Recommended coaching books

While there is no substitute for experience, it is important as a coach to keep increasing your knowledge of the craft. Books are still a good resource for doing this. They are a source of information, provide you with alternative viewpoints, and can challenge you to examine how you currently operate. In this section I will be providing a number of books that cover a range of coaching topics. I will keep updating this post, so come back to it regularly.

booksThe books are divided into two sections. The first section is for specifically ‘coaching’ books. Some of these are aimed at a specific sport, while others examine coaching in general. The second section is for general books. These are of a broader nature, covering a range of topics, which can be related to coaching. There are a number of different fields which can inform how we coach, and it is a good idea to read widely and incorporate what you learn into your own practice.

For each book I have linked to There are other places you could also search for these books, including Book Depository (they have free wordwide shipping) and If you live in New Zealand then you have options such as Fishpond, Trademe and Mighty Ape. And of course there is always your local library! Some of these books have been recommended by readers; if there is a book that you feel should be added to the list make a comment below and I’ll put it into the post.

Coaching-specific books

The following are books I’ve read and think all coaches can benefit from:

coaching athlete centredAthlete Centred Coaching: Developing Inspired and Inspiring People by Lynn Kidman (2005).

One of the first books to introduce me to the athlete-centred approach. While my coaching philosophy already had elements of the athlete-centred approach within it, it wasn’t until I read this book that I really began to understand what it was about.

Athlete-centred coachingAthlete-Centred Coaching: Developing Decision Makers by Lynn Kidman (2010).

This is a must-read book if you are looking to understand how to use an athlete-centred coaching approach. Contains views from a range of coaches who have implemented the approach.

Coaching process KidmanThe Coaching Process by Lynn Kidman and Stephanie Hanrahan (2011).

The 1997 edition of this book was one of the first coaching books that I read, and I still go back to it from time to time. It contains a number of useful tips and I like how it uses activities and self-reflective questions to help deepen your understanding and application of the content.

Coaching process lyle

The Coaching Process by Neville Cross and John Lyle (2002).

This book is a bit more academic and goes into the coaching process in detail. The chapters on skill learning and the coach’s decision making processes I found especially interesting. If you are after more of a technical look at some of the theory behind coaching then this is a good place to start.

sports coach as educatorThe Sports Coach as Educator edited by Robyn L. Jones (2006).

This is one of my favourite of the more academic coaching books. It contains several quality chapters covering topics such as The coach as a ‘more capable other’, communities of practice, reflective practice, mentoring and the development of expert coaching. I have used this book when researching for a range of workshops.

understanding sports coachingUnderstanding Sports Coaching by Tanya Cassidy, Robyn Jones and Paul Potrac (2008).

While being academic, this book takes more of a sociological approach, looking at the cultural and pedagogical concepts that underpin good coaching practice. The book is aimed more at students of sports coaching and professional coaches.

Successful CoachingSuccessful Coaching: 4th Edition by Rainer Martens (2012).

This book is less academic than those mentioned above. It covers a broad range of coaching topics including coaching philosophy, teaching principles, physical training and management of players.

Power of positive coachingThe Power of Positive Coaching by Raymond Nakamura (1996).

This is one of my favourite coaching books. Hard to find but worth the effort if you can track it down (currently Amazon have a number of copies). Throughout the book there are quizzes to raise your awareness and help you to apply what you learn. This book focuses on the relationship side of coaching rather than the x’s and o’s.

The Double Goal CoachThe Double-Goal Coach by Jim Thompson (2003).

Jim Thompson is a founder of the Positive Coaching Alliance. In this book Jim discusses three elements for creating a positive coaching environment: Redefining winning to encourage a mastery approach, Honoring the game by developing and demonstrating respect, and Filling the emotional tank by motivating and encouraging through positive reinforcement.

dynamics of skill acquisitionDynamics of Skill Acquisition: A Constraints-Led Approach by Keith Davids, Chris Button and Simon Bennett. (2007).

