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

Best Athletic Development Books of 2011: Part II

For my midyear report from several months ago, please go HERE.

This post will review some of my favorite books (excluding textbooks) from the second half of the year.  While most are not formally "athletic development" books, all are related in some way to the field of athletic development.  If anything, the variety of these book topics should underscore how athletic development goes well beyond the X's and O's of coaching.

The Heart and the Fist.  Eric Greitens.  

  • Autobiography of Navy SEAL Lt.Cmdr. Eric Greitens.  There’s another word for Lt.Cmdr. Greitens: Superman.  College boxing champion, Oxford grad, international humanitarian worker, SEAL officer.  This book covers a lot of ground, from detailing his experiences as an aid worker, to his realization that he needed a “fist” to complement his “heart” in trying to serve the needs of those he tried to help in war torn land.  Becoming a SEAL was his way to provide himself the means to effect the change he was trying to make.  Though not directly on point with athletics, he does provide an interesting look into his thought process during BUD/S training, which was a blend of intense focus with bemusement.  With that type of mindset during that stressful of a period, it’s no wonder his whole life is a model of success.

The Talent Code.  Daniel Coyle.  

  • I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, but it is in high demand at the local libraries.  Finally got high enough on the reserve list to snag a copy.  This book gives a detailed account of the practice and preparation habits shared by top performers in a variety of fields.  Skill acquisition is not innate, but is largely a product of preparation and years of diligent work. Though the 10,000 hour rule has come under criticism recently, the lessons of purposeful practice are indubitable.     

The Brain that Changes Itself.  Dr. Norman Doidge, MD.  

  • Explore the magic of neuroplasticity.   Amazing read.  The connection to athletics may seem tenuous at best to outsiders, but the sports performance and rehab fields are starting to gain greater appreciation of the brain’s role in movement.   Dr. Doidge provides fascinating insight from extreme medical cases of neurological magic to demonstrate how the brain is an ever evolving organ that, contrary to previous thinking, is not hardwired from birth but is instead of constant change and adaptability.  Think of this book as neuroscience-lite.   

The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Michael Pollan

  • This is a book about corn.  Well…a little more than that, but corn is a central theme.  Pollian offers a highly provocative look at how corn impacts all aspects of nutrition in the modern American diet and how the American meal and the preparation of such is woven into the fabric of American life.  You won’t look at food the same way after reading this book.  Not better or worse…just different.     

Anatomy of Breathing.  Blandine Calais-Germain

  • This book is epic.  One of the most detailed looks at breathing you will find.  Interestingly, I read this book around the time I saw Sue Falsone speak about the thoracic spine and breathing at an NSCA conference, so it was valuable to both read and hear the same information.  I’m still working through some of the many exercise breakouts. 

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyseey of Pat Tillman.  John Krakauer.  

  • Again, not specifically a sports book, but nonetheless a fascinating look into the life and death of a fascinating American icon.

The Four Hour Work Week.  Timothy Ferriss. 

  • Lots of valuable time management lessons from this book.  Many people I look up to in the strength and conditioning field had recommended this book, so I figured it was worth the read.  I can’t say that everything in the book is relevant to me (I don’t expect to hire a personal assistant in India anytime soon…), but there are several take-home points that can help improve overall life and work efficiency for better productivity and satisfaction. 

Ironwar.  Matt Fitzgerald. 

  • Compelling look at the epic 1989 Ironman duel between Mark Allen and Dave Scott.  This book covers not just the race itself, but also takes a close look at the history and culture of triathlon, along with the lives of the two main combatants in one of triathlon’s most storied races.  It even gets into some interesting scientific areas dealing with the body’s ability to tolerate pain during long distance endurance competition.  Much better than I expected, in part because one of the books I read was…

You are an Ironman.  Jacques Steinberg. 

  • Well written, but OMG(!) those athletes in the book were some of the biggest training idiots I have ever seen.  Exercising oneself into patienthood is probably the best way to describe it.  Pretty much every stupid training tactic you could think of, they managed to pull off!  This book was like watching a car wreck…painful to observe but hard to take your eyes way. 


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