A Coaching Bookshelf

Further reading for those looking to dive deeper into topics covered in Players 1st. The titles marked with five stars are the author’s favorites. Suggestions for additions to this list are welcome. Please use the contact form at the bottom of the home page.

The Books (and a few DVD’s)



(✯✯✯✯✯) A dozen essentials for a coach’s bookshelf, best purchased in print form if you’re a person who uses a highlighter

 Links are to print versions of books; many are also available on Kindle

Beswick, Bill: Focused For Soccer.  Manchester United’s first sports psychologist fills the largest lecture spaces at the National Soccer Coaches Association Conventions.  Here’s why.

Beswick, Bill: One Goal: The Mindset of Winning Soccer Teams.  Beswick’s latest book examines the qualities and life skills that come together in the cultures of successful teams.

Bigelow, Bob: Just Let The Kids Play:  How to Stop Other Adults from Ruining Your Child’s Fun and Success in Youth Sports.  Former NBA player, now a commentator on the youth sports experience.  Key line: “What we are in youth sports to do is to build better children.”

Bloom, Benjamin: Developing Talent in Young People.  The definitive study of talent development, both in athletics and elsewhere.  Demonstrates the folly of attempting to identify talent before puberty, identifies influences which maximize talent development.  Out of print for a time, now available in paperback.

Brown, Bruce E.: Teaching Character Through Sport: Developing a Positive Coaching Legacy.  (✯✯✯✯✯)  Great ideas for coaches about the role that youth sports can play in character development, and how strength of character impacts teams.  Highlights include “Spotlighting“, “Positive Conditioning“, “The Qualities of Great Athletes” and the chapter on “Great Teams”.  If you like the work of the Positive Coaching Alliance, go here for graduate-level study.

Brown, Bruce E.: “Empowering Messages for Parents.”  This DVD contains three messages about how parents can enhance their child’s experiences in sport.  Available at www.proactivecoachiing.info.

Colvin, Geoff:  Talent Is Overrated. (✯✯✯✯✯) Provides some of the best information about Deep (or Deliberate) Practice, the training methodology that’s the key to developing optimal performance.

Coyle, Daniel: The Talent Code: Talent Isn’t Born.  It’s Grown.  Here’s How. (✯✯✯✯✯) The book delivers on the subtitle.  Explains how talent develops as the brain changes through practice.

Coyle, Daniel: The Little Book Of Talent. (✯✯✯✯✯) 52 tips related to talent development.  For a time, Coyle would post more tips about twice a month on his blog. They are still available, and Coyle has resumed posting at http://www.thetalentcode.com.

Coyle, Daniel: The Culture Code: The Hidden Language of Successful Groups.  This book unlocks the secrets of highly successful groups and provides readers with a toolkit for building a cohesive, innovative culture. It’s based on a simple idea: beneath the surface, all high-performing groups are fundamentally the same place, following the same rules.

Damon, William: Greater Expectations: Overcoming the Culture of Indulgence in Our Homes and Schools.  “Exposes the low standards that children are confronted with in our homes, our schools and throughout our culture.”   And the consequences.  And how to fix it.

DiCicco, Tony and Hacker, Coleen: Catch Them Being Good: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Coach Girls. (✯✯✯✯✯) Former Women’s National Team Head Coach and the team’s Sports Psychologist team up to discuss player and team development.

Dorrance, Anson: Training Soccer Champions.  Player Development at UNC Chapel Hill, and a trailblazing book about coaching female athletes.  Key line: “Female athletes have the superior understanding that relationships are more important than the game.”  Good descriptions of the early exercises in UNC’s “Competitive Cauldron” training program.  Available only on the used book market.

Dorrance, Anson and Averbuch, Gloria: The Vision of a Champion: Advice and Inspiration from the World’s Most Successful Soccer Coach.  This is the UNC Chapel Hill program in depth, written in part for the high level U15-18 player.  Chapter 11 (“Soccer Supporters – Players and Their Parents”) is a must read for parents and players – boys and girls.

Duckworth, Angela: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  The researcher who has led the research into the “grit factor” describes her work and its implications.  Filled with “sticky quote” ideas to use with players.

Dweck, Carol: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. (✯✯✯✯✯) Great companion book to The Talent Code.  Explains the importance of one’s beliefs about the limits of human potential, and particularly how those beliefs impact personal qualities like perseverance, resilience and “grit”.  Superb information about words that work when supporting a young athlete, as well as some surprisingly to avoid.

Ericsson, Anders and Pool, Robert: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.   (✯✯✯✯✯)  Relates Ericsson’s experiments that led to identifying the concept of Deliberate Practice.  Fascinating section on how without ongoing effort to improve skills, competency in those skills will actually decline even if they are regularly used.

Farrey, Tom: Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children.  A look at how some youth sports organizations really go over the top, and how to deal with it.

Foudy, Julie: Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU.  The former captain of the World and Olympic champion US Women’s National Team shares the lessons taught at her Sports Leadership Academy.

Galloway, Jeff: Galloway’s Book on Running.  Not soccer, but a good guide to assembling training regimens with the proper mix of activity, intensity, rest and recovery.

Gladwell, Malcolm: Outliers: The Story of Success.  (✯✯✯✯✯) Looks at seemingly unusual circumstances that surround clusters of successful people in a variety of fields.  Popularized the notion that 10,000 hours of preparation was a pre-requisite to world-class achievement in any field. “No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time.”

