When it comes to coaching philosophy, coaches have a wide range of beliefs and styles on what they want to teach their players. Those styles also vary when it comes to their beliefs on how they want to teach their players. The benefit that comes from it is that great coaches end up writing books to share their coaching philosophy with the world. Although each coach’s style and philosophy varies from coach to coach, if you polled all of them on their daily habits, they would share this common trait: They read to become better coaches. The truth is that in the world of coaching, the best coaches are students of the game and are always researching on how to become a better leader.
Every once in a while, professional coaches decide to share their stories to provide perspective into their experiences. Their experiences will provide you guidance, teach you how to become a better leader, and show you how to impact your players’ lives. Although some of these books are several years old, always remember that true life lessons hold no age. Quotes and lessons from the beginning of time still are true to this day, and its no different in the world of sports.
Below is a list of the books that we believe are some of the most impactful reads that you will come across to help you become a better coach, a better person, and a better leader for your players. This list touches on so many different aspects of coaching, but each book on this list will provide you with a rewarding experience and teach you about how to become a better coach. If you want to create an environment on your team that will give your players a fulfilling experience, create a solid team philosphy, and create an amazing camaraderie, then you need to read these books.
The Seventeen Best Books For Coaches
The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse
Is there a better way to learn about how to build a winning team than by reading how the Cubs broke their 108 year curse? We didn’t think so either. The Cubs Way gives you full access to Cubs team president Theo Epstein and the formula that he created with the Cubs coaching staffs to create a developmental culture that eventually became the organization’s manifesto. Author Tom Verducci goes deep into the minds of the Cubs leadership and explains “The Cubs Way” manual in great detail. This is one of the best books, if not the best, that you’ll read about turning a program around. In The Cubs Way, you’ll learn about what the organization looked for when it came to player mentality and how the organization got their players to exceed everyone’s expectations.
Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court
You Win in the Locker Room First – Jon Gordon & Mike Smith
When it comes to coaches that try to make their players better in life and on the field, you don’t need to look any further than former Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith. Coach Smith’s book, You Win in the Locker Room First: The 7 C’s to Build a Winning Team in Business, Sports, and Life, is a step-by-step strategy for building a successful organization. Coach Smith’s strategy provides the rules for coaches and leaders in any walk of life to create a winning culture through strong relationships, to execute at the highest level through strong teamwork, and to avoid the mistakes that puts organizations under by teaching you how to lead with the right mentality. The book provides you a look into how to become a calm, steadfast leader and shares the mistakes, victories, and failures that Coach Smith made during his last two seasons with the Falcons.
Win Forever – Pete Carroll & Yogi Roth
If you want to become a winner in life and live your life to the fullest, you have to read Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion by Pete Carroll and Yogi Roth. Coach Carroll is one of the most successful coaches in football with his proven resume of winning at USC before moving on to win a Super Bowl as the Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks. Through testing philosophies, Carroll developed his unique coaching style that he shares in his book. He provides everything that it takes to make a winning program from recruiting all the way down to his game day routine. No matter what sport you coach, you will be able to take away many valuable life lessons from Carroll. This book is about more than just winning in football, its about winning in life. Carroll’s proven tactic that have helped business leaders, troubled children, and coaches across the country will leave you motivated to always compete.
The Score Takes Care of Itself – Bill Walsh
Another great story of turning around a losing program through steadfast leadership is former San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Bill Walsh’s The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership. Throughout the book, Walsh talks about how he helped shape how the way the game of football was played during his career. What is most important is that this book can be applied to any walk of life in business or sport. Walsh was a creative genius, student of the game, and a master at being a highly effective leader. His story reminds leaders in any walk of life that success is not accidental – it is a product of deliberate preparation and will inspire countless leaders to come. Walsh teaches that culture precedes results, players that hate making mistakes do more, and that if you want to achieve excellence, then you must be detail oriented.