One of the best ways for developing skill is through taking a constraints-led approach. This academic book will delves into the theory behind the approach in quite some detail. If you have an interest in Dynamical Systems Theory and Ecological Psychology then this is a good resource.

Acquiring skill in sportAcquiring Skill in Sport by John Honeybourne (2006).

Another academic book (you may be noticing a trend here) this is an introduction to skill acquisition and is very accessible. Throughout the book there are examples that help to contextualise the content and understand the individual nature of skill.

creative coaching

Creative Coaching by Jerry Lynch (2001).

This book focuses on the leadership aspects to coaching. The book takes the approach of describing challenging situations which you must reflect on to determine how you would respond if you were in the scenario. This a good book for examining individual and team development.

teaching games for understandingTeaching Games for Understanding: Theory, Research and Practice by Linda Griffin and Joy Butler (2005).

TGfU is a popular topic, however, many people do not really understand the approach. This book covers the main issues relating to the approach. I found the discussion on the components of the TGfU model to be particularly useful when developing coaching programmes.

teaching and understanding games

Teaching and Learning Team Sports and Games by Jean-Francis Grehaigne, Jean-Francis Richard and Linda Griffin (2005).

Another very technical book, I found this book fascinating for it’s description of the systemic nature of team sports. It discusses the components of games to a level of detail that I had not considered before. It is a very good resource for understanding the theory behind constructing team-sport knowledge and I highly recommend it for any students of games.

Coaching forCharacterCoaching for Character by Craig Clifford and Randolph Feezell (1997).

This book deals with how to develop players that have respect; respect for opponents, their team mates, officials, their coach and the game. While the techniques and tactics of sport often get the headlines, an even more important aspect is how sport can develop the whole athlete; this book is a good starting point in understanding how to develop character.


The following books have been recommended to me by readers. As I haven’t read them (yet) myself I haven’t got any further detail on them, but you can get a synopsis from the Amazon links for each. Where I have come across a good review I have linked to it for you, or have added in notes from the people that recommended it. If you have read any of these put your thoughts into the comments and I will update the entries.

Developing sport expertiseDeveloping Sport Expertise: Researchers and Coaches Put Theory into Practice (2013).

See Jamie Taylor’s review of this book. I have had a few people recommend this book to me now.

total training for team sports

Total Training for Coaching Team Sports by Tudor Bompa (2006).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

a lifetime of lessons on and off the courtA Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by John Wooden (1997).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

wooden on leadershipWooden on Leadership by Steve Jamieson (2005).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

woodenYou Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and Practices by Swen Nater (2010).

Reader’s comment: “This is by one of John Woodens’ players and one of the two researchers who followed Wooden for a full year studying his approach and techniques. Insightful and useful.”

art and science coachingCoaching: The Art and the Science – The Complete Guide to Self Management, Team Management, and Physical and Psychological Preparation by Dave Chambers (2013).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

Coaching WisdomCoaching Wisdom, Champion Coaches and Their Players Share Successful Leadership Principles by Mike Harrity (2012).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

Winning mattersWinning Matters by Frank Dick (2010).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

Inside out coachingInSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives by Joe Ehrmann (2011).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

practice to learn play to winPractice to Learn, Play to Win by Mark Guadagnoli (2009).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

Education of a coachThe Education of a Coach by David Halberstam (2006).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.


coaching mental excellenceCoaching Mental Excellence: It Does Matter Whether You Win or Lose by Ralph Vernacchia, Richard T. McGuire and David Lamar Cook.

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.


Motor learning in practiceMotor Learning in Practice: A Constraints-Led Approach by Ian Renshaw, Keith Davids and Geert J.P. Savelsbergh (2011).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.


General books

These are some general books that I have read that can be applied to coaching. They are well worth reading, and for those that you have read already, think about how you can apply their ideas to coaching.

mindset dweckMindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (2007).

