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7 must read coaching books that may not be on your list

There’s no shortage of student-athlete coaching books. As far as non-sport, leadership books, the typical “must-read” list for coaches usually includes Start with Why, The Culture Code, Mindset, Grit, and anything by Wooden.

If you’re the type of coach that is continuously looking for better ways to engage with and develop the athletes on your team, we have just the list for you.

Books to connect with the individual.

Sevwins exists because of the passion the founding team has for helping coaches understand and develop the whole individual, not just the athlete. So we have to start with books that will change the way you communicate with athletes.

1. InsideOut Coaching – Joe Ehrmann

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While this book seems to be highly recommended in certain circles, it always surprises us when we meet a coach that hasn’t heard of InSideOut Coaching or the InSideOut Initiative.


It’s a pretty safe bet that the reason you coach is to transform lives, which makes InSideOut Coaching a must-have. Gone are the days where transactional coaching is the norm. Athletes are looking to connect with coaches. Our recent survey of coaches and athletes, and plenty of research, shows that coaches are second only to parents on the impact they have on young adults. InSideOut Coaching will change everything about your relationship with athletes, truly transforming you into a mentor.

2. Coaching Athletes to be Their Best - Stephen Rollnick

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We discovered this one during a presentation by Ben Freakley, Performance Consultant and Head of Mental Performance for the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s also an impressive presenter.

Stephen Rollnick does a great job explaining the psychology of Motivational Interviewing (MI) to coaches. Unless you’re a psychologist, you probably never heard of MI. It’s a typical psychologist’s tool that’s been around since the 80s. While InSideOut Coaching transforms you into a mentor, Stephen Rollnick will change the language you use to empower athletes to discover their own path to success and growth.

Freakley summarized this as push versus pull coaching. Instead of solving problems for athletes (pushing) you provide guidance and support for them to solve their own problems. Once you get some of the basic prompts down, you’ll be amazed at the insight you’ll pull out of athletes.

MI involves forward-looking conversations about a change of behavior. It assumes the athlete has all of the motivation they need to be successful, even if they might be blocked for some reason. Most often, their lack of confidence is holding them back. MI avoids confronting the possible reasons triggering the lack of confidence and encourages the athlete to find their own way around. The key is using the athlete’s own language.

Many coaching books can be read and immediately applied by leveraging tips, stories, and inspirational methods. Depending on your communication style, MI could take considerable practice before they become natural, but you’ll use it in all of your relationships if you stick with it.

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Books for Understanding the Human Brain and Motivation

3.Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

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This one can be tough to get through. It’s worth giving it a try. Even if you don’t get through the entire book, it will expand your knowledge on how people think and process information. Thinking, Fast and Slow goes into immense detail of the two systems of thinking. System 1 is fast, automatic, and intuitive processing. It happens without conscious control. System 2 is what you would think of as orderly, deliberate reasoning, and decision-making processing. It’s slow, takes effort, and requires attention. Kahneman claims that we can be “blind to the obvious” and “blind to our blindness.”

The invisible gorilla experiment is a fun and straightforward experiment that demonstrates these points. Coaches can certainly benefit from understanding how athletes think and process information in various situations.

4. Ego is the Enemy - Ryan Holiday

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We're fans of anything from Holiday. He has a unique way of simplifying and presenting the simple but powerful stoic philosophies.

“Impressing people is utterly different from being truly impressive.”

If you’re reading this list, you’re open to continuous learning, and most likely, you’re coaching to help others more than your status. It can still be challenging for successful coaches to balance the line between being a confident leader and being perceived as proud or arrogant.

5. Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers

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Whether you’re a first-time coach, transitioning to a new age group, proving yourself to a new AD, or a veteran coach struggling to communicate with a new generation, we all have fears. If you’re vulnerable enough to admit it Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is a classic for you.

Even if you don’t personally get anything from this book, it will empower you to be a more resourceful mentor to your team’s athletes.

Books to Elevate Performance

6. Endure - Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance - Alex Hutchinson


This isn’t strictly a coaching or leadership book, but it will help you understand the mental games that can limit performance. Sevwins co-founder, John Roberts, is an endurance cyclist that has leaned on the book's principles to get through many challenging events.

If you coach endurance sports, it’s an excellent read for you as well as your team. A blend of stories and scientific research, Endure explains how physiological factors, perceived effort, and mindfulness impact endurance.

Top Leadership Book

7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey

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Ok, this one was probably already on your list, but we couldn’t leave this one out. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Coach Greg Moore, it will be tough to get through a conversation without reference to the seven habits. The internet is flooded with summaries and reviews of Covey’s book. The success of Coach Moore and the impact he’s made on athletes over the past 20 years is enough to keep this on our list.

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