The books and articles that follow are your must reads for coaching, regardless of what sport you find yourself in. I've read hundreds of books, with binders full of notes from each one. I've condensed this list to include the foundational texts that provide the most value to a– coach beginner or expert. The goal is to spread a wide net and give the coach a platform off of which to understand multiple domains including: physiology, biomechanics, motivation, team dynamics, history, and more. I’ve also included a “current reads” section which I’ll update with a few books I’m making my way through now. If you follow me on instragram, you'll no doubt recognize some of these titles from the highlighted passages I post there.
These texts are a place to start your journey. The goal is to get you outside your traditional bounds.
- Current Reads
- Training Theory and Practice
- Physiology and Biomechanics
- Science Books
- Understanding and Thinking
- History of Training
The Playmaker's Advantage
by Dan Peterson and
by Alex Hutchinson
Letters to a Young Poet
by Rainer Maria Rilke
The Science of Running
by Steve Magness
Review: Shameless plug for my book, but check it out!
The Science of Winning
by Jan Olbrecht
Review: A gem of a science and training book that outlines methods in a completely different way. A must read if you are interested in learning how lactate testing or what the lactate threshold means.
A Scientific Approach to the Marathon
by Renato Canova and Enrico Arcelli
Review: The clearest book explaining Italian coach Renato Canova's training methods. A must read on understanding modern training methods for the marathon.
by Ernie Maglischo
Review: Another swimming book. This is perhaps the most comprehensive exploration of the applied physiology of training. Also, it's a great historic overview of swimming training.
Better Training for Distance Runners
by Peter Coe and David Martin
Review: The now classic text combines physiology with Peter Coe's training methods. While it has its flaws, it's a good read on understanding an intensity-based approach to training.
Running My Way
by Harry Wilson
Review: The coach of Steve Ovett outlines his philosophy on training.
Healthy Intelligent Training
by Keith Livingstone
Review: The best modern take on Lydiard training.
by Vern Gambetta
Review: Before I even knew Vern, I read his book. It's a foundational piece for understanding movement, strength, and training.
by Fergus Connoly
The Mechanics of Athletics
by Geoffrey Dyson
Review: The classic text on biomechanics for Track and Field. A required text recommended by famed sprint coach Tom Tellez
Lore of Running
by Tim Noakes
Review: A comprehensive book on the science underlying running performance, with a great look at the history of training.
Which Comes First? Cardio or Weights
by Alex Hutchinson
Review: A book that provides the quick answers to everything we know in exercise science.
Anatomy for Runners
by Jay Dicharry
Review: An easy but informative read on how to run injury free. Unlike the hype around certain running styles, Dicharry takes his knowledge as a PT and gives concrete evidence based recommendations.
Running: Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology in Practice
by Frans Bosch
Review: Known for a bit of controversy, Frans Bosch book is a must read for the simple fact that he challenges conventional wisdom and makes you think.
Strength Training and Coordination: An Integrative Approach
by Frans Bosch
Review: Again, whether you agree with him or not Bosch forces thinking, which is what I'm all about.
Road to the Top
by Joe Vigil
Review: Legendary distance coach Dr. Joe Vigil outlines his philosophy that has delivered Olympic medalists and countless college championships.
The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease
by Daniel Lieberman
Review: A look at how the human body evolved to the point it is at today and what the implications are.
Why We Run: A Natural History
by Bernd Heinrich
Review: A scientific exploration of how we evolved to be runners.
The Sports Gene
by David Epstein
Review: A fantastic read blending stories and science to look at the actual talent of great performers.
by Ben Goldacre
Review: If you want to learn how to read and interpret science, this is the book for you.
Why Zebras don't get Ulcers
by Robert Sapolsky
Review: If you want to understand stress and how we adapt to it, which is fundamental to training, read this book.
Review: Traditionally we think of Stress using Hans Selye's model. Schulkin updates the science and provides a clearer view on how we actually adapt. This is fundamental for understanding training stress and recovery!
How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brains
by Lisa Feldman Barrett
The Rare Find
by George Anders
Review: Need to understand how to spot talent? This is the book for you.
The Willpower Instinct
by Kelly McGonigal
Review: An intro on how willpower impacts our lives. Throughout this book there are many connections back to the world of exercise and performance.
Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite
by Robert Kurzban
Review: Think you know how your mind works? Kurzban explains how it actually does and why you are likely wrong. Fantastic read.
Stranger to Ourselves
by Timothy Wilson
Review: Wilson explains how the unconscious influences our decision making and our world. Important for coaches he discusses how our inner narrative is what matters and how we can go about influencing that.
