Whether you’re considering a career in sports management or just enjoy learning about influential figures, these five great books take you behind the scenes of the sports you love. Coaches, managers, owners, and players each play a unique role in making a team great. These books provide insight to their paths into the world of elite sports, the challenges they overcame, their dramas and the lessons they’ve learned.
1. The Game, by Ken Dryden
Author Ken Dryden was one of the most influential players in hockey as goalie for the 1970s Montreal Canadiens. Later, he went on to become president of the team and in this memoir, her writes about influential coaches, players, and games that shaped both his career and the sport itself. Dryen brings a unique perspective to a sports book that is both reflective, and constructively critical about the treatment and development of players, the role of health and injuries, and life on the road of a touring team. Many of the decisions made during Dryden’s time continue to shape hockey today, and he expertly draws lessons from his experiences to the expanded popularity of the game.
2. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
Known as the most riveting book ever written about statistics, this thrilling biography of Billy Beane proves that baseball really is a thinking man’s game, according to The Economist. As a manager for the underfunded Oakland Athletics, Billy found creative ways to recruit talent in unlikely places. Using math and looking for patterns in performance, he managed to build a winning team against all odds. Statistics may sound dry, but this sports management book breaks down Billy’s way of thinking outside the box and drawing on the kind of analytical skills not always associated with sports in an easy to read way that keeps you engaged.
3. Imperfect: An Improbable Life, by Jim Abbot
The life of an elite pitcher isn’t easy but it certainly is interesting. Jim Abbott managed to rise into super stardom from a life in Flint, Michigan despite being born without a right hand. Through college, the Olympics, and ultimately as an award winning major league award winning athlete, Jim experienced discrimination, insecurities, and physical challenges along the way. This book is hardly a lesson in depression, however. It focuses on the relationships of the people who believed in him, supported him, and managed his career, all through the frame of his most famous game: an unforgettable no-hitter.
4. When Pride Still Mattered: The Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss
In the world of football, no name looms quite so large as that of Vince Lombardi. This biography of the legendary coach takes you through his early years coaching high school and college as he developed this skills and mindset that would ultimately lead him to coaching the Green Bay Packers to five world championships. The story of his leadership, and how he applied his values of discipline, perseverance, and teamwork into a legendary career is both inspiring and insightful for those who aspire to sports management leadership themselves.
5. Wooden: A Coach’s Life, by Seth Davis
Sometimes the lessons learned about a great coach come from those who work along side them. This book about the accomplished college basketball coach Jim Wooden is told through the lens of a sports journalist who interviews over 200 of the players managed by Wooden. Readers will learn about how Jim motivated individuals, interacted with colleagues coaching at other universities, and navigated the politics and economics of an elite NCAA team at UCLA. His 88 game winning streak and 10 championship wins serve as a lasting legacy to Wooden’s leadership and continues to inspire new generations of coaches who emulate his sports management methods.
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No matter what the sport, success for a competitive team is about more than simply athleticism. The leadership of the coaches and managers, as well as the perseverance and dedication of the players are key to winning. These five books about sports management will inspire you to find you own path to supporting the game.