What’s the greatest coaching book ever?

Mark Lebedew flat out says it’s Phil Jackson’s Sacred Hoops. I won’t disagree that it’s a good book. I personally would not call it the best ever. Sorry Mark.

There’s no debating Jackson’s success. I’m going to ask the following question, though. How many rings would Phil have without having had the best players of their respective periods on his teams? This speaks to the degree of impact a coach really has in determining a team’s success, which Mark separately talked about.

Putting the question of Jackson’s coaching greatness aside, though, what generally ends up being the prime factor in someone’s choice of “best” tends to be its impact on that person individually. For me, Sacred Hoops didn’t have much impact. Were there some interesting bits? Sure. I’m relatively well-read in at least part of Jackson’s underlying (Zen Master) philosophy, so from that perspective there wasn’t very much new or novel. For others, though, there could be.

In terms of books with the biggest influence on me as a coach I would have to say They Call Me Coach by John Wooden – with Training Soccer Champions by Anson Dorrance another one I can remember having an impact on me. I’m certainly not the only coach to have Wooden as an influence. His name always comes up when talking about on the subject.

What I realize, though, is that I read that book at a very pivotal point in my early coaching development. As such, it had considerable influence on me. There are definite parts of my coaching philosophy which match Coach Wooden’s, though at this point I don’t know what came from reading his book and what I either already had or developed myself along the way.

My point is that if I read that book now it would probably be far less influential. That’s just the nature of things. As you absorb more knowledge, any new material only provides incremental gains. As such, it’s hard to feel like you’ve read the greatest ever once you’ve been around the block a few times.

So what about you? What’s the best coaching book you’ve ever read?

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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.

    5 replies to "What’s the greatest coaching book ever?"

    • Alessandro

      Win Forever by Pete Carroll; The Gold Standard by Coach K; the chapter on methodology by Carl McGown in Science of Coaching Volleyball.

    • markleb

      Try the same ‘how many rings…?’ exercise with John Wooden by taking Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton (for starters) out of his teams.
      And with Anson Dorrance by taking Mia Hamm and the next 50 greatest women soccer players of all time out of his.
      I think that particular argument is one of the lamest arguments that can be made.

      • John Forman

        You were the one who brought up the degree of influence a coach has on team success. 🙂

        I make no claim here that Wooden or Dorrance are better than Jackson, or even that they are great coaches – though obviously we wouldn’t be talking about their books if they weren’t put in that category on some basis. I merely bring their books up as ones that were highly influential for me at the time I read them. Further, I don’t know that they would have the same influence on me today. My argument is that “greatest” has a lot to do with context.

    • Jim Mercer

      just from the volleyball standpoint, Power Volleyball by Arie Selinger

      • John Forman

        I think I read that when I was like 18. It wasn’t so much a coaching book at that point as an experience learning about how volleyball could be played.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.