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Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Best Athletic Development Books of 2011: Mid-Year Report

Some geeks like me still read good old fashioned books made of paper...Here's a list of my top five best reads from the first half of 2011. Honorable mention goes to Hard Work: A Life on and Off the Court (by University of North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams) and Boy Racer (autobiography of the leading sprinter on the professional cycling tour, Mark Cavendish).

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell: Blink is often recommended by Gray Cook and those heavily involved with the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), and after having read it I can see why. The FMS and its corrective algorhythm is itself a an exercise in pattern recognition and "thin slicing". The story of the Chicago hospital that improved its heart attack diagnosis accuracy with focus on four key factors and a commitment to the follow up algorhythm was the most poignant example with similarities to what we do with athletes.

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers is a great read for anyone seeking a better understanding of what makes the highest achievers who they are. Greatness requires the right blend of talent, commitment, and environment. While talent alone is not sufficient, without the right supporting network talent will not be expressed. One of my favorite examples is of the Beatles, who spent years toiling in obscurity on the club circuit under suboptimal performing conditions before hitting it big. A good read to survey the common elements of great performers in a wide variety of fields.

Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, by Robert Sapolsky: In the last year, many people that I look up to the strength and conditioning field have highly recommended this book, and Professor Sapolsky did not disappoint. This scientific yet wildly entertaining (pardon the pun) work by Sapolsky offers an easily understandable discussion of why and how stress can literally kill us. Some stress is good, but much of the stress we create in our lives and in our training programs undermines our efforts as coaches. Sapolsky explains the basis of stress from its evolutionary foundation and heightens our vigilance as coaches to improve our control of stressors in our athletes.

Mindset, by Carol Dweck: Dweck A Stanford coach recommended this book to me and I was finally able to get my hands on it at the library. Professor Dweck, a professor of pyschology at Stanford, breaks mindsets into two types: Fixed and Growth. Much like Outliers, Mindset takes a look into what makes the great ones great, though Professor Dweck spends significant time presenting negative examples of the Fixed mindset (John McEnroe, Lee Iacocca, and the Enron clan are clear examples of the Fixed mindset).

The Body Has a Mind of It's Own, Sandra and Matthew Blakeslee: Perhaps my favorite of the quintet, this work helps us appreciate the preeminence of the brain in everything we do. The athletic world often gets wrapped up in areas like muscles and cardiac output (both critical in themselves), but a true understanding of performance requires an appreciation for the role of the brain in mapping the world around us.

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