Looking to Develop as a Basketball Coach?
Coaches spend most of their time focused on the improvement of their players. But what about themselves? Whether you're on a long bus ride to an away game or looking for ways to improve in the off-season, reading should be a part of your plan. Why? Because as we age, it's not so much that we're lacking in skills to be a great coach, but we're often lacking in perspectives.
Reading about how other youth coaches handle parents, how NCAA coaches run practices, or how NBA coaches handle the media opens up a whole new dialogue. Some coaches may rightfully argue that a lot of those things don't apply to me. Fair enough. However, a well-rounded perspective has never hurt anybody. As any coach knows, it's not always about what you prepare for; it's often more about that one time when you're unprepared but have to dig deep into your experience.
When I look at coaching books, I break them down into three categories.
1. Books About Actually Coaching The Game
These are books about offensive and defensive philosophies, full court pressure, x's and o's, and game and practice strategies. These books fall in the education realm, and are great for young coaches both learning the game and perfecting certain nuances of it. A great coach is exposed to many philosophies and strategies, and books like this should be a part of the continued education for any coach. I'd recommend reading at least one education book like this a year, even if it's simply to get your mind thinking about ways you could do things differently. Attending coaching clinics/camps is another great way to check this box. Again, you may not walk away with a laundry list of new things, and that's ok. Try and identify one or two things that you can apply, and it will be time well spent.
Good examples are Coaching Basketball Successfully by legendary high school coach, Morgan Wooten, Complete Guide to Motion Offense by Keith Rumjahn, and A Multiple Option System by Lee Deforest.
Coaching Basketball Successfully
Complete Guide to Motion Offense
A Multiple Option System
2. Books About and By Basketball Coaches
There are a lot of great books written by great basketball coaches (or written by a ghost writer). Coach K, John Calipari, Jay Wright, and John Wooden (see our article here on best college basketball books), are some that immediately come to mind. A great magician never reveals all of his/her tricks, and the same can be said about these books. I'm not discounting them by any means, as several have great stories, anecdotes, and real-world examples about actually "being in the fire." On the flip side, a lot of these books talk in generalities and lack the details that another coach would enjoy hearing more about. If you're a high school coach, look for books written by other high school coaches. Being exposed to other perspectives that are relatable is great for learning, networking, and refreshing your approach.
A good example for high school coaches is Where the Game Matters Most by William Gildea (this book was ranked as one of our top basketball books on our Recommendations page). The book is about Indiana high school basketball before the class system was put into place. Small town teams would compete against the largest high schools in the state. As you can imagine, the coaches and players involved, and their backgrounds, couldn't be any more different, and yet they're all bound by a love for the game.
Two good examples for college coaches are Player's First: Coaching From The Inside Out by John Calipari and The Smart Take From The Strong by Pete Carril.
Where the Game Matters Most
The Smart Take From The Strong
3. Books About Basketball
These are typically my favorite and could range from covering a season to the experiences of a particular player. Typically, these books have a bit more drama as the story unfolds, and the authors are more liberal in their approach because they don't have to protect themselves as coaches. While categories one and two are more about continued education, this category is aimed at enjoyment. Going on a family trip to the beach and need something light but interesting? This would be where I'd turn.
Just because these books aren't aimed at education per se, I've still learned a lot from them. At its very core, coaching is about relating to people and their unique nuances. The two books below will make you think about your own pulse on the kids in your program, your empathy, and how your approach made need to change from one kid to the next.
Good examples are The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam and Win By Two by Adam Donyes and Derrick Derrell.
The Breaks of the Game
Win By Two
Both of my books, Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena, would also fall into this category. To avoid any bias here, I'm not recommending them, but I can say that having the opportunity to tell these stories was one of the great joys of my life.
Having an attitude of "continuous learning" is one of the great gifts that we're allowed to accept as human beings. Coaching is no different. Kids change, rules change, parents change, but somehow you have to navigate those waters and steer the ship. Whether your program won a ton of games last season or hardly won any, every coach is learning to gain an edge in the off-season. Accept my challenge of reading a book in each of these three categories, and I guarantee you'll find a few takeaways that impact you and your team next season.
Tips & Resources
For more coaching resources, check out the Coaching Section of our blog.
For additional basketball book recommendations, see here. We also have sub categories on that page for recommendations specific to the NBA, young adults, and more.
Last, if you're looking for motivation, check out some of the great coaching speeches. Knowledge is one thing; being able to communicate it is another. The coaches in these videos set a great tone for how to approach various scenarios.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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