At Player Development Project we have always encouraged a growth mindset: coaches always learning and seeking out quality content to improve the environment for players. In this blog, PDP Co-founder and UEFA A licensed coach, Dave Wright shares some of his favourite books for coaches.

Legacy, James Kerr

In 2016 I wrote a review for this book for Player Development Project. This book provides a first-class insight into the innovative and constantly changing culture of the All Blacks. The book focusses particularly on leadership and ownership and translates those examples into a commercial environment. From a coaching perspective, these lessons apply whole-heartedly and I would recommend anyone involved in youth sport and player development gets a copy of this book and embraces some of the lessons around culture, the learning journey and developing people.

Start With Why, Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek has risen to popularity through his books and TED Talks. Citing some of the most progressive organisations in the world, Sinek (a cultural anthropologist) shares insight into leadership and, most of all, purpose. By understanding WHY we are doing what we’re doing, we can focus in on the WHAT and HOW. Much of this book focuses on self-awareness, leadership and success as an outcome of performance and purpose. In a coaching environment this book has multiple applications for developing coaches in terms of understanding how to bring people together, engage their emotions and ensure each player in the group understands their purpose.

Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday

In 2016 I produced an article called Get Over Yourself. I actually wrote this piece before reading Ryan Holiday’s excellent book on ego and the dangers of it. This book reiterated many of my own beliefs (which can at times be dangerous — see Rolf Dobelli’s book and confirmation bias below) but I am yet to be convinced that ego has a positive impact on personal (or player) development, particularly in a modern world where social comparison and climbing the ladder is rife. The key ideas in this book include:

  • An emphasis that at any given time in life, we’re aspiring to something, we have achieved success, or we have failed.
  • Holiday also discusses why we we must cultivate humility, diligence, and self-awareness if we are to remove ego.
  • Maintain your own scorecard – this ties in with PDP research about social comparison and that the only true measure is against yourself (whether a player or coach).
  • Don’t fake it ’til you make it—make it. The author hones in on the importance of dropping our guard and embracing failure.
  • Always stay a student — again an idea that aligns with the latest research of the key characteristics of the world’s best coaches. The search for knowledge is endless.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey

Real effectiveness comes from clarity about your principles, values and vision. Change is only real if it has become habitual. In this book, Covey goes in depth about 7 key habits of the most effective people. Much of the work is based on self-awareness, a constant hunger to learn and balance. This is a must-read for coaches, parents and anyone with a desire to improve.

The 7 Habits:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win/win
  5. Seek to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergise
  7. ‘Sharpen the saw’.

The 8th Habit, Dr. Stephen Covey

This book, an upgrade and expansion of the above ‘7 Habits’ by the same author, drills down into leadership and what it takes to move toward greatness. Covey cites organisations with great leaders, focusses on modelling, and reiterates the value in great leaders finding their ‘voice’ and in turn being able to help others find theirs. Again, in a coaching context, this is a masterful insight into psychology and how to focus on what’s important to ensure you find success.

Mindset, Carol Dweck

This book discuss the research around the fixed and growth mindset and has become enormously popular in coaching circles. PDP contributors Reed Maltbie and Mark O’Sullivan have both shared great blogs on this, and I also recommend PDP readers search the work of Professor Stephen Rollnick on the website. This book gives great understanding as to the power (and danger) of language with the developing mind, how we can encourage young people to embrace failure and discusses the idea of talent in depth.

The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle

Whilst ‘The Talent Code’ has been criticised as pop-science by some, this book opens up the ‘myth of talent’ and discusses human development from a neurological perspective. For anyone working with young children, this understanding of how the brain develops, and what environments around the world have leant themselves to being ‘hotbeds’ provides fascinating reading for coaches. Three key elements of the book breaks down the process as follows:

  • More myelin is how you hardwire skills into your body.
  • Use deep practice to increase the myelin around your neural pathways.
  • Chunk up what you’re practicing into its smallest units.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson

This was one of my favourite books of 2017 and has gone on to be a best seller. I highly recommend Mark Manson’s blog and many of the chapters of the book are inspired by (or use excerpts from) the blog. The book encourages readers to find something important and meaningful in your life, as this is the most productive use of your time and energy. The book in a blunt sense, encourages us to be very clear as to what we are prepared to give energy to, and dives in to the importance of values and how they shape and change our view of the world. Simply a must read for anyone who wants to better understand themselves and bring purpose back to the forefront of their mind.

The Art of Thinking Clearly, Rolf Dobelli

This book summarises cognitive bias and how if we better understand them we can think more clearly and make better decisions. Dobelli delivers bitesize chapters which make the concepts relatively easy to comprehend and encourages us all to reflect on how we think and whether we have clarity, and gives insight into how the human brain works and how experiences shape our world-view. Survivorship bias, confirmation bias (common in coaching), social proof and authority bias are among many of the excellent topics covered.

Blink, Malcom Gladwell

This book is about those moments when we ‘know’ something without knowing why. Gladwell provides examples of how the brain operates under pressure and how stress can impact decision-making, highly relevant in a sporting context for coaches. Using examples that range from sport to high stakes police shoot-outs and judgement calls, Gladwell provides really interesting examples of how we make decisions citing neuroscience along the way.

This blog is inspired by a conversation Dan Wright and I recorded in 2017 for the Player Development Project Q&A. The full video can be seen here.

Image Credits: Deposit Photos

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