Book reviews

Well, as 2021 rolls into December it is that time of year again, time to highlight our favorite new books of 2021. This has certainly been a year for reading and reflection, and our sports world continues to be turned upside down by the ongoing pandemic. Many coaches, parents, and youth sports advocates have invested heavily in their education this year, as have we. So here you go, once again, this is our list of the best of the best in coaching, parenting, and athlete development for 2021 (All links are Amazon affiliate links and we make a small percentage of the sale if you click and purchase through this link).

You can access all the books on Amazon through this link: Click here to see all our favorites

Best Book of 2021:

The Coach’s Guide to Teaching by Doug Lemov

This is, without a doubt, not only the most influential book we have read in 2021, but one of the top, top coaching books every produced in our opinion. Doug Lemov is an internationally known teacher educator and founder of Teach Like a Champion, and in this book he has taken all of the pedagogical principles that teachers learn and applied them to the sports coaching world. From how to give feedback to principles of learning, from how to build culture and belonging to how to effectively design sessions, this book has it all. The best part: the margins are huge so you can take ample notes on each page. We would venture to say that if you are a coach, and you could only choose one book to rely upon to make you better at your craft this year (and to be honest, most any year), then this book is mandatory reading. We had Doug on the podcast back in January when the book came out, here is a link:

Runners Up:

Belonging: The Ancient Code of Togetherness by Owen Eastwood

Owen Eastwood is one of the world’s most sought after high performance coaches. He is currently works with the England Men’s National Soccer team, helping them reach the finals of the 2021 European Championship, and has worked with organizations such as NATO Command, South Africa Cricket, Scotland Rugby, the Royal Ballet, and Team GB. In Belonging, he sets out the thinking behind his methods of unlocking success, and how they can be adapted to different groups and teams. In the process, he discusses evolutionary science, personal development and philosophy, as he draws on notions of belonging, of shared vision and the spiritual wisdom of his ancestors. The book discusses the biology and psychology of togetherness, fear vs challenge mentality, and how high performing groups follow a path whereby they find their identity story, define a shared purpose, vision their future success, share ownership, and turn diversity into a competitive advantage. In many years this would have been our top book, it’s a great read. We had Owen on the podcast back in June, here is a link:

It Takes What it Takes: How to Think Neutrally and Gain Control of Your Life by Trevor Moawad

As one of the most trusted mental coaches in the world of sports, the late Trevor Moawad worked with many of the most dominant athletes and the savviest coaches. From Nick Saban and Kirby Smart to Russell Wilson, they all looked to Moawad for help finding or keeping or regaining their com­petitive edge. In this book, published shortly before his death, Moawad shares his unique philosophy with the general public. He lays out lessons he’s derived from his greatest career successes as well as personal setbacks, the game-changing wisdom he’s earned as the go-to whisperer for elite performers on fields of play and among men and women headed to the battlefield. It’s a wonderful personal and team read, and we found it unputdownable!

Row the Boat by PJ Fleck and Jon Gordon

In Row the Boat, Minnesota Golden Gophers Head Coach P.J. Fleck and bestselling author Jon Gordon deliver an inspiring message about what you can achieve when you approach life with a never-give-up philosophy. The book shows you how to choose enthusiasm and optimism as your guiding lights instead of being defined by circumstances and events outside of your control. In the book they discuss how to put the three key components of row the boat into practice in your life:  

  • The Oar: The energy. Only you can dictate whether your oar is in the water or whether you take it out and decide not to use it.  
  • The Boat: The sacrifice. The more you give, serve, and make your life about helping others, the better and more fulfilled your life will be, and the bigger your boat gets.  
  • The Compass: The direction. The vision you have for your life and the people you surround yourself with help create the dream of where you want to go.

PJ Fleck has been one of our favorite coaches to follow the last few years and this book certainly did not disappoint.

Other Great Books from 2021

The Competitive Buddha by Jerry Lynch

Our great friend and podcast co-host Jerry released his new book The Competitive Buddha this summer. It’s a wonderful read for athletes and coaches alike, as it applies the principles of Buddhism to sports and provides a great framework for viewing competition as two parties striving to get the best out of each other. As Steve Kerr writes in the foreword to the book, many of the ideas outlined in the book are key to the success of the Golden State Warriors over the last decade.  

Clear Coaching by Todd Beane

Long time readers and listeners know what big fans we are of Todd Beane through his work with TOVO and formerly the Cruyff Foundation. This book is a “talent activation handbook” as Todd calls it. This book is about doing deep reflection as a coach, designing the experience through the eyes of the kids, developing an organizational methodology, and the difference between being an educator and a teacher.

High Ten: An Inspiring Story About Building Great Team Culture by Martin Rooney

Building a great team culture doesn’t happen overnight. Culture is hard to create, and even harder to change. Great culture is a key component for success at home, on the sports field, and at the workplace. In this book, Martin draws from his extensive experience developing top-level teams around the world to help leaders of all kinds foster and sustain winning cultures. This engaging, easy-to-read parable shows you that every business, sports team, and family has a culture. Whether you deliberately created it or not, it’s always there and it didn’t come with a manual. 

Stick Together by Jon Gordon and Kate Leavell

We love this short, powerful parable in typical Jon Gordon style about an important lesson in team building, belief, ownership, connection, love, inclusion, consistency, and hope. The authors guide individuals and teams on an inspiring journey to show them how to persevere through challenges, overcome obstacles, and create success together. We have recommended this to many teams we work with and it has always been well received.


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Tagged under: Coaching, leadership, youth sports