Gregg, Lauren:  The Champion Within.  A coaching manual for high level player development, by the long-time Women’s National Team assistant coach.  Good sections on nutrition and sports medicine.

Hogan, Frank: “Uncommon Goals”.  A video with an insider’s look at the Women’s National Team 1991-96 (Akers, Heinrichs, Hamm, Foudy, Lilly et al.)  (The 12 year old juggling through the opening segment did it in one take.) Available from http://www.davebrett.com/Women.htm in the “Documentaries about women’s soccer” section.

Holt, John: How Children Learn and How Children Fail.   A pair of classics.

Hyman, Mark: Until It Hurts: America’s Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids.  One of the best looks at the professionalization of youth sports.   A good book for parents whose children are beginning the climb the ladder of play in their sports.

Lemov, Doug: Teach Like a Champion, v 2.0. A collection of innovative teaching techniques.  Things like Check for Understanding, Cold Call, and Plan for Error should be in the took kit of every coach. Lemov is now working with US Soccer to teach them in the Federation’s coaching courses (You can also get most of this information and much more by going to Lemov’s twitter feed.)

Lemov, Doug:  Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better.  (✯✯✯✯✯)  Actionable items for immediate use in your practices.

Longman, Jere: The Girls Of Summer: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and How It Changed the World. The ultimate account of the U.S. Women’s National Team in the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

McArdle, Megan:  The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success.  What separates those who recover from failure from those who do not.

McGinniss, Joe: The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro:  A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy.  Non-fiction.  A great read for a Soccer Dad.

Nater, Sven and Gallimore, Ron:  You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and Practices. (✯✯✯✯✯) The place to start your study of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

O’Sullivan, John: Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids. (An ongoing resource for parents and coaches is the Changing the Game Project’s twitter feed.)

Rosenthal, Robert: Pygmalion in the Classroom: Teacher Expectation and Pupils’ Intellectual Development.  Believe you have a group of superstars and you will demand more, reward more and create superstars.  Expectations play a critical role in how we approach and develop players.

Saxena, Ashu   Soccer Strategies For Sustained Coaching Success.  A syllabus for coaching high level teams of 14-18 year olds.  Extraordinarily detailed, from a coach who has led teams to National Youth Championships.  (Not well formatted for Kindle.)

Silby, Caroline:  Games Girls Play.  Grad school level sports psychology.

Smith, Kieran: Rondos & Positional Games: How to Use Spain’s Secret Weapon.  Only available in a Kindle edition.

Sokolove, Michael: Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women’s Sports, (✯✯✯✯✯)  Why? Early specialization in a single sport, lack of adequate recovery time, a focus on results over development at younger and younger ages, and a culture that urges girls to be strong and don’t complain (not always a good thing).  Here’s an important guide to safety and sanity in sports for young female athletes.

Syed, Matthew: Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success. (✯✯✯✯✯) Challenging the idea that greatness comes from innate talent rather than effort, practice, opportunity, solid coaching at younger ages and a healthy dose of “necessary failure.”

Syed, Matthew: Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes–But Some Do.  Syed argues that the most important determinant of success in any field is an acknowledgment of failure and a willingness to engage with it.

Thompson, Jim: Shooting in the Dark.  A male coach’s first experience coaching female athletes.  Hilarious reading for those who’ve been there.

Thompson, Jim: The Double Goal Coach: … Developing Winners In Sports And Life. (✯✯✯✯✯) The Positive Coaching Alliance founder’s prescription for a mastery approach to youth sports (where the result on the scoreboard is viewed as less important than the effort, learning and improvement of the athlete.)  A proactive approach, without an emphasis on the horror stories found in Engh, Farrey, Hyman et al.

Thompson, Jim: Positive Sports Parenting.  How to.  Elegantly simple.  The information on “Empowering Conversations” between parent and child is terrific.

Tough, Paul: How Children Succeed – Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.  Tough argues that the qualities that matter more in driving success are tied to personal character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control.

Tutko, Thomas and Bruns, William:  Winning Is Everything (and Other American Myths).  Out of print, but available on the used book market. Tutko was the first to zero in on the trend toward “win-at-all-costs” in youth sports.

Vetter, Steve and Antoniuk, Dan: “Soccer U”.  A series of DVDs, including the “Blast the Ball” video about teaching soccer techniques. Very detailed, with lots of little ideas that can make a big difference.   Available at www.soccerwebsite.org.

Wooden, John with Jamison, Steve: Wooden: A Lifetime of Reflections On and Off the Court.  Many consider the “Wizard of Westwood” to be the greatest coach of all time.

Wolff, Rick:  Good Sports.  Sports Illustrated columnist’s “concerned parent’s guide to competitive youth sports“.   

Zigarelli, Michael: The Messiah Method: The Seven Disciplines of the Winningest College Soccer Program in America. From 2000 to 2010, the Messiah College soccer program—the men’s team and women’s team combined—posted the best record in NCAA soccer: 472 wins, 31 losses, and 20 ties.  Here’s how an extraordinary culture married personal and athletic excellence.

Zimmerman, Jean and Reavill, Gil: Raising Our Athletic Daughters.  Gender equity and other issues in girls’ and women’s sports.  The section on eating disorders is sobering.


Other Reading (and Watching)

Articles and essays we refer to regularly: