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What Coaches are Reading this Summer

I stumbled across a book at a thrift store a few weeks ago that really challenged my thinking about what motivates young athletes. The book, Amazing Racers: The Story of America's Greatest Running Team and its Revolutionary Coach is a compelling story about a unique coach and his ability to take seemingly mediocre high school athletes and turn them into teams that win perennial national championships. I was talking about the book to some coaching colleagues and it led me to wonder, what are coaches reading this summer?

Tony Brown, Head Coach, Vassar College, Rugby

This summer I've decided to get a subscription to The Rugby Site. Since it is NZ based I'm hoping to garner different insights into player development.

I just read The Exe Men, the story of my hometown team’s promotion to the English Premiership and, over a 10 year period, winning a Premiership title and the European Cup. Team culture is an area that is so critical to success and they have an environment that is respected. It is so hard to create one at the constantly changing collegiate level.

Jaime Burke: Women's 15s National Team Assistant Coach, Coach, Colorado Grey Wolves WPL

I am reading (or just finished) How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram Kendi and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. I am reading a lot of books on racism/anti-racism because I think it's important for my continual growth. Systemic racism impacts huge swathes of the population and if I can be an ally in breaking down those systems I need to understand the issues. As a coach, I think it is important that we never forget that our players are complete people with histories and experiences that may not align with our own. These lived experiences impact them and the team on and off the field. So anything I can do to make sure I am learning more about intersectionality, making the world more just, and engaging with the world will help me be a better coach; someone better able to support my players.

I’m also reading Mindset by Carol Dweck. I read this a long time ago as a player but felt like I wanted to read it again now with a coach hat on to see how it shifted my perspective. It has helped me think about the language I use, the things I emphasize, as well as how I think of myself as a coach.

Happiness by Thich Nhat Hahn. A book that reminds me to stay mindful and grounded. And finally, Under Wildwood, which is the second book in a young adult sci-fi series. I love sci-fi and young adult books for the mind-candy, escapist aspect of them as well as the balance they bring to my life. I like to get lost in a good story.

Emilie Bydwell, High Performance Director, Women, USA Rugby

Between the WNT 15’s DTE, Olympic 7’s, the Academy 7s program and TWO BEAUTIFUL baby girls, I am just ‘off the ball’. Reading this summer is time with my babies so I’m currently reading Dear Girl, Giraffes Can't Dance, and Little Blue Truck

Rebecca Carlson, Head Coach Quinnipiac University

Think Again by Adam Grant

This book offers tremendous insight into how to ask more questions rather than making assumptions about another's position. This book helped me to recognize my own biases and the assumptions I make about my players. It’s encouraged me to ask more questions rather than believing my experience is the best compass. When we believe we know it all, it can be detrimental to our growth and the growth of our athletes. The residual effects of our athletes being uncomfortable with conflict or disagreement spills over onto the field, if we are not prepared to ask questions, to challenge our assumptions, then our coaching world becomes very small.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk

Every year our job becomes more demanding - we are expected to be mentors, therapists, counselors, problem solvers, and managers. As a result most coaches feel overwhelmed, understaffed and under-resourced. Understanding trauma and how it manifests itself among our athletes is crucial to our ability to be effective coaches. But also how to set healthy boundaries for ourselves. This book has helped me reflect on some of the more challenging athletes I've coached. This is a heavy read but it's well worth it.

Olivia Benson Daniels, Head Coach, Brandeis University Women’s Rugby, Head Coach, St. Mary’s High School Girls team, Assistant Coach, Free Jacks Academy

I'm trying to finish three books this summer - Harvard Business Review (HRB) 10 Must Reads on Mental Toughness (with bonus interview Post-Traumatic Growth and Building Resilience with Martin Seligman) and HBR's 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself, which I initially picked to help me with my day job as a manager. I saw a lot of overlap with skills I need/use as a coach with those of a manager. I’m also reading Legacy by James Kerr. Culture is so vital to a team's success and Legacy really gets into that idea of short and long term culture building.

