December 21, 2023 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

10 must-read books for coaches & athletic directors

Books are great resources to teach coaches and athletic administrators about philosophy, leadership, and team building. We regularly speak with athletic administrators who assign books to their coaching staff or coaches who require their captains to read about becoming role models.

But what books are best?

Coach & Athletic Director compiled a list of recommendations for books that all coaches, athletic administrators, and other sports professionals must read to become a true leader for their programs.

booksBelow is a synopsis of the 10 book recommendations.

  1. Coaching with the Education-Based Athletics Concept
    • An Approach a High School Coach Should Embrace & Incorporate
    • Written by Dr. David Hoch, CMAA

      The philosophical concept of education-based athletics isn’t a secret strategy locked away in some playbook somewhere. Author, administrator, and coach Dr. David Hoch breaks these principles down in an easy-to-follow guide to coaching young athletes—not only in athletic development but in educational progress as well.

      Focused on ways in which the coach can play the role of mentor, instructor, communicator, and more for student-athletes, this book is a pep rally in prose for those individuals prepping the next generation on the field, court, or locker room to tackle whatever challenges life may present.

  2. Coaching Women Athletics to Excellence
    • Interviews with Women’s Coaching Legends, Gender-Specific Team Building, and Motivation Methods to Create a Culture of Sustained Excellence
    • Edited by Katherine Lord

      If you have coached both men’s and women’s athletics, you probably have noticed that some motivational approaches that worked great with guys didn’t connect as well with your women athletes. Coaching Women Athletes to Excellence will help you build and enhance team unity and motivate your athletes to even greater heights. The book offers proven practice solutions to get better every day and penetrating insights on how to enhance mental toughness with your women athletes as related by the greatest women’s coaches of the last generation.

  3. 20 Secrets to Success for NCAA Student-Athletes
    • Second Edition
    • Rick Burton, Jake Hirshman, Norm O’Reilly, Andy Dolich, and Heather Lawrence

      The premier NCAA student-athlete handbook, now in a second, updated edition designed for today’s competitive market and with a new chapter on name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights.

      “All student-athletes and their mentors should read this book. It brings into focus the challenges and the opportunities inherent in being a collegiate athlete. Most importantly, it outlines a framework for how to successfully navigate the landscape and develop an outstanding life plan.” — Deborah A. Yow, former NC State director of athletics

  4. The Best
    • How Elite Athletes Are Made
    • A. Mark Williams and Tim Wigmore

      The Best reveals how the most incredible sportspeople in the world get to the top and stay there. It is a unique look at the path to sporting greatness; a story of origins, serendipity, practice, genetics, and the psychology of excellence, as well as of sports science and cutting-edge technology

      Get inside the minds of champions like Pete Sampras, Steph Curry, Ian Poulter, Joey Votto, Elena Delle Donne and understand first-hand what makes them perform during high-octane competition, what they think about in the heat of the moment and what drives them to do what they do.

  5. The Anatomy of Speed
    • An Evidence-Based Guide to Speed, Agility, and Change of Direction
    • Bill Parisi

      Speed is the most mythical of human capabilities. From elementary school playground races to 40-yard dashes at the NFL Combine, speed has long been the gold standard for athletic performance. But for as long as it’s been admired and obsessively pursued, a true understanding of speed has remained elusive…until now.

      The Anatomy of Speed is equal parts science, application, and art. It takes you inside speed: how it is generated, how it is exhibited, and, most importantly, how you can better develop it. Detailed photos, enhanced by hand-drawn anatomical artwork, allow you to experience the multiple anatomical systems that need to work together in highly coordinated unison.

  6. The Sports Nutrition Playbook
    • A Play-By-Play on Sports Nutrition. Portable. Practical. Easy-to-use. 
    • Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSS*D, LD

      The Sports Nutrition Playbook is designed to be a play-by-play on sports nutrition for athletes, coaches, trainers, and parents. It contains portable, practical, and easy-to-use fueling tips and examples. It outlines daily nutrition needs and specifics on how to fuel and hydrate your body pre-, during-, and post-exercise. The playbook also dives into how to eat on the go with a variety of ‘Top 10″ strategies to maximize fueling, as well as how to deal with specific considerations and issues often seen in sports.

  7. The DNA of an AD
    • 12 Principles of Highly Effective Athletic Administrators
    • Scott Garvis, CMAA

      What is it that makes athletic administrators special, almost superhuman? Is it a genetic mutation? Were ADs bitten by radioactive spiders? Are they visitors from another planet or is it much more complex? Is it truly a part of the Athletic administrator’s DNA? In many ways, our Athletic Administrators are superheroes even if it is not in their DNA. Athletic Directors possess the tools to do the extraordinary.

  8. Educating Football
    • How Teachers, Coaches, and Parents Can Develop a Solutions Mindset for their Players
    • Steve Sallis

      This book is by no means limited to football. A touching and thought-provoking book by author Steve Sallis who has experience as a professional player, a coach, and Head of Teaching and Learning in schools.

      Short and to-the-point chapters create an enjoyable reading experience. Sallis combines what he has learned from professional football clubs and school experiences to help create a framework to develop the individual first and the athlete second.

  9. Grit
    • The Power of Passion and Perseverance
    • Angela Duckworth

      A hugely beneficial book for not only developing your players but for developing yourself too. This book shows that persevering with challenges causes structural changes in the brain and increases life satisfaction.

      How many times have you seen a player who wants to quit when they face a difficult challenge? How do we as leaders then use our language to promote persistence? All of these questions are answered within this powerful book.

  10. The Talent Code
    • Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown. Here’s how. 
    • Daniel Coyle

      This book goes to the next level regarding practice. Everyone knows to get better you need deliberate practice, but Coyle goes on to describe the kind of deliberate practice needed to make improvements.

      This book also discusses the role of myelin in the brain and paints a picture of how the highly ‘talented’ increase their ability by staying just outside of their comfort zone.