This is a must-read book for all coaches. Dweck describes the two mindsets – fixed and growth. These mindsets are very relevant to coaching, as how you coach can influence the mindsets of your players. Players with growth mindsets are much more likely to be successful and to continue participating in sport. There is an article on this blog regarding mindsets and motivation which is based on this book.

tipping point gladwellThe Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (2003).

The ideas in this book can be applied to coaching if you are in a situation where you need to influence other people or are trying to get an idea off the ground. Good examples would be trying to get a coaching philosophy accepted throughout a club or getting an organisation to buy-in to your vision for how coaching could look within it.

outliers gladwellOutliers by Malcolm Gladwell (2011).

This book discusses the development of talent, looking at how the “10,000 hour rule” applies across a range of domains. An important message for coaches is that talent is not born but rather made through consistent, extended effort.

BlinkBlink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (2007).

Blink takes a look at how people make decisions, by looking at how we ‘think without thinking’. A highly interesting book in its own right, its implications can – and should – be applied to coaching.

talent is overratedTalent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin (2010).

The central theme of this book is the idea that success and high-achievement are not attained through luck or talent (natural ability), but rather through “deliberate practice”. For coaches this highlights the importance of creating the environment in which deliberate practice will occur and fostering the attitude within their players to engage in this level of training.

art of learningThe Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Joshua Waitzkin (2008).

This book tells the author’s story of becoming a world champion in two very different disciplines – chess and Tai Chi Chuan. The focus of the book is learning and how to turn failures into positives. This book is a good compliment to Mindset as it shows how one individual has applied the growth mindset principles.

art of possibilityThe Art of Possibility by Roseman and Pete Zander (2002).

This book describes how to take difficult or challenging situations, and through how you view them, turn them into opportunities for growth and success. Having this positive mindset is important for coaches, and allows you to then develop it in your athletes.

emotional intelligenceEmotional Intelligence by Daniel Golemen (2005).

The idea of Emotional Intelligence is one that is very relevant to coaching. Emotional intelligence refers to your understanding of yourself and your ability to relate to others. As coaching is a relationship, the effectiveness of your coaching is dependent upon your ability to relate to, understand, and be understood by your athletes. This book goes in detail into the topic of Emotional Intelligence.

talent codeThe Talent Code by Daniel Coyle (2009).

This book examines three practices that will allow you to improve your performance and reach your potential. These are deep practice (the deliberate practice mentioned above), Ignition (motivation) and Master Coaching – the role of the coach in bringing out the best in the people they are working with.

Source of PowerSources of Power: How People Make Decisions by Gary Klein (1999).

In this book Gary Klein looks at how people make decisions in high-pressure , stressful situations, often under time constraints. The role of the recognition of perceptual cues is very applicable for coaching when examining skill acquisition and decision making.

Inner game of tennisThe Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey (1974).

In this classic book Timothy Gallwey talks about how people can clear their mind and remove the internal distractions that prevent optimal performance. It discusses how to find the state of “relaxed concentration” (sometimes called ‘flow’) that allows people to perform to their best. If you have an interest in sport psychology or performance then this is one book you need to read.

Just let the kids playJust Let the Kids Play by Bob Bigelow (2001).

In this book Bob discusses how to set up teams that foster fair play, skill development and social interaction. He talks a lot about how to manage parents and the perils of children specialising too early. This book really is a must-read if you are involved in the development of children.

KaizenKaizen: The Key To Japan’s Competitive Success by Masaaki Imai (1986).

While this book focuses largely on production and business, the underlying theme is very relevant to coaching: the idea of continuous improvement. This book talks about getting employees (athletes) to actively search for ways to improve, leading to the overall improvement of the organisation. Think about how you could apply this to coaching your own athletes.

Coaching for performanceCoaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose – The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership, 4th Edition by John Whitmore (2009).

In this book John Whitmore talks about how to get the best out of people, by allowing them to take ownership of their learning. The book discusses the GROW model and the learning cycle. This is a great book for improving your ability to help others to improve their performance and I highly recommend you read it.

flow bookFlow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2008).

