Erica's list of recommended reading

written by Erica Quam

I know there are plenty of books that you pick up and read for your team. 

Many of you recommend some awesome books for your athletes to read during the summer. 

This is a great way to get your athletes on the same page and have resources to help you build trust and create a common language together.

And...because you're always thinking about your athletes and looking for things that will benefit THEM, sometimes things that may apply to YOU and your unique challenges as a coach aren't necessarily on your radar.

That's where I come in! 

I'm always reading books and thinking about YOU the coach!

So, I'm giving you a list of six books I'm recommending - specifically for coaches.

I'm also letting you know why I've selected each book - instead of just giving you the list.

My intention is to share why I think I believe each of these different books can be valuable to you - specifically - as a coach.

Also, I'm hoping that by sharing why I'm recommending each book will help you overcome a little resistance and inspire you to actually read (or listen) to any one of these books this summer

I've tried to vary these up to cover a range of subjects and are the most common ones that I refer to the coaches I work with during the year.

1. Your Brain At Work by David Rock

The reason I'm recommending this book is because the most common thing I hear from ALL coaches is about how busy you are.

The number of phrases you have for the overwhelm you feel gets more and more creative each season:  "I'm swamped!" "I'm in the weeds!" "I'm outta control." "My head's underwater." "I'm in serious survival mode." "Just trying to make it through the day!"

One of the reasons you're so overwhelmed is because of the type of work that you do. 

You're not like someone who works a 9 to 5 job. You can't just use willpower and a checklist to get all the things done that you need to do.

You have to learn how to better manage your brain so you optimize how you work based on how your brain works.

I like this book because it's written in a way that you can understand the actual neuroscience of what's going on in your brain. It also gives you tangible ways and strategies to manage yourself.

It'll show you where you've failed, steps you can take to help you be more productive, and help you understand why you feel this way.

This was on my list last year, too. Did you read it? If not, that's why I'm including it again.

2. Difficult Conversations by Stone, Patton, and Heen

You are expected to know how to have difficult conversations.

Yet, most coaches I know do a great job of procrastinating, avoiding, denying, or ignoring a simple conversation that has the potential to free them up from so much wasted time and energy.  Instead their minds race and thoughts spin with worries, doubts, and fears instead of cutting to the chase.

I think one of the reasons coaches avoid difficult conversations is because of the way things have gone in the past.

What I've found is when coaches have a framework they can refer to, strategies they can use, and examples of words they can use they are able to have difficult conversations much sooner with a lot more success.

The only people who shouldn’t read Difficult Conversations are those who never work with people, anywhere.
— Peter M. Senge

Whether you need to have a talk with your assistant coach, negotiate with your boss, or you disagree with your partner, this book is a must-have for your coaching toolbox.

Pick this book up and you'll quickly see it was written in 1999 and is still applicable today. Be sure to grab the latest version that has an updated section with frequently asked questions about difficult conversation.

3. Start Here Now by Susan Piver

This book is a simple guide to meditation. 

Now, I know...meditation is all the rage these days.  It's becoming more and more common for coaches to implement meditation or other mindful practices like yoga with your teams.

Yet, do you do it yourself?

If you're like most coaches I work with, you have a lot of resistance to sitting around doing nothing. You've got too many things on your to-do list!

There's so much value in finding even 5 minutes a day to sit quietly. 

Most coaches I know are on the quest to find the latest and greatest app that's the key to being a 'successful meditator'.

The key to this practice is more simple.  It's your willingness to commit.  It's not relying on anything outside yourself - like your smartphone - that 9 times out of 10 will end up distracting you and pulling you away from this powerful habit to go do something else.

Why THIS book vs. all the other meditation books that are out there? 

It's short, it's small, it's funny, and it's real.

Ethan Nichtern's review sums it up best..."Piver's down-to-earth instructions, heartfelt advice, great writing, and humor to cut through all the BS that modern spiritual teachings sometimes bog themselves down with. A great book by a great teacher, for anyone looking to start a real meditation practice the right way."

4. Getting Grit by Caroline Adams Miller

This book was a gift from a coach and good friend of mine. She sent it to me because she thought I'd like it. She was TOTALLY right! 

Caroline Adams Miller swam at Harvard for Stephanie Walsh Beilman - the first Harvard Women's Coach - who passed away this past August. 

Angela Duckworth's book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance became an instant bestseller in 2016. Since then, questions have come up grit always good? Can people build more grit? Do we have enough grit to handle the challenges we face today?

Why is grit important right now?  

Caroline sums this up in the intro, "Some psychologists note that the "dumbing down" of playgrounds into plastic contraptions surrounded by pillows of wood chips, so that children can avoid injuries and skinned knees, has created generations of anxious adults who grow up afraid to climb trees or take risks."

This book clearly defines and categorizes grit - including good and bad grit. She also discusses the key ingredients for grit that comes with a warning label.

What I love the most about this book are the bold headings, reflective questions, and simple exercises that give coaches simple strategies to use with your teams.

5.  Self Compassion by Kristin Neff

I wrote a little bit about this book last week as a resource for your athletes.

This week, I'm writing to recommend you read this one for yourself. 

There's a lot of evidence-based wisdom in this book.  

Dr. Neff is incredibly generous with the resources she provides you as a reader. You can begin with the self-compassion scale on her website and then access the many simple and helpful exercises throughout the book.

I'm guessing if you're like many of the coaches I work with you have high expectations, are a bit of a perfectionist, and are harder on yourself when you make mistakes than anyone else could be.  This judgement and criticism is actually quite destructive - on our health, wellbeing, and our relationships.

What would change for you in your life right now if you were more kind to yourself? 

Read this book to find out why, what, and how to change. It's bound to change your life in at least some small way.

6. Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

The subtitle of this book says, "The quest for true belonging an the courage to stand alone."

Does that subtitle sound daunting? It's meant to be. It's a paradox. 

Dr. Brown defines a paradox as the most spiritual tool we have that comes close to describing the complexes of humanity.

What Brené Brown does so beautifully is put simple words to concepts that are super complex - like trust, relationships, courage, and belonging.  She describes the time we're living in as a "spiritual crisis of disconnection." 

There will be something in this book that will strike a chord, give you chills, and help you relate to yourself and your athletes at a deeper level.

Get the book to read, take notes in, and highlight.  Listen to author Brené Brown read it to you in Audible. Do both...and.

There are plenty of ways you can apply what you're reading to your work as a coach. I'd encourage you to read this and apply it to your life as a person.


1. Get the actual book.

I know. There are tons of ways to 'read books' today. You can get an electronic version to read on your phone. You can listen to books being read to you. This may be a great thing to do when you're traveling or commuting. And if it's the only way you can do it, then great. 

There's something different about having your own copy of the actual, physical book...different in terms of how your brain receives the information and remembers it.

2. Read with a highlighter.

Highlight the parts that you'd want to come back to and re-read again.

Take notes as you go - in the actual book.

Reading helps to stir up memories of the past or ideas for the future. You can connect with what you read experientially at times.

The act of taking notes and writing things down - words, ideas, phrases to come back to - can help you remember what you read.

3. Take notes on a notecard as you go.

It's valuable to have a process for how you read. It's so easy to get distracted and pulled away when you're reading.

Give your brain as many opportunities as possible to remember the actual content.

Now, it's your turn. Share which of these you're going to pick up first and why you're choosing to read it.