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Summer Reading: Book Recommendations from Play Like a Champion

With school out and temperatures heating up, summer is once again upon us! While those of us in the adult world may not get to spend the next two months sleeping until Noon or relaxing poolside (to be young again…) here’s hoping that you’ve got some summer vacation planned that provides much needed rest and relaxation!

For many of us, that rest and relaxation goes best with a good book. It’s with that in mind that we present Play Like a Champion’s Summer Reading Recommendations. The following books are perfect for the administrator, coach, parent or perhaps even the ambitious student-athlete who doesn’t want to turn their mind off completely while school is out. From leadership and culture to sports science, we picked out a few different options for the curious mind.

So find a shady spot, pour yourself a cold drink, and crack open one of the following books this summer (bonus points for reading them all). Let us know your thoughts on the books listed here and share your own recommendations in the comments!

The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

This New York Times Bestseller comes recommended by pretty much everyone who has read it. This includes legendary swim coach and friend of Play Like a Champion Tim Welsh, who notes the book is filled “with lots and lots of practical coaching and leadership advice”. The book is a good one for any coach or administrator looking to build the culture of a school or team. Coyle dives into some of the world’s most successful organizations to learn what makes them so successful, among them the Navy SEALs and the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Along the way he considers where great culture comes from and how to build it yourself.

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

Hutchinson is an accomplished distance runner and a trained physicist, but you need not be either to enjoy his fascinating look at the science of endurance. Using an array of interesting stories to provide real-life examples, Hutchison dives into key areas like pain, oxygen, and hydration while attempting to unlock the secrets behind our mental and physical limitations. His exhaustive research pays off by giving the reader a wealth of information that can be useful to athletes in every sport, as well as our daily lives. Coaches and athletes will learn something new on nearly every page and the author's writing keeps it entertaining and accessible to a wide audience.

iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood – and What That Means for the Rest of Us. By Jean M. Twenge

Today's children and young adults have been the subject of a great deal of recent research as we learn about how they differ from previous generations and the impact they'll have on the world around them. Twenge provides a compelling profile of this so called Generation Z (or iGen) while considering what research says about how they learn, what they think, and how they interact with others. Given that these are the children we currently coach and teach, it's an important topic that we can all benefit from learning more about.

(Bonus: Coming to our Leadership Conference this summer? Kathleen Hessert will be presenting on this topic as well. Learn more here!)

The Road to Character by David Brooks

Another New York Times Bestseller, The Road to Character examines the lives of inspiring leaders to learn more about how they created and sustained a strong inner character. From Dorothy Day to Dwight Eisenhower and beyond, Brooks considers what these leaders learned that we still need to and how we might follow their example. Brooks, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times and contributor to a number of other national news organizations, also takes a broader view of our modern culture's take on "character" and whether we're heading in the right direction. Given Play Like a Champion's emphasis in moral development, we were drawn to the topic as an important element of all athletic individuals and teams. At over 600 pages it's not a quick read, but we think if you spend the time you'll take away a number of important lessons and plenty of food for thought.

The Captain Class by Sam Walker

Newly released in paperback, The Captain Class takes a look at the core characteristics of leadership through the lens of championship teams and the individuals who lead them. Walker set out to research what he found were the 17 most dominant teams in sports history, finding that they shared in common a singular leader, or captain. His research reveals what traits foster sustained success and may challenge your previous assumptions in leadership. Very much both a book about sports and a business leadership book, Walker's book is enlightening and entertaining throughout. Don't believe us? Just click the link above and take a look at the comments made by countless sports executives and coaches who also found this book valuable. We think it will help your athletes and teams as well.

Legacy by James Kerr

Published in 2013, this book has quickly become a classic in sports leadership. We were tempted to leave this off given that many of you may have already read it, but couldn't help put it here in case you haven't picked it up (or want to read it again). Legacy is Kerr's look at New Zealand Rugby, as the All Blacks are easily one of the most dominant and successful sports teams in history. Kerr shares 15 lessons that can transform a sports team, a business, or really any endeavor. It's a relatively quick read that will leave you better prepared to lead, no matter what kind of team or organization you're a part of.

The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny

Our final entry on this list is the only one written by a current professional coach. Matheny is the manager of the Saint Louis Cardinals and for the purposes of this book, a youth baseball coach as well. Matheny's "manifesto" was born out of a letter he wrote to parents on a youth baseball team he was asked to coach. Frustrated by a culture that seemed to promote all the wrong things, he agreed to coach but only if the team did things "his way." Though Matheny admits expecting parents to read his "manifesto" and move on to another coach, what he found was quite different. Parents welcomed an approach that puts development and team first while teaching life lessons. His letter became an internet sensation and eventually led to this book. It's a good read for parents and coaches of all ages that hits on many important points. We also think you'll recognize a number of themes that resonate with the Play Like a Champion approach!

Don't forget to leave your own recommendations and comments on the books listed here in our comment section below! Help us develop a great list of book recommendations and perhaps we'll be back later this summer with a few more options...

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