Katy Dowty, Head Coach, Dartmouth University, Women’s Rugby

I'm reading Unholy Union at the suggestion of one of our players. Also Essentialism and Effortless by Greg McKeown. I stumbled upon Greg McKeown via some podcasts. "If you focus on what you lack, you'll start to lose what you have. If you focus on what you have, you'll start to gain what you lack." I heard this from a McKeown podcast yesterday, which prompted me to want to read his work.

I'm a fan of Outward Mindset from the Arbinger Institute. This book is about the power of thinking ‘outwardly.’ All my favorite reads come back to this idea of mindset.

Lisa Finegan, ICEF Rugby Girls Coach; World Rugby Educator

I'm re-reading The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child's Psychiatrist by Dr Bruce Perry. It is an incredible book that outlines how trauma affects a child's mind. Perry is a renowned psychiatrist, scientist and compassionate therapist. He explains what happens to the brains of children exposed to extreme stress and shares their lessons of courage, humanity and hope.

I’m also reading another Perry book, What Happened To You: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing. I'm fascinated by the brain and research on how we can use sport to heal trauma.

Kathy Flores, Head Coach Brown University

I’m reading Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris. I think the title says it all.

I subscribe to The Rugby Site and geek out on the analysis. I’m also listening to the podcasts Psychathletes and Invisibilia.

Mattison Grey, Mental Skills Coach at ARPTC

I just started Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and other Bribes by Alfie Kohn. This book reinforces many of the tools I teach and supports the ideas in my book, The Motivation Myth by Mattison Grey and Jonathan Manske. In addition many of the coaches at ARPTC are reading Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-In by Brett Bartholomew.

Carly MacKinnon, Head Coach, Washington Loggers Girls High School Select 7’s Team,

Staff, Seattle Seawolves.

I am shamelessly poor at reading books. I do have a wonderful podcast recommendation however. A great interview of a female rugby coach, Leslie McKenzie, from The Rugby Hive.

Lara Vivalo, Assistant Coach with Greenwich Women’s High School, Former Assistant Coach West Point

  • Finish Strong by Nate Ebner

  • You are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg

  • Lifestyle Wellness Coaching by James Gavin & Madeleine McBrearty

John 'Wally' Waliszewski, Head Coach Catholic Memorial High School

Make it Stick: The Science of Learning by Peter C Brown, et al. This book caught my attention with studies and stories of how people learn best. We only have so much time to learn, teach and coach and this book has me thinking of how better to use that precious time.

Katie Wurst: Head Coach, Queens University

Think Again by Adam Grant and You Win in the Locker Room First by Jon Gordon & Mike Smith. I also am listening to the podcasts, Coaching U with Coach Brendan Suhr, We Live Here, on cultural awareness and racial equity, and the Tucker Center Talks, dialogues about girls and women in sport.

Shane Young, Co-Founder/Executive Director, Memphis Inner City Rugby

I'm reading Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. This book is a masterclass on having boundless compassion in our leadership. The lessons are helping me become the listener and mentor I need to be for the students, coaches, and staff at Memphis Inner City Rugby.

Josie Ziluca, Head Coach, Princeton University, Atlantis Women U18, USAR U18 and U20, ARPTC U18 and Senior Women

I bounce around books and read a lot of books at once. I finish them eventually but I’m not sure how this summer will go, as I am incredibly busy. Books on my list include:

  • The Performance Cortex by Zach Schonbrun

  • The Outward Mindset (The Arbinger Institute)

  • Dream Teams by Shane Snow, a book about very different types of teams and the components of winning systems.

  • The Captain Class by Sam Walker. This book is a classic for coaches and players.

  • The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self by Alex Lickerman

  • Winning! by Clive Woodward

  • Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson

I’ve also come across the podcast Coaching Culture, a discussion about transformational coaching and what that looks like in different scenarios. Lastly, I’m a fan of Dave Zirin’s, Edge of Sports which looks at the cross sections of sport and social issues/justice.

This is just a sample from a diverse group of coaches. So….what are you reading this summer?

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