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The Best Sports Books of 2018

By John O'Sullivan, Changing the Game Project, 11/27/18, 12:00PM CST

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This is for the sport science geeks in the crowd. I loved this book, as it explores and dispels many myths about what maximizes, and what limits, human performance,

Yes, it is that time of year again, time for our favorite books of 2018, and time to get the coaches, parents and athletes in our lives some good holiday reading material. The Changing the Game Project team is always reading, always listening, and always learning, in order to help you take your coaching, parenting, and performance up a notch. This year is no different, as we read and listened to so many great books. As a bonus, we were able to interview almost every author on this list on our podcast, and I have provided a link to the interview as well. Ready to go? Just click on the title or image and you will be transported to Amazon (these are affiliate links, it is the same price for you but we make a few cents per book which helps keep the doors open). Happy holidays!

Our 2018 Book of the Year:

Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Ever since I read this book, my morning routine has changed. I had the honor of meeting James Clear a few years back when we spoke at the same event, and since then his is one of two weekly blogs that I ALWAYS read each week. He has finally compiled his best stuff into a book, and it is incredible (we also interviewed him for our podcast here). There is a reason this book resides on the NY Times Bestseller list, and it has profoundly influenced my own behaviors. Whether you are an athlete, parent, or coach looking to build some better habits and break some bad ones (aren’t we all?) this book is for you. It is also a great book to listen to on Audible (its free if you have never tried Audible before) so click here to check it out.)

Our 2018 Runner-Up:

What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan

I could not put this book down. As a parent of two almost teenagers, and as a coach of teenagers for over two decades, I believe I have a front row seat into the lives and struggles of today’s kids. But this book opened my eyes even further. It details the tragic story of collegiate runner Maddy Holleran, who took her own life in January 2014 by leaping off a 9-story parking garage in downtown Philadelphia. How could a young woman who seemingly has it all – sports star, academic success, popularity, good looks, you name it – take her own life. Author Kate Fagan was given access to all of Maddy’s emails, texts, social media posts, and more, as she attempted to reconstruct the life, and last days of Maddy. This book was un-put-downable. It is incredibly sad, and incredibly relevant to anyone working with today’s kids. (Click here for the audiobook)

2018 Best Books for Parents:

Raising Young Athletes: Parenting Your Children to Victory in Sports and Life by Dr. Jim Taylor

Dr. Taylor is a world-renowned sports psychologist, and his book is based upon decades of working with the parents of world-class performers. It’s a great read and outlines practical steps for providing your kids with what he calls the four pillars of athletic success (Values, sense of self, ownership and perspective) as well as the obstacles to that success (overinvestment, perfectionism, fear of failure, emotions, and expectations). As Dr. Taylor told us on the podcast, “our children become the messages they hear the most.” this book will help you ensure that the messages they receive from us are the right ones.

Minimize Injury, Maximize Performance: A Sports Parent’s Survival Guide by Dr. Tommy John

This book, written by the son of the famous baseball player (sadly more famous for the elbow surgery named after him than his fantastic career), as an excellent guide for parents to help us raise healthy athletes. It speaks to simple activities that our children can do at home, especially if they have gone down the single sport path, to ensure proper movement and mechanics, as well as build strength and movement skills needed for high-performance. From exercise to nutrition, this book will help you to help your kids stay healthy for the long run. (click here to listen to our talk with Tommy).

2018 Best Books for Coaches

The Barcelona Way: Unlocking the DNA of a Winning Culture by Damian Hughes

Hughes is an organizational psychologist who has written multiple books on leadership and teambuilding. His book is a fascinating inside look at what makes championship cultures not only successful but sustainable. He speaks to the importance of what he calls cultural architects – the athletes who help promote and build your culture – as well as how to avoid the cultural assassins. By studying one of the most successful and fascinating cultures in world sports, FC Barcelona under the leadership of Johan Cruyff through Pep Guardiola, he provides some practical tools and ideas for your work with your own teams. (Click here to listen to our interview with Damian Hughes.)

The Future Coach: Creating Tomorrow’s Soccer Players Today by Tom Bates

Let me start by saying that 99% of the material in this book is sport agnostic, and relevant to working with athletes in any arena. Tom Bates just happens to be an English Premier league sports psychologist and top licensed coach. This is one of those books where I dogeared and underlines nearly every page.  Bates outlines 9 key principles for coaches – how to create confidence and culture, accountability, and build relationships just to name a few – and provides practical activities at the end of each section to help you be a future coach. Highly recommended (click here to listen to an interview we did with Tom before his book came out)

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson

This is for the sport science geeks in the crowd. I loved this book, as it explores and dispels many myths about what maximizes, and what limits, human performance, From pain to fuel to oxygen to thirst and heat, what makes us give up, and what helps us keep going. While performance might not be 90% mental as some folks like to say, quitting might be 100% mental! Check out our talk with Alex here, and if you are into sport science that is written and wrapped around some amazing stories – think The Sports Gene by David Epstein- then you will love this book.

2018 Best Book for Athletes:

A Still Quiet Place for Athletes: Mindfulness Skills for Achieving Peak Performance and Finding Flow in Sports and Life by Amy Saltzman

This is the best book we have come across for helping your athletes with the mental game. This should be given to every teen and collegiate athlete. It is easy to use and provides practical tools to learn how to meditate, visualize, focus on the process, and be in the best mental state to perform your best. Click here to listen to Amy’s interview with Coach Reed.

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ABOUT CHANGING THE GAME PROJECT

Changing the Game Project is an organization that is dedicated to returning youth sports to our children and putting a little more "play" back in play ball. Changing the Game Project wants to provide the most influential adults in our children’s lives – their parents and coaches – with the information and resources they need to make sports a healthy, positive and rewarding experience for their children and their whole family.

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