime Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger delivers with some great insider stories an fascinating insight into what makes great leaders and great teams perform at the highest level. And no, we have not interviewed Wenger yet, but we are working on it!

Well, that is it for 2020, did you read any great books that we missed? If so add them to the Facebook comments below.


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