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Five must-read books on coaching

Great coaches know how to sell their vision and inspire their athletes to join them for the journey. They create a culture that promotes continual success and fosters the development of players. They are exceptional motivators and recognize when to push an athlete and when to back off. They have developed a larger coaching philosophy, and only employ tactics that align with that philosophy. Put simply, great coaches go beyond managing the game; they are leaders.

While many coaches have taken the time to record their thoughts on coaching and leadership, we've selected five books by or about coaches that rise above the rest. Each of these provides unique and compelling lessons for leaders in all fields.

1. The Score Takes Care of Itself, by Bill Walsh.

When Walsh learned he had terminal cancer, he decided to chronicle his thoughts on leadership, and we're lucky he did. Walsh led the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl championships in the 1980s. He was known as a genius in coaching circles for developing the West Coast Offense, but his genius extended far beyond X's and Os. In fact, his true genius was two-fold. First, he developed a "Standard of Performance" that set an incredibly high performance bar for every member of the 49ers organization. More importantly, he was able to teach and motivate others to reach for that standard.

2. Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph, by C. Vivian Stringer.

Unless you're a die-hard fan of women's college basketball, chances are you haven't heard of Coach Stringer. Her stated mission is using basketball as a vehicle to create the next generation of leaders and, by all accounts, she has been wildly successful. Stringer is the first women's coach to bring three different teams to the Final Four. Her tale begins with her childhood in Appalachia and continues through the scandal involving shock jock Don Imus's derogatory comments directed at her Rutger's players. Stringer highlights lessons learned from both tragedy and triumph, and how she uses those to inspire her players.

3. Sacred Hoops, by Phil Jackson.

Are Jackson's methods unorthodox? Definitely. But by the time this book was released in 2006, Jackson's teams had already won nine NBA Titles, six with the Bulls and three with the Lakers. So despite his quirky methods for bringing a team together, it's hard to argue with Jackson's effectiveness. In a league where players are motivated to play for their next contract, Jackson is second to none when it comes to managing egos and convincing players to sacrifice their own statistics for the greater good of the team.

4. The Education of a Coach, by David Halberstam.

In his tenure with the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick has crafted an incredibly bland persona. His press conferences are brutal to watch and less revealing than a CIA briefing. Halberstam shatters that persona and exposes the many layers that compose the man who led the Patriots to three Super Bowl championships in a four-year span. Halberstam chronicles Belichick's upbringing, his initiation into the NFL coaching ranks, his failures during his first stint as a head coach with the Cleveland Browns, and his successes with the Patriots. This book provides a nuanced examination into one of the most successful coaches in sport today. More than anything, it chronicles the fascinating growth of a leader.

5. Season of Life, by Jeffrey Marx.

Perhaps the most down-to-earth of the books listed, Season of Life speaks to the power of the everyday leader. On the surface, this book is about a volunteer high school football coach, Joe Ehrmann. Ehrmann coaches at Gilman Prep in Baltimore with Coach Biff, and both excel at creating "men for others", or using football as a vehicle to teach young men larger life lessons that will serve them long after their high school athletic careers have ended. Interwoven in this tale are Marx's perceptions of these lessons, and how they drive him towards strengthening the relationship with his father. Marx proves it's not necessary to coach in the NFL or NBA to have an impact -- we can all find ways to make a difference.

We know what you're thinking: How can you have a best-books-about-coaching list without including anything by or about John Wooden? While we enjoy his books, the ones selected were simply more compelling. That being said, we'd love to hear your thoughts. What do you think about the list, and what books about coaching have inspired you?

Have ideas for the Playlist? Send an email to Joe and Dan.

By Joe Frontiera  |  May 25, 2010; 9:25 AM ET  | Category:  Books Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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WOW !!! More compelling than Wooden ?? I suggest you reread Wooden..then check with Bill Walton..then state that others are more compelling. Thank you.

Posted by: hallkh | May 27, 2010 11:13 AM

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