4 Books Every Young Athlete (and Coach) Needs to Read

Every young athlete develops differently through a wide variety of social, athletic, and personal experiences influenced by peers, parents, coaches, teachers, and especially society.

I am not sitting on a soap box in the middle of the gym preaching integrity, hard work, and good will but I certainly try to sneak in my own two cents where I can. I found myself consistently referring back to four books when athletes inquire about obtaining more information about increasing mental fortitude, improving unconventional aspects of their game, or just doing better in social and/or business environments. These four books will help you perform at higher levels in sports and in life.


  1. The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

    by Ryan HolidayRyan uses historical anecdotes from politics, business, and sports to illustrate a stoic operating system through perception, action, and will. His examples pertain to John D. Rockefeller, Marcus Aurelius, Steve Jobs, and Tommy John. Teachings from this book will allow coaches and athletes to look at negative events objectively as adverse reactions will only hinder and/or delay solutions to problems. Through each challenge we should ask ourselves, “How can I learn and improve from this?”

    “There is no good or bad without us. There is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
    – Ryan Holiday

    “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
    – Marcus Aurelius

  2. How to Win Friends & Influence People

    by Dale CarnegieI was lucky enough to have someone lend me this book when I was 22 yrs old. I wish I came across this book when I was 14. Humans are social animals and it’s in everyone’s best interest to develop quality social skills regardless if you are a “people person” or not. This book is People Skills 101 on steroids and I’m always amazed how few colleges and zero high schools implement this type of reading into their curriculum. This book, for lack of a more cliché term, changed my life. If you think you have good people skills, think again. The teachings in this book will yield substantial returns in your career, family, and social life. I could provide 10 pages of quotes alone from this book that would help you in everyday life, but I’ll spare you with five.

    “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn-and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
    – Dale Carnegie

    “Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.”
    – Dale Carnegie

    “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”
    – Dale Carnegie

    “You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.”
    – Dale Carnegie

    “If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive”
    – Dale Carnegie

  3. Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence

    by Gary MackGary provides real life examples of well-known athletes and how they experienced increased performance and confidence by working out their “mental muscles” through consistent mental preparation of sporting events. At some point as athletes, current and former, we have experienced being in the “zone” and have brought our games to higher levels than we ever thought possible. We may experience this zone for brief seconds, minutes, shifts but rarely lasts for anything longer than a game. We always want to replicate these instances of cerebral play but it’s very difficult to do so. Many external factors, consciously or subconsciously, play major roles inhibiting our journey to find this state of play. Mind Gym’s teachings provide a mental guide that not only combats adversity but allows you to find that heightened state of play more frequently.

    “Successful people take responsibility for themselves and their game. They understand it’s not the even but how they respond to it that’s most important.”
    – Gary Mack

    “Seek progress not perfection.”
    – Gary Mack

    “To achieve anything you want in life you must first start by getting out of your own way.”
    – Gary Mack

  4. Talent Code: Greatness isn’t born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.

    by Daniel CoyleDaniel’s research for this book was impressive to say the least. He visited 9 small pockets of the world that had reputations for producing an abundance of talent, ie futsal in Brazil, Spartak Tennis Academy in Moscow, and the craft guilds of Florence. During his travels he pinpointed the underlying reasons why certain areas were producing substantial talent. He unraveled shared patterns in practice, execution, motivation, and coaching that would seem impractical or unorthodox but nonetheless provide powerful results for talent development.

    “Education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of the fire.”
    – W.B. Yeats

    “Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways-operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes-makes you smarter. Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them-as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go-end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.”
    – Daniel Coyle

If you have read or get the chance to read any of these books in the future I would very much like to hear your thoughts and comments of what you liked, disliked, and learned. I didn’t stumble onto any of these books on my own, I was lucky enough to have been recommended these books at some point and found the time to read them. If there are any books out there that changed your life or you think would benefit me or my athletes please share. Always appreciate the consideration, thank you in advance. I’ll leave you with this gem from The Obstacle is the Way.

“In the meantime, cling tooth and nail to the following rule: not to give in to adversity, not to trust prosperity, and always take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases.”

Joe Drain CSCS