Sports Psychology Books to Read in 2023
The mind is such a powerful weapon for athletes and coaches alike. When we talk about training, for years, the focus was always on the physical. As different forms of mindfulness training have become more popular, more people are starting to see the value in training their minds.
For me, a part of a good program has always been reading because it causes you to stop, think about how you typically react in a situation, and then visualize how you could respond differently. Some books, like The Inner of Game of Tennis, dive deep into the strategy of sports. In many ways, when opponents with similar ability square off, it's not the physical skills that separate them, it's the strategic thinking.
Other books, like Think Like a Warrior, challenge your mental toughness. How do you persist when things go poorly? When the circumstances around you are chaotic, can you focus in on what you're able to control?
The 6 books below helped make me a stronger competitor above the shoulders, and I think they'll help you as well.
For more information on each book, please click on the book's cover.
The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey
This book explores the mental aspects of tennis and how they can affect a player's performance on the court. The book argues that many of the obstacles to achieving peak performance in tennis (and in other areas of life) are mental rather than physical. Gallwey proposes that the key to success is to focus on the "inner game," which involves managing one's thoughts and emotions in a way that enhances performance. The book offers practical advice and techniques for developing one's inner game, such as increasing self-awareness, learning to quiet the mind, and trusting one's instincts. While the book is specifically about tennis, its insights and principles can be applied to many other areas of life where mental toughness and focus are important.
Think Like A Warrior by Darrin Donnelly
"Think Like a Warrior" is a motivational and self-help book written by Darrin Donnelly that uses the warrior archetype as a metaphor for achieving success in life. The book encourages readers to adopt a warrior mentality and embrace the traits of courage, discipline, resilience, and a strong sense of purpose. Donnelly draws inspiration from various warrior cultures throughout history, including the Spartans, Samurai, and Navy SEALs, and shows how their principles and practices can be applied to modern-day challenges.
Relentless by Tim Grover
"Relentless" is a self-help book written by Tim Grover, a renowned performance coach who has worked with some of the world's top athletes, including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade. The book explores the mindset and approach that separates the world's most successful athletes, entrepreneurs, and performers from the rest. Grover argues that the key to achieving greatness is a relentless mindset that prioritizes results over excuses, consistency over comfort, and the pursuit of excellence over perfection. He offers practical advice and insights into how readers can cultivate this mindset, including developing a clear vision, setting ambitious goals, and embracing discomfort and failure as necessary steps in the path to success. Through powerful stories and examples from his career working with elite athletes, Grover challenges readers to push past their limits and embrace a relentless pursuit of their goals. "Relentless" is a highly practical and motivating book that offers insights and strategies that can be applied to all areas of life, from sports and business to personal growth and development.
Mind Gym by Gary Mack
"Mind Gym" is a self-help book written by Gary Mack, a sports psychologist who has worked with some of the world's top athletes. The book explores the mental aspects of sports performance and offers practical advice and exercises for developing mental toughness, focus, and confidence. Mack argues that success in sports (and in life) is not just about physical talent, but also about developing a strong mindset and a positive attitude. The book is structured around various "mental workouts" that can help athletes develop mental skills such as visualization, goal setting, and self-talk. Mack also discusses the importance of managing emotions, dealing with pressure, and maintaining a healthy balance between work and rest. Throughout the book, Mack uses examples and stories from his experience working with athletes to illustrate his points and provide inspiration. "Mind Gym" is a highly practical and accessible book that offers valuable insights and tools for anyone looking to improve their mental game, whether in sports or other areas of life.
The Champion's Mind by Jim Afremow
"The Champion's Mind" is a self-help book written by sports psychologist Jim Afremow that explores the mindset and habits of successful athletes and how they can be applied to achieving success in any area of life. The book offers practical advice and strategies for developing mental toughness, resilience, and a winning attitude, drawing on the author's experience working with top athletes in various sports. The book is organized around 12 "mental skills" that are essential for success, such as goal-setting, positive self-talk, visualization, and focus. Each chapter includes exercises and tips for developing these skills, as well as real-life examples from athletes who have used them to achieve success. "The Champion's Mind" is a highly practical and motivational book that offers insights and strategies that can be applied to sports, business, relationships, and any other area where mental toughness and a winning attitude are essential for success.
Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed
The title of this book refers to the black box flight recorders found in airplanes, which are designed to capture and store data to understand the causes of accidents or failures. Syed argues that by adopting a similar mindset of analyzing and learning from failures, individuals and organizations can achieve greater success.
In "Black Box Thinking," Syed examines different sectors, such as aviation, healthcare, business, and sports, to demonstrate how a culture that embraces failure and learning from mistakes can drive improvement. He contrasts this with a "blame culture" that often hinders progress and stifles innovation. I got a lot out of this book because on the surface, it seems counterintuitive to how most of us act (which is exactly why I paid close attention).
For more books that get at the mental side of competition, check out our favorite Motivational books.
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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