The Matheny Manifesto – Mike Matheny
If you are looking for a book on how to be a successful manager at any level, especially in youth sports, then look no further than Mike Matheny. His book, The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life, is a phenomenal story about his path to success as a player and how he brought back old school advice back to a group of parents that asked him to rebuild their little league program. His book starts off with a frankly worded letter that he wrote to the parents before he coached which became viral on the internet. Matheny believes that the “Best team to coach is a team full of orphans – no parents” and preaches his advice that “The Coach is Always Right, Even When He’s Wrong”. The book is a powerful reminder that teaches anyone involved in sports that honesty is a better way to lead in life than being politically correct.
Leading With Heart – Mike Krzyzewski
With more than twenty years of coaching for the Duke Blue Devils, Coach K has grown his program to become one of the most respected in the NCAA. With multiple national championships under his belt, Coach K touches on the different aspects of leadership, especially how to use it to move your team to the top in his book Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life. Throughout the book, Coach K explains the importance of trust, the importance of commitment, and the importance of having pride in what you achieve on a daily basis. When reading this book, you will learn Coach K’s method of “storming, performing, and norming”, where he explains his process of bringing in new recruits every year and molding them into a national championship contender. Coach K’s proven & continued success is highlighted in his framework for building a winning team is his eyes is “a little bit crazy to base your career on someone else’s jump shot.”
The Power of Negative Thinking – Bob Knight
There is no better way to learn than from someone who has the compassion for brutal honesty. Legendary Indiand University basketball coach Bobby Knight has a philosophy that he believes can achieve bigger results than positivity. In his book The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results, Knight believes that thinking has much more of a positive effect on players than we are aware of. The NCAA coaching legend explains in his book that “preparing to win” and “hoping to win” are two different mentalities and explains the importance of drilling his teams to prevent the things that could go wrong throughout the game. Coach Knight also explains his philosophy of not allowing his teams to dwell on their success and to look immediately at how to defeat the next opponent. Throughout the book, Coach Knight reflects on his grandmother’s words “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” for motivation and dedicates his book to her spirit.
Wooden on Leadership – John Wooden
It can be argued that John Wooden is the greatest coach in the history of not just basketball, but in the history of sports as well. In his book, Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization, Wooden gives you a compelling look into one of the most powerfully philosophical coaching minds that we have even seen. His definition for success and all of his idioms are prevalent throughout the book to help you understand the mental, emotional, and physical qualities that are essential to build a winning organization and create winners in life. No matter what your profession is, you will be left with a lifetime of valuable lessons that will encourage to live a more honest and fulfilling life. All of Coach Wooden’s observations in the book are in the book and his philosophy of personal development over notarized success will leave you in awe with all of his achievements throughout his coaching career.
Eleven Rings – Phil Jackson
The Master of Zen that led the surge of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s explains his philosophy in his reflective book Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success. In Eleven Rings, Coach Jackson explains how he never wavered from his style of coaching with inspiration and led his players by challenging his players nature and not their fear, egos, or greed. Throughout the book, Jackson describes his secrets for staying mindful towards his team’s chemistry and shares stories about coaching the world’s greatest basketball player in Michael Jordan to embrace selflessness. Jackson has a proven history of forming successful teams out of players with completely different skills levels and inspiring to dedicate themselves to something bigger than themselves. Eleven championships is what Jackson earned during his coaching tenure in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Although you may think you know everything about coaching, the book shows that we don’t know very much at all.
Quiet Strength – Tony Dungy
Whenever you have the chance to learn from the words of one of the most respected men in sports, you take it. Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy elaborates on the strength that is required to make yourself successful in his book Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life. Dungy explains how he overcame the challenges of overcoming the barbaric culture of football while he is a man of faith and how he overcame the challenges of being successful without sacrificing his faith or family. This inspiring novel that serves as a reflective memoir tells a story of a man who lives his life for God and family and challenges you to redefine you idea of what it means to be successful. This deeply inspirational book will leave all readers, christian or not, with a desire to live a life of a higher standard through steadfast leadership and unwavering focus.
