Seeing a sport psychologist is brilliant to get personal advice, a relationship which brings out your best and prompts you to think in new ways about your sport and performance. But we can be expensive (worth every penny of course but still might be prohibitory for some) so I thought I would highlight some of the books I really value, and often recommend for helping athletes and performers begin their own self-awareness development and get them thinking. Would love to hear any recommendations you have back that I could swat up on – especially athletes’ autobiographies.
Start with Why helps you to understand your purpose (why do you do your sport – what does it give you) and why that is so important. It is vital to understand to be able to write great goals, develop effective self-talk and maintain motivation.
The Power of Habit is focused on neuroscience but uses enough stories and examples to feel readable and understandable. It explains why we make the habits we do and how we can make new habits which can help us develop the behaviours that will help us perform better.
The Passion Paradox uncovers why we need passion to get going on something but that too much passion can blind us to reality. It is full of box outs of activities to try and little explanations which make it really easy to use and suck up the knowledge.
How to support a champion is written by Steve Ingham who has worked for years in high performance sport with elite athletes. His advice on how on to support people, how to build their confidence and trust and how to reflect on your own development is essential for anyone wanting to work with athletes.
Endure is the book I wish I had written. I am so envious of what Hutchinson produced. If you are an endurance athlete or work with them then this immaculately researched, compellingly written journey into what makes us faster is fascinating. Every question you have had that starts with ‘I wonder if…’ Hutchinson has had the same question and found the experts to ask.
Whenever I work with an athlete on developing their Alter Ego, Lesley Paterson is the athlete I talk about as it was her husband (the Psychologist Simon Marshall) who came up with the idea for her and when I interviewed her about it a few years ago the benefits of the technique for her were infectious. So I was delighted when I discovered they published a book even though the title The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down, means I only recommend it to my adult athletes!
The Choice is not about sport – but has some incredible lessons about how to approach trauma and healing from trauma. It needs a trigger warning – Eger’s time in Auschwitz was horrific. The stories she tells are still etched in my memory – but I felt the pain of reading about them was worth it to be able read the insight she developed in her time as a clinical psychologist in the US afterwards. It is a story I will never forget.
The idea behind Black Box Thinking is simple (as it should be in big ticket pop psychology books) – that if we are open to learning from mistakes we can be far more effective. It takes the approaches used within the airline industry where every failure is meticulously investigated, learnt from and changes made to improve safety and compares it with a number of other industries, especially health. It highlights where, when we are open to learning from failure, and are in an environment which is set up to support that, we can move on and improve at a far faster rate.
I firstly loved The Sports Gene because it ripped to pieces the 10,000 hour ‘rule’. I carried on loving it because it is so well researched, has brilliant examples and stories included within it and explores lots of the questions we have all wondered around nature verses nurture. It looks at what is needed from nature and nurture to make the perfect athlete.
If I could put one book underneath my pillow to let the wisdom seep into my brain it would be Essentialism. I bang on about how I want to follow the theme so much my husband had the word engraved on a bracelet for me. The core theme states that, if we have a passion for something we really want to achieve, we need to discipline ourselves to focus on what is essential to achieve that and we can do so by saying no to all the other distractions. So in saying no to all the small , time sapping things, we are saying yes to what we love and enjoy and what really matters to us.
Other sporty books I love:
- Beautiful writing about cycling: Need for the bike, Paul Fournel
- Beautiful writing about running: Runner, Lizzie Hawker
- Really helpful writing about running: Run Smart, Professor John Brewer
- Fun stories about triathlon: This Girl Ran, Helen Croydon
- Fascinating stories from the UK’s oldest Ironwoman: Irongran, Edwina Brocklesby