If you are a coach or sport scientist looking to find out what leaders in the field are reading, check out the latest issue (Spring 2009) of the USOC’s Olympic Coach E-Magazine. Consider it the sporting equivalent of the old “If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have five books, what would they be?” You get the idea.
Notice that not all the books are sport-specific. Some deal with leadership or business, and then those concepts are applied to the sport world. Some books focus on communication and motivation, others focus on training methods. It’s a good reminder of what a dynamic field coaching and athlete development is. No wonder there has been such a publishing explosion over the past generation.
Check out the USOC e-magazine link yourself. The coaches who offered their top picks included Bob Bowman, coach of Olympian nonpareil Michael Phelps; Guy Baker, U.S. women’s water polo coach; Adam Bleakney, the USOC’s 2007 Paralympic Coach of the Year; and Vern Gambetta, legendary track and field coach. I’m going to highlight Human Kinetics’ contributions to the list here, but of course it’s great to see such a wide array of resources serving the sport science field.
Both Bowman and Bleakney put Tudor Bompa’s Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training on their lists. Bowman called it “the bible of periodization training. The most important book in my library.” High praise indeed for a coach who prepared his top athlete to peak at just the right time in one of the most stunning athletic performances in history. We just released the fifth edition of Periodization, with co-author G. Gregory Haff adding his expertise to Dr. Bompa’s classic work.
Bleakney named Gambetta’s book Athletic Development: The Art and Science of Functional Sports Conditioning as a constant companion in his work. Bleakney said it’s "one of the best books I’ve read on functional sports training -- I open this one on a weekly basis." Bleakney also cited the classic psychology book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Czikszentmihaly. That gives me the opportunity to point out Dr. Czikszentmihaly co-wrote a Human Kinetics book with Susan Jackson, titled Flow in Sports.
Bowman also praises UCLA legend John Wooden’s My Personal Best. Wooden paired up with his former star Swen Nater to write John Wooden’s UCLA Offense.
Finally, I have to give credit to Gambetta. Last September, he committed to reading 100 books in a year. He finished with five weeks to spare. See his July 25, 2009 blog entry.
Go ahead and try it yourself: If you want to be the best coach you can be, what are your “Five for the Road”? Send me a comment naming your favorites and send this blog to your colleagues. There will be no requirement saying you have to keep up with Gambetta. I just want to see what books have been the most influential to people in the sport sciences – and to be prepared if I end up on a desert island.