The Winner Within – Pat Riley
Last, but certainly not least is a classic. One of the greatest and most iconic coaches in NBA basketball during the 1990’s was Pat Riley and his book The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players is a reason why he has earned the title of being one of the best motivational speakers of all time. The book is about winning, leadership, and changing for personal growth based on the always changing dynamics of what makes a winning team. It doesn’t matter if you are a small startup or a giant corporation because Riley shows you how to ride the cycles of an always changing team and how to create a balance between role players and superstars. Riley touches on all of the events that coaches run into from battling complacency, creating changes while keeping continuity, and nurturing cooperation between team members while having a competitive environment that forces them to perform at their best. In this book, Riley provides the tools and game plan to handle all of those circumstances.
Wooden: A Lifetime Of Observations Both On and Off The Court – John Wooden
In Wooden: A Lifetime Of Observations and Reflections Both On and Off the Court, Coach John Wooden reflects on the lessons he has learned in life through basketball and experiences. This is truly one of the best books that you will ever read. Wooden’s reflections in the book are quotes & lessons that he has learned throughout life coupled with a summarizing paragraph to discuss each one’s meaning. In sharing his honest thoughts on passages about every aspect in life, Wooden shares his philosophy on what it takes to be successful, how to live a life of integrity, how to excel in your craft, and how to be the best person possible to your family. This is one of the best coaching books that we can recommend; it’s full of quotes that your players will take with them for the rest of their lives.
Players First: Coaching From The Inside Out – John Calipari
Players First is one of those books that lives up to it’s title. The true meaning of this book is Coach John Calipari’s philosophy on keeping your focus on your players so that you can get the best out of them every day. One of the most beloved coaches in college basketball, Coach Calipari dives into the unique reputation about Kentucky’s basketball program: Players that play there only want to be there for a short period of time before they go to the NBA. In one of the most enlightening books you can read on coaching, Calipari discusses the humility required to coach players with that mindset along with the leadership challenges he faces because he coaches players that believe they are only going to play for him for seven months. If you’re a coach looking for some books on how to deal with players that are already worried about the future, pick up Players First. It’s funny, thoughtful, and insightful.
Is there any better way to learn about leadership than from one of the best in college football? Whether or not you’re an Ohio State fan, you have to respect the coaching success of Urban Meyer. He has lead his players to three national championships and in Above the Line, Meyer tackles the qualities of leadership, team building, and how to motivate athletes to reach their potential. In one of the best books to read about building a winning program, Meyer teaches you how to create a winning culture for your team that is based off of his single most important philosophy: Trust and commitment to a common, higher purpose. Above the Line is packed with Meyer’s formula for success and sets the foundation for you to create a winning program.
Conscious Coaching: The Art & Science of Building Buy-In – Brett Bartholomew
Brett Bartholomew’s book, Conscious Coaching: The Art & Science of Building Buy-In, is one of the best books out there for coaches to read when it comes to the science of effective communication. In Conscious Coaching, you’ll learn about the foundational principles of improving relationships with your players and gaining their trust so that they exceed their expectations on and off of the field. There are plenty of books out there that teach coaches how to build a program, but there are very few out there that talk about effective communication in an athletic team setting. Conscious Coaching tackles that gap, making this one of the best coaching books out there. If you have problems in communicating with your athletes or just want to create a stronger bond with them, this is one of the best books out there. As a coach, this is one of the books that you’ll constantly refer to throughout the season to develop your communication skills with your players.
Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective – Pat Summitt
Coach Pat Summitt is the all-time winningist coach in NCAA basketball history and her book Sum It Up is one of the most influential coaching books you’ll ever pick up. Summitt touches on a wide range of life lessons in her book, but the most humbling lesson that she shares is that she owed her success in coaching due to the struggles that she faced throughout her life. In Sum It Up, Summitt credits her strict, demanding father and experiences such as coaching through motherhood for teaching her important values and life lessons that would transpire to her success on the court and with her players. One of the most beloved coaches in college coaching history, Summitt touches on how having to be a fighter, especially after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, is what blessed her to be the best coach possible for her players.
- If you liked this article, be sure to check out our list of the Best Books for Athletes. This comprehensive list provides books that will educate, inspire and motivate athletes to take their game to the next level. They’re chicken soup for the athletic soul.