Page Turners for Coaches and Learners: Books worth your (down) time

By Cole Bredahl | Posted 3/30/2020

Football coaches with unexpected free time this spring can stay sharp during downtime with favorite coaching books of USA Football staff members.

From X's & O's to rugby and rowing, check out a title and toss us your thoughts at any of our social channels. 

Aaron Ingram, Senior Manager, U.S. National Teams

“Finding the Winning Edge” by Bill Walsh

This book has everything from strategy to tactics to operations. Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh teaches everything a coach needs to know about developing a winning program.

“No Huddle No Mercy” by Shawn Liotta

This is one of the best books out there on offense. Shawn Liotta, offensive coordinator for the U.S. Under-18 National Team, is the guy to learn offense from.

“Relentless” by Tim Grover

Tim Grover uses his experience training Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and other superstars to teach how to develop an unstoppable mentality.

Andy Ryland, Senior Manager, Education and Training

I think there are a lot of great football books out there for coaches to learn from. However, I would like to highlight a few books related to sports but not centered around football.

“Legacy” by James Kerr

This book is about about the New Zealand All Blacks, the country’s national rugby team. It is incredibly popular and definitely worth a read.

“The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown

The book is about the 1936 USA Rowing team that competes in Berlin, Germany, during Hitler’s reign. College athletes and college teams were the norm competing under our flag at the time. In a lot of ways, they were still boys while competing in the Games, learning who they are, coming together as a crew and going off to try to win gold. It has timeless themes that resonate with coaches.

Note: I love leadership books and have a secret: read titles in topics that interest you. I’ve read a ton of books off friends’ recommendations but when it comes to leadership, I think most books come to the same, or similar conclusions. The question is, “What’s your flavor?”

I love military history and consume books from World War II through our current conflict incessantly, so I tend to read a lot of military leadership. If you love political history, read on presidents, prime ministers and world changers.  If you like adventure and exploration, the Sir Ernest Shackleton books are fantastic. If you tend to be intrigued by business, science or education, read on leaders in those spaces.

“Coaching Better Every Season” by Wade Gilbert

If you are serious about being a better coach, this is a must. This book is for all sports so it’s not about techniques or tactics, but the process of being the best coach and putting together the best season and career you can. There are walk-through sections and exercises that all coaches and staff should go through to explore areas for improvement. A copy of this book has stayed on my desk for years as a resource and reminder to continue to grow, to respect the process and embrace the art and science of coaching as much as learning about the game itself.

Rashad Elby, Senior Coordinator, Education and Training

“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek

Sinek looks at the fundamental reason of why you do what you do. Everyone has a “why.” Everyone has the ability to lead because they are driven by their “why.” When you look at the 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why) you can make a case “Why” is the strongest driving force because it speaks to why you do what you do. This book will make you thoughtfully examine why it is that you do what you do.

“The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life” by Jim Tressel

This book challenges readers to step out of their comfort zone. A series of questions conclude each chapter allowing the reader to take a personal inventory. A lot of books that I have read tell you the “What,” as in “what” you need to do. This books tells you the “what,” but more importantly, the “how.” Readers gain a personal assessment of where they are and are walked through exercises on how to get where they want to be.             

“Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul” by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Mark Donnelly, Chrissy Donnelly and Jim Tunney

Coaches, parents and athletes can all find great value in these short stories spanning an array of sports. Each one has an underlying value associated with sports that will enlighten, move and entertain kids, parents and coaches. Stories of sportsmanship, perseverance, joy, pain, loss, victory, leadership and exhilaration are just some of the topics these pages cover. Memorable and teachable moments packed in these stories await young athletes, parents and coaches.

Curtis Peterson, Director, Marketing

“What is Open?” by Dub Maddox

As coaches, we often understand – through our own lens – what might be a good play call. However, how do we teach that to assistant coaches and players? This book is a great football resource. It’s applicable to any scheme and offers a framework for coaches to understand what is open, what to call, and how to teach that to others. 

“The Assembly Line” by Milt Tenopir

Technique over scheme is something coaches are grabbing onto. Focusing on fundamentals and implementation often generates success. However, adding a lot of complexity – a.k.a. multiple schemes and concepts – can slow your players down. This book, by the late, great Nebraska offensive line coach, definitely touches on scheme, but provides effective concepts for teaching that any coach in the trenches can use.

“Football's Eagle and Stack Defenses” by Ron Vanderlinden

This is probably one of the better books on defense you can find. Inside you'll find Vanderlinden's approaches to each of these systems and how to blend them. This includes everything from fronts to coverage to personnel.