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Stay Mentally Fit with These 10 Books

A few years ago we asked some of the top names in ultimate coaching to share their favorite books for learning useful leadership skills and becoming a more effective team captain. These reads are still some of our favorites today but we've also added a few onto the list. Check out what Ben Wiggins, Lou Burruss, Robyn Wiseman, and the Five team have to recommend.

Pro tip: Start a book club with your teammates to check some of these off your list! You can use zoom or gchat to stay in touch with each other while discussing themes, leadership qualities, and best practices for the future of your team!

1. The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey

"This is the classic book about the mind in sports and a must-read. It introduces the concept of the two-mind brain and discusses the conflict for attention between the Doing Brain and the Word Brain. (My terminology.) It provides some practical suggestions for players and coaches. It is quite short, but if you want more detail, follow up with the first third of Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow." - Lou Burruss

2. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

"This book outlines different strategies and an understanding of how people are able to demonstrate grit even through the most difficult of circumstances." - Robyn Wiseman

3. The Last Season: A Team in Search For its Soul by Phil Jackson

"Phil had to manage some difficult personalities that season with the Lakers. I think he does a great job of framing that issue, as well as mapping out an entire season (and a long one at that). Something good for a college team to think about." - Robyn Wiseman

4. The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

"Actively practicing something is very different from passively learning. You will never reach a level of performance that feels complete, so learn to love the art of practicing your skill." - James Clear

5. The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

With very few exceptions, people get smarter as they get older. That is most likely due to some combination of their having more experience (which includes reading) and their having made more mistakes. If you are going to captain without the benefit of 20 years of experience, then you are going to make mistakes, so you may as well add the reading.

6. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

"Any history that you find interesting enough to read and with a documented analysis of leaders is good fodder for your mind. Look for contrasts or comparisons with the ways that you would have handled each situation." - Ben Wiggins

7. Range by David Epstein

It has been argued by experts that if you wish to develop a skill or be a leader on the field, one must start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. This book examines the notion that early specialization is the exception, not the rule. Read this one and remind yourself we're in a sport that the majority of us picked up mid-way through life. 

8. Brain Rules by John Medina 

"There are a few great resources to learn about how people learn. Leading people is much more about understanding, listening, and putting them in positions to succeed than it is about saying the right thing or making the big decision." - Ben Wiggins

9. Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

This book aims to figure out what makes top competitors tick. How athletes respond to challenges and what leads them to rise to the occasion or to fall. Do people really benefit from competition? Are we hard-wired for it? 

10. Moby Dick by Herman Melville 

"One of the biggest obstacles for captains is that they’ve been raised in one system of leadership, so they don’t necessarily see all of the possible leadership types and tools available to them. Reading can give you those outgroups, even if it's fiction." - Ben Wiggins

Bonus: Japan vs USA WUGC Gold Medal Match (video)

"One challenge faced by current players is the vast ocean of available film. Unfortunately, most of it is useless from a development standpoint. Highlight reels and sick plays are great, but they aren't telling you much about what to do with your team or how to build an effective offense or defense. This is the best game currently available online. You are watching one of the greatest teams of all-time at the height of their powers (Fury) get beat by a team that is immaculately coached and prepared. Fury brings size, physicality, precision, and execution - they demonstrate one of the best examples of a classic horizontal offense. Japan counters with incredible team defense built on one-and-a-half techniques. (You cover your person and half of another.) And of course, Hirai Eri delivers a performance for the ages." - Lou Burruss