This week we lost a true coaching legend, Pat Summit. Summit was an 8x national champion and never had a losing season at the University of Tennessee, but those were not her most impressive statistics. She valued academics, and being a lifelong learner, and as a result, every single one of her players who completed their eligibility graduated! She was a true role model for coaches of any gender, in any sport.

As the tens of thousands of parents, coaches and athletes who follow the Changing the Game Project know, like Coach Summit, our staff here are lifelong learners. Our coaches and speakers never stop reading, studying and learning the latest and greatest information on coaching, leadership, and competing your best. This summer is no different.

We have compiled for you our three favorite books we have read so far in 2016. These are all new releases, and have great relevance for coaches, parents and athletes alike. So, without further ado, to help you pass the time on the pool, on the beach, or wherever you may find a free moment to keep improving, here are three great reads to get your summer started right.

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Andres Ericsson and Robert Pool

If you are a coach, or an athlete trying to get to the next level, and you only read one book this year, read Peak! Andres Ericsson is the scientist whose work on expertise was mistakenly termed the 10,000 Hour Rule by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, and this book is his attempt to set the record straight on how expertise is truly achieved. The book is a fantastic read, filled with stories, research and actionable steps to become better at anything you do. 10,000 hours of mindless activity will not make you an expert at anything, as there is one type of practice, which Ericsson terms “deliberate practice” that leads to the best results. In his words, “when most people practice, they focus on things they already know how to do. Deliberate practice…entails considerable, specific and sustained efforts to do something you cannot do well, or even at all.”

Think about it: did you become a better driver today simply by driving, or have you driven enough that the activity requires little thought? How many athletes and coaches run activities and technical work where players basically go through the motions? In my experience, many do, and I used to as well. This book is a blue print for how to make your practice purposeful, by having well defined, specific goals, great focus, quality feedback, and working consistently on the edge of your comfort zone. Add to this a mental representation of where you want to go, and what you want to do, and you have practice that is deliberate, and what Ericsson and Pool call the true path to achieving your potential.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Duckworth has been a cult hero in education and athletics in recent years for her work on grit, which she defines as a special blend of passion and long-term persistence in pursuit of a goal. From West Point cadets to musicians to students at the National Spelling Bee, in Grit she looks at the characteristics of what determines a person’s likelihood of achieving a goal.

This book is especially important for parents and coaches, as in our current youth sports environment we are often forgetful of the long hours and hard work it takes to get to the top. Everyone wants to be the next Lionel Messi or Steph Curry, but only a tiny percentage of people are willing to do the long term, optimal training when no one is watching to get themselves there. But when you develop the passion and persistence to achieve something, you then are willing to put in the long hours needed to make it happen. The best news: we all can develop our grit. The book details what she has learned from academic research, as well as from CEO’s such as JP Morgan’s Jamie Dymon and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. It won’t take much grit to get through it, and you will be glad you did!

The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World that Values Sameness by Todd Rose

Everyday, in sports, education, and health, we are measured by averages, and how far we deviate from the median. The metrics we use to compare us to average, such as GPA, body mass measurements, personality tests and more, have become ingrained in our daily lives to the point we do not even question their usefulness. Todd Rose, the Harvard professor leading the charge in the new science of the individual, demonstrates in this book how this assumption is not only scientifically wrong, but incredibly damaging.

This book is one of the most thought provoking books I have read in a long time, and the stories within this book about “average” are mind boggling. It made me consider not only my own children in sport and academics, but how we are pushing athletic development models based upon average performance by age. Does this leave enough room for the individual to develop? Are some 16 year olds ready to focus on results (such as current 17 year old US national team soccer player Christian Pulisic), while most others need to still focus on development? Isn’t mastery of a sporting technique or academic material supposed to be based upon IF they can learn something, rather than how long it takes to master it? While this will be an entire article unto itself soon, once you read The End of Average, you will never think of our sport or educational systems the same again.

If you have read any of these books, please share your thoughts below, and share this articles with fellow coaches, parents and athletes. Also, if you have read a book published in 2015 or 2016 to add to this list, please let us know. Enjoy your summer reading!


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Tagged under: Coaching, Parenting, performance