• Alex Flanagan

The 10 Essential Books Sports Parents Should Read

How you parent will determine what kind of athlete your child becomes, because athletes aren’t just born, they are raised. Sure genetics play an important role in sports. And since you can’t control genes, shouldn’t you at least kind of understand them, so that as a parent you can determine things like what sport might best suit your child or what areas they are most likely to succeed? The influence sports parents have on their young athletes is monumental. Which means, the way you parent will shape how much grit, persistence and passion your child will have. It will have an impact on how your child overcomes fear, anxiety and disappointment. If you want your kid to experience success playing sports then you need to put some in some work too. Really. Here is our essential reading guide for all sports parents. You will find the pages in these books filled with incredible, well researched and proven pieces of information that we hope will be as helpful to you as they have been to us!

The 10 Essential Books Sports Parents Should Read

Grit by Angela Duckworth

If there is one thing an athlete needs to succeed it might be grit. In Angela Duckworth’s best selling book, the psychologist writes about how the secret to success isn’t about talent, but has more to do with a special combination of persistence and passion. Leaning on research and interviews she did with CEO’s, Spelling Bee finalists, cadets at West Point and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, Grit is an insightful read. The good news is unlike god- given talent, grit can be learned….and parented.


The Talent Code By Daniel Coyle

Coyle’s focus is on ground breaking studies in neurology and his first hand research from visits to some of the world’s greatest “talent hotbeds” in the world. This is a book that digs into how world class talent is developed. I was grabbed by the research on how much time top talent observes other top talent and the role struggles play in success. The Talent Code breaks down the factors that lead to an athlete achieving greatness and also deconstructs pre-existing theories.


The Sports Gene By David Epstein

David Epstein was one of ILTWYP’s first contributors and his post on 5 crucial reasons kids should play multiple sports is still one of our most popular articles. In his captivating book, Epstein examines what genetic factors lead to great athletes. Science is the backbone of his theories and in particular he focuses on body types and traits that are predestined for a particular sport. For example, there is a formula of wingspan to height that favors NBA players and a keen eyesight is determined to be the separating factor for a group of MLB players.


The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance By George Mumford

Author George Mumford is a mindfulness/meditation coach with extensive experience coaching Olympic athletes and collegiate teams. He’s known for his work with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers during their championship seasons in late 1990s and early 2000s. As part of Head Coach Phil Jackson’s support staff, Mumford helped lead the Bulls and Lakers to a total of 11 NBA championships, specifically by helping star players such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant refine their concentration through insight meditation training. It’s a great read for both older athletes and sports parents. There is so much wisdom splashed across the pages, I found myself circling and underlining constantly. And Mumford goes much deeper than just sports, this is a book about life and how to take action on becoming the best person and player possible.


Psychology of Champions: How to win at Sports and Life with the Focus Edge of Super-Athletes

By James L. Barrell Ph.D and David Ryback, Ph.D.

An interesting read that draws on the lessons and advice from some of the greatest athletes to have played their respective sports. Parents and coaches will gain insight from the anecdotal and personal memories the athletes recount. Learn the successful practices and thinking habits of famous athletes and how they overcome fear, disappointment and anxiety. Also a book that has many lessons that can apply outside of sports and in everyday life.


How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

By Paul Tough

This is a book about what makes kids successful. There is a good chance it isn’t what you think. Through his research in neuroscience, psychology and economics, Tough argues that what matters most when it comes to a kid’s success isn’t a child’s intelligence, but rather their character and whether or not they have skills like grit, curiosity, optimism and conscientiousness . There is a reason this book spent more than a year on the New York Times Best Seller list.


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success By Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

In 20 years reporting on sports, this is the book I’ve most often heard referenced by coaches, sports psychologists and specialists. The author, now considered a world-renowned psychologist, in part because of what she wrote about in this book, Dweck started studying how children cope with failure when she was a graduate student in the 1970’s. In this game changing book she shares why the outcome of a problem can be affected based on how we think about it. Her concept of the fixed mindset and the growth mindset have been embraced by educators, companies, CEO and athletes around the world.


Concussions and Our Kids: America’s Leading Expert on How to Protect Young Athletes and Keep Sports Safe By Robert Cantu, M.D. and Mark Hyman

You might not want to read this one, but if you have a child playing sports you should read it. A cutting edge book written by one of the leaders in the field of concussions. Part manifesto, part manual, it is a guide for sports parents on how they can help reduce concussions in youth sports and prevent long term brain trauma. Don’t be that parent who thinks their child is immune from head injuries and the long term side effects.


Coach – 25 Writers Reflect On People Who Made A Difference Edited by Andrew Blauner

Any parent involved in youth sports should read this to be reminded of the potential effect they could have on a kid. In this book, a diverse group of accomplished writers reflect on ways in which their coaches had an impact on their lives, both positive and negative. A must read for anyone responsible for nurturing the growth of children. It’s easy to forget that every interaction we have the opportunity to effect change in the lives of those around you, this book will motivate you to make each one of those moments count.


Introducing Mindfulness: A Practical Guide By Tessa Watt

Not an obvious choice for a “sports” book, but one that is very helpful for parents trying to enjoy their children’s sporting events. This book teaches you how to live in the moment, which if done correctly, enables you to enjoy what’s happening on the field or court and helps you avoid being a victim of your own internal reactions and responses.


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