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I have run across a lot of different kinds of coaches. The worst kind are those that have no idea what they are doing, or why! This is the kind of coach that makes mistakes and ruins good athletes and players. I have a personal vendetta against bad coaching. (You can read about my own coach-induced injury in my story.)
Here is my list of books I have found useful to understand core components of elite performance, so that your coaching can be based on real science. The best coaches are those that get results. I’ve coached special-olympians, para-olympians, and national-ranked swimmers. These are the books I’ve turned to time and again to produce successful athletes. Make your coaching consistently breed champions as well!
When I began coaching I spent years studying and researching the physical and mental aspects of elite performance. I have a Master’s degree in sport science and mentored under olympic coaches, physiotherapists, and some of the most famous sport psychologists in the world.
I ran across a lot of important books in that journey. Since sport psychology transcends all human performance, my list today focuses mostly on the mental aspects. These books are useful no matter what sport or eSport you are coaching.
I have all these books on my bookshelf thanks to book depository and their free shipping (I live in Finland), so some of the links below are affiliate links for them. If you want to buy the book and support my blogging then feel free to click through. Otherwise google will lead you to the nearest copy!
by Malcom Gladwell
This book is all about the subconscious mind and its decision-making. Actually the science behind all the “gut instincts” examined in this book is the same science that applies to elite athletes. Automated skills and decisions mastered through training are what separates average athletes from elite ones. Learn to trust your gut, and get your players to trust theirs.
This principle also describes why sometimes soloQ or messy training can screw up this elite-gut-instinct. If an athlete trains the wrong skill most of the time, then the right skill won’t happen automatically!
by Geoff Colvin
This book covers the fundamental principle of high performance. That time spent training is NOT equal to time spent learning. Do you ever wonder why somebody can spend years practicing without getting any better? Yet a second person can train half the time and become a professional? It’s not about talent, unless you consider “training efficiently” to be a talent.
This book is the expanded version of an online article published in the Harvard Business Review (FREE).
It’s also a scaled down version of the actual bible on human talent, The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. (Warning, 1000+ pages.)
We’ve left the happy realm of easy to read books. Now you have to be really committed.
by Yuri Hanin
THE AUTHORITATIVE TEXT on emotions in sport. Cut through all the bullcrap. I’ve been reading articles and “advice” on the internet for years on emotions in performance situations. Most of them describe ways to help athletes with their emotions. None of them fully understand the underlying science of emotions & performance. The problem is they base their assumptions on a few limited experiences, and flawed observations.
Yuri dedicated his life to researching this concept and developed THE most comprehensive model for how emotions function with athletes. It has been validated by decades of research. If you want to know your stuff, then this is the base.
I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Hanin at the Finnish Institute for olympic sport research. He is a premier researcher there, and therefore this book is written in an academic tone. It’s hard to parse, read it twice.
How a coach helps his athletes prepare for competition depends on his personal style. If you base your personal style on sound footing, you can’t go wrong. Don’t go reading books about other coach’s personal styles. Instead, structure your foundation with the knowledge this book and build a mansion on top of it of your own design.
by Larry Lauer, Daniel Gould, Paul Lubbers, & Mark Kovacs
A book about tennis? Yes, a book about tennis. Coaches in all sport, and especially mental performance coaches like sport psychologists are well aware of how coaching skills transfer from one sport to another.
This book is especially useful because it includes tons of worksheets for mental skills training in tennis, both team & individual. It’s very easy to take this stuff and transfer it to other sports. Just rewrite the worksheet and follow the principles.
Even though it’s useful, the book isn’t very well written and it is poorly organized, in my opinion. The populist books above were written by Colvin and Gladwell, both award-winning authors. This book, however, is written by three top professional sport psychologists — so if you can get past the style and organization, the content is great and it’s well worth the read.
by Timothy Noakes
Whenever you coach any performance art, whether it is sport, eSport, music, or leadership. It pays to understand how the human body functions. Contrary to popular belief, the mind and body are not separate. Elite performance depends upon the athlete understanding that and not trying to train one without the other. Much like the previous book on mental skills in tennis, this book covers the fundamental functioning of the human body under stress.
There are many books and lectures out there on how the body operates in sport. I prefer this one because I found it engaging from the cover to the 944th page. (Yes it’s thick enough to break your foot).
If you really are uninterested in a book of this length, you should at least check it out from a library and read the chapter on performance enhancing chemicals. It is crucial for eSport coaches to know how caffeine and other drugs function in sport so they can make solid recommendations to their players. Nutrition and pre-performance planning are key areas most coaches lack.
Expertise is important for bringing your athletes to peak performance. Coaches should always be doing some sort of professional development.
Remember that about 100 years ago the Cardinals elected Branch Rickey to their hall-of-fame. Branch pioneered the idea of developing talent versus scouting talent, and his invention shook the sporting world to its foundations.
Developing your athletes into champions will be more important than ever in eSport as the scene grows. If you want an insight into how I train eSport athletes using sport psychology, check out the free cheat sheet that I made. You can download it below. It’s a quick, handy guide on how to get started with your team, or your personal, mental training.