For those who are looking for material to read in order to learn more about sport psychology, I’ve chosen five books (in no particular order) that have really helped me in my own development:
#1 “Black Box Thinking” by Matthew
According to Matthew Syed, there is “something deeper and more subtle at work, something that has little to do with resources, and everything to do with culture” when people commit the same errors again and again and again. These errors have “particular trajectories, subtle but predictable patterns” (signatures) that can be avoided by open reporting and honest evaluation. It sounds simple but learning from failure has the status of a cliché. Even so, a failure to learn from crucial mistakes has been one of the greatest obstacles to human progress. In this book, Matthew Syed explains how to recognise such patterns and why learning from mistakes is so important.
#2 “How to Support a Champion: The Art of Applying Science to the Elite Athlete” by Dr Steve Ingham
Dr Steve Ingham is one of the world’s leading sport scientists. In his book, he draws on some of the most important lessons he had learnt during his time as an applied exercise physiologist working with elite sports performers, such as Sir Steve Redgrave and Jessica Ennis-Hill. “How to Support a Champion” provides numerous excellent examples of stepping out of the safety zone of sport science dogma and challenging oneself and the status quo by using practical evidence and logic as the guide to creating and implementing novel physiological practises. Dr Steve Ingham portrays an extraordinary level of critical analysis and self-reflection, and invokes that exact same need for self-reflection on one’s own practitioner skills. A must-read for anyone currently working in, or training to work in, high performance sport.
#3 “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” by Anders Ericsson
Anders Ericsson is a Swedish psychologist and specialist in the field of cognitive structure in expert performance. His book “Peak” portrays an empowering message that all of us, without exception, are capable of greater degrees of expertise in any given subject than we are aware of. Most of us realise that to become ‘expert’ in any given field, we need to rehearse the skills or knowledge involved. However, many of us are guilty of ‘naive’ practice where we assume that the learning is steep at the start, and we need to push ourselves hard at first, before being able to relax a little and becoming comfortable with the learning environment. The purpose of this book is to reveal exactly how we can break out of this pattern and attain our true potential through what Ericsson terms ‘deliberate practice.’
#4 “Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-In” by Brett Bartholomew
Brett Bartholomew is a strength and conditioning coach, consultant, and founder of the performance coaching and consulting company, Bartholomew Strength. Brett’s experience includes working with professional fighters competing within the UFC, and Super Bowl and World Series champions. In his book “Conscious Coaching”, we learn the foundational principles of improving relationships, enhancing engagement, and gaining the trust of athletes. He provides a number of concrete strategies that can be applied in our day-to-day practice as coaches. A great book that reveals the importance of developing the right culture in order to bring about success.
#5 “The Pressure Principle: Handle Stress, Harness Energy, and Perform When It Counts” by Dr Dave Alred MBE
Dr Dave Alred MBE has worked with some of the biggest names in sport, such as Jonny Wilkinson, Manchester City F.C, and the England cricket team. Whether you are interested in sport, sport psychology, or looking to control your nerves within a business environment, this book will help. Alred explains a number of techniques that can be learnt and adopted within pressurising situations that predominantly focus on maintaining attention and confidence in important and difficult moments. Alred also speaks about our comfort zone and how we can learn to move away from this and into the performance zone. A great book for anyone who wants to learn more about handling pressure.