“What’s the Best Book to Give my Players?”

One thing I get a lot (especially this time of year) is coaches reaching out asking for book recommendations for their players. Some coaches like to send their players, or maybe just their captains, home with a book for the summer. Below are my 10 favorite suggestions:

For a list of my favorite basketball books for coaches, click HERE.

Legacy by James Kerr
My favorite recommendation because I think the author keeps the reader engaged with his use of story-telling and catch phrases. I gave it to our point guard for him to read last summer and there were several subjects that we referenced all year – Sweep the Sheds, No Dickheads, Keep a Blue Head).

Mindset by Carol Dweck
Here is what’s tough with this kind of thing: you don’t want to risk giving your players something too long or complicated that they won’t find interest in it. If you were to ask me, what’s one thing away from basketball you would want the players on your roster to pick up this summer, my answer would be easy: establish a “growth mindset.” Dweck’s book is fantastic (coaches: read it if you haven’t), but I worry it’s a bit too academia for a guy reading it on his own. “Growth Mindset” teaching might be better to attack in the fall via a guest speaker or two. Come to think of it, Grit by Angela Duckworth might be a better summer-read for players.

The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team by Mike Krzyzewski
Coach K’s account of the 2008 “Redeem Team” may not have the obvious teaching points of the some of the other books on the list, but what is does have is cache with bonafide NBA stars like LeBron, Kobe and Melo as subjects. The chapter on the team choosing its standards is terrific and could set the table for your team doing a similar exercise in the fall when you get back together. My notes on the book can be found HERE.

The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life by John Miller
QBQ is Brad Stevens’ favorite book to give to players. It gets bonus points for being a very quick read (only 160 pages). In the book, Miller outlines simple techniques for the reader to improve his/her personal accountability. Growth can be actualized if individuals narrow their scope and really focus on their efforts or actions rather than worrying about the circumstances or people that surround them.

Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off the Court by Jay Bilas
Sure it’s cheesy, but Bilas’ book does a nice job of getting the reader (your player) to think of what it means to truly play with toughness. One thing I really like about this book is how Bilas, over the course of 275 pages, defines toughness in behavioral terms. Defining core values in behavioral terms is one of the best things you can do for your players.

The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Team by Sam Walker
Walker’s book is a good one to share with your captains. It reads a bit too much like a how-to manual for me, but nonetheless can really help your potential team leaders by giving them examples of famous sports stars growing into leadership roles.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
A very spiritual book, this one is definitely not for all of your players, but there might be a guy on your roster that could be helped by this book. Tom Brady says that “Four Agreements” changed his life and has adopted many of the book’s teachings as personal mantras. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, Ruiz exposes you to the self-limiting beliefs that live within you and offers a way to eliminate them and to live a life of freedom and happiness.

Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon
Another book that has an unmistakeable amount of cheesiness, but Gordon’s books are good because they’re quick, easy-to-read, have meaningful messages, and, most importantly, offer opportunities to have actionable exercises when your team gets back together. I’ve known teams that started their first ten practices of the year by giving over one rule per day in a 2-3 minute talk.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink
Written by two former Navy SEALs, Extreme Ownership engages the reader and offers practical advice to improve as a leader. It’s a tad long at 350 pages, but there’s enough in here to keep guys turning the page.

Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Greitens
I initially published this post without this title included, but had to go back and add it in. Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, wrote his book in a series of letters to a former SEAL buddy of his who had left the service and is now struggling with PTSD and alcoholism. For your players, there are a ton of great lessons to take away.

If I missed one you really like, shoot me an email at zakboisvert@gmail.com

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