A book by an Australian who coaches Aussie Rules Football in Canada, narrated by a Brit. That’s what the audio version of The Tough Stuff by Cody Royle is. It made for an interesting listening experience.

The focus of this book is mainly you the coach, which is definitely different from many titles out there. It’s not a long book, with only 7 chapters (about 5 hours in audio). Their titles give you a sense of the book’s concentration:

  1. Everyone thinks you’re an idiot
  2. Your fiercest rival is yourself
  3. You don’t possess the God Particle
  4. You’re not a coach
  5. You’re hired for your brain
  6. Every word counts
  7. Tactics don’t really matter

As you can see, the first five chapters are very focused on you. A lot of it is not dissimilar to discussions of athlete health and wellness. That includes things like getting enough sleep and how fatigue influences your decision-making (note: caffeine might make you feel more alert, but doesn’t help decision-making). There is definitely a “the coach should walk the walk, not just talk the talk” to that aspect of things. If not, not only does it come off as hypocritical, but it also means the coach isn’t performing at their best.

Chapters 6 and 7 are where most of the discussion of working with the team comes in to play. I’m guessing the Chapter 7 title, in particular, caught your attention. Here’s the full quote underlying that:

“Tactics don’t really matter Teams don’t win because of their tactics, they win because of their cohesion. Building better teams requires coaches to rethink preparation and focus on connection rather than correction.”

Of course, the author doesn’t really mean tactics don’t matter at all. He’s saying, instead, that team cohesion is ultimately a bigger driver. Tactics won’t make up for a squad that can’t work well together.

If you’re looking for a book with a bunch of proscriptions on how to make your team better, you won’t find it here. If, however, you can understand the idea that someone who is holistically better as a coach does a better job, then you’ll be able to take nuggets out of this book.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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