The Biology of Desire
by Marc Lewis
Review: This book is about addiction, but in reality, it's about desire and motivation. The same processes that lead to addictions, lead to our obsessions with training, sport, or any other endeavor in life where we are fully engaged. In this book, you'll learn how this process works on a neural level. If you want to understand how to motivate people, read this book
Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing
by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Review: All you need to know is in the title of this book. The authors do a fabulous job outlining the science of competition and how to take advantage of it.
by Phil Jackson
Review: The classic from the Zen master of Basketball coaching guides you on how to build and motivate a team.
Leaders Eat Last
by Simon Sinek
Review: Sinek's book is a must read for understanding team dynamics and the role the coach plays in creating them.
The Captain Class
by Sam Walker
Review: Walker breaks down the key traits of leadership.
How They Train
by Fred Wilt
Review: This series takes week long training snippets from the off-season and in-season of the champion runners of the 1920's-60's.
Run, Run, Run
by Fred Wilt
Review: A must read, it explores everything training related as seen from a 1960's viewpoint. Learn your history!
Running to the Top
by Arthur Lydiard
Review: Learn the viewpoints of training from a coach who changed the paradigm.
Track and Field Omnibook
by Ken Doherty
Review: The classic text on training for all events. Get the older version, not the new one.
A Cold Clear Day
by Frank Murphy
Review: The biography of former Marathon World Record Holder Buddy Edelen. Filled with training log excerpts, it's a great read on training in the 1950's.
Training with Cerutty
by Larry Myers
Review: The most comprehensive book for understanding the training methods of the eccentric coach of Herb Elliott, Percy Cerutty.
The Van Aaken Method
by Ernst Van Aaken
Review: A look at Ernst Van Aaken's training methods, a man who espoused aerobic development before it was popular.
Fast Science: A History of Training Theory and Methods for Elite Runners
by Nicholas Bourne
Review: This is an incredible resource. Bourne traces the history of endurance training from the beginning of time into the modern era. The culmination of his efforts is his disertation which you can access free from the above link.
Man's Search for Meaning
by Viktor Frankl
Review: Just go buy this book and read it. It's at the top of the must read list. Psychologist Viktor Frankl explores how he survived concentration camps during the Holocaust.
On the Shortness of Life
Review: Ancient wisdom on how to live life. Seneca preaches practical advice using the Stoic philosophy.
Letters from a Stoic
Review: More Ancient Wisdom. It might seem strange why all of these philosophy books are included for a coach, but this is what matters. Solving problems and having a framework from which to do so! Philosophy can provide that framework.
by Marcus Aurelius
Review: The Roman Emperor's diary provides timeless advice on life's most difficult problems. My favorite text of any of the Stoic philosophers.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
by Robert Pirsig
Review: This is a classic for a reason. It's a life lesson in understanding how to think and focus.
The World Beyond Our Head: On Becoming an Individual in the Age of Distraction
by Matthew Crawford
Review: A thought-provoking treatise on how we should live our life. Another book that simply makes you think and evaluate the world through a slightly different lens.
Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself
by David Lipsky
Review: Lipsky spends time with best-selling author David Foster Wallace in a wonderful exploration of life filled with lessons about how one should approach life.
How to Stay Sane
by Phillipa Perry
by Ray Dalio
Review: Dalio outlines the rules he and his company live by. The principles outlined are useful, but you'll perhaps learn more by understanding what Dalio values and why he does.
Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking
by Dan Dennett
Review: Philosopher Dan Dennett has coalesced dozens of methods and tools to use to solve difficult problems.
Thinking Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman
Review: A masterpiece explaining how our minds work. Kahneman explores our biases and how they impact our daily life. Must read.
The Art of Learning
by Josh Waitzkin
Review: A fantastic book using the author's success in chess as a means to understand how to improve our learning ability. This is a primer on the science of learning.
Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
by Nassim Taleb
Review: If nothing else, Taleb forces you to think. This book is chock full of heuristics and lessons that can be applied to coaching. A must read for any coach.
Make it Stick
by Peter Brown
Review: The best book on the science of learning. If you are an educator of any kind, this book is a must read.
by Jim Davies
Review: The author provides us with an understanding of what makes and keeps us interested and engaged.
Thinking: The New Science of Decision Making
by John Brockman
Review: A collection of some of the best thinkers in the world on thinking.
Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing
by Jamie Holmes
Review: Holmes flips conventional wisdom on its head and explains why not knowing is the key to success.
Originals: How Nonconformist Change the World
by Adam Grant
Review: Grant explores what separates those who innovate from those who stick with the status quo.
by Stephen King
Review: A fantastic memoir where you understand the process of great performance.
Several Short Sentences About Writing
by Verlyn Klinkenborg
Review: The author makes the case for simplicity in writing. He not only espouses shortness, but he writes the book in a unique way to deliver on his point.