This book examines the flow state, where time slows down, action seems effortless, and the highest levels of performance are achieved. In sport we are looking for our athletes to get into the flow state as often as possible. This book focuses on how to get into a state of flow more often.

bounce matthew syedBounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success by Matthew Syed (2011).

This is another interesting book that looks at the role of talent and again discusses the importance of deliberate practice. It also looks at aspects such as anticipation and recognition of cues, which can be translated into coaching within a dynamical systems approach.

raising a good sportRaising a Good Sport in an In-Your-Face World by George Selleck (2003).

This book is written for parents, however, it is still a good read for coaches. It looks at how to raise players that are good sports. It has a lot of practical advice and coaches should be familiar with its concepts so that they can reinforce them – with both their athletes and their parents.

in pursuit of excellenceIn Pursuit of Excellence: 4th Edition by Terry Orlick (2008).

This book focuses on the psychological aspects of performance. Topics include intensity, relaxation, distraction control, goal setting and resilience. It contains a number of real-life examples and gives a good perspective on what goes into achieving excellence.


These next books I haven’t read but have also been recommended to me by readers. If you have any of your own to add place them in the comments below. Again I have linked to reviews or added reader’s comments as I don’t yet have anything to add myself; feel free to comment if you have read them.

The Sports GeneThe Sports Gene by David Epstein (2013).

This book has been recommended to me highly by several people now. (I believe) it is in a similar vein to books such as The Talent Code, Talent is Overrated and Bounce. But I will need to read it first to confirm that!

You can read Jamie Taylor’s review of the book here.

The winner withinThe Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players by Pat Riley (1993).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

team buildingTeambuilding: The Road to Success by Rinus Michels (2001).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

Practice perfectPractice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better by Doug Lemov (2012).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

the score takes care of iteslfThe Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh (2010).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

The goldmine effectThe Gold Mine Effect: Crack the Secrets of High Performance by Rasmus Ankerson (2012).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

Start with WhyStart with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek (2011).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

thinking fast and slowThinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2013).

Read Jamie Taylor’s review of this book


Accelerated learningAccelerated Expertise: Training for High Proficiency in a Complex World by Robert Hoffman, Paul Ward, Paul Feltovich, Lia DiBello, Stephen Fiore and Dee  Andrews (2013).

Reader’s comment: ” This book looks at how we might begin to trim down the 10 years and 10,000 hours. This is a detailed review of the literature and studies from multiple formats going back over the last 30 years. The authors have been part of the team that has previously published the two major books on the subject of Expertise with K. Anders Ericsson.”

working mindsWorking Minds: A Practitioner’s Guide to Cognitive Task Analysis by Beth Crandall, Gary Klein and Robert Hoffman (2006).

Readers comment: “This book looks at how we can get at the actual cognitive processes in expert’s thinking to be able to accelerate expertise development/teaching”‘.

the power of habbitThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (2014).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.

David and GoliathDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell (2013).

This is one Malcolm Gladwell book that I haven’t read yet, however, I have had it recommended to me by readers. Do you have a review of it?

Lou HoltzWinning Every Day: The Game Plan for Success by Lou Holtz (1999).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.


Beyond talentBeyond Talent: Become Someone Who Gets Extraordinary Results by John C. Maxwell (2011).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.


The rare findThe Rare Find: How Great Talent Stands Out by George Anders (2012).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.


LegacyLegacy by James Kerr (2013).

Have you read this book? If so comment below with your review and I will update the description.


5 thoughts on “Recommended coaching books

  1. This is a great list. I recommend adding “Crucial Conversations” by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Al Switzler, and Ron McMillan. It outlines how to identify important topics (from person to person) and how to deal with them. It prepares the reader for dealing with those situations and how to carefully navigate high stress or highly important conversations. It’s more business oriented but applies to any leadership position.

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