April Reading List


Excellent biography of Churhill’s wife. Fascinating relationship between the two; certainly she was instrumental in his success and therefore in our peace and prosperity.

Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved

The world of certainty had ended and so many people seemed to know why.

Brilliant writing on a devastating subject that too many of us know all to well. I’ve only just begun this memoir, but I have trouble putting it down. After losing both parents and two brothers to cancer I would have sworn this is a book I would have never picked up.

Books I’m re-reading:

The Magic of Thinking Big

First, though, as part of your pre-treatment preparation, condition yourself with this fact: all confidence is acquired, developed. No one is born with confidence. Those people you know who radiate confidence, who have conquered worry, who are at ease everywhere and all the time, acquired their confidence, every bit of it.

You can too.

“Action cures fear.” Get going.

The Great Work of Your Life

This is a re-read, but it is such an interesting inquiry into doubt, courage and finding and accepting your path.

Books I Just Bought

The National Team by Caitlin Murray

WOLFPACK Abby’s newest book

Thick by Tressie McMillam Cottom

Check out the Julie Foudy podcast with Abby as well.

Updated: Short list of Soccer Books

I’ve updated my list of soccer books. There are many I am sure i am leaving off, but here are a few

Entertaining, informative, useful….

Inverting the Pyramid: Not your traditional beach read, but I read it on the beach three years ago over my Christmas break. It’s an excellent look at the tactical development throughout the history of the men’s game. Great coaches and players are discussed as well as the changes in formations over the years. You will learn a lot, but I also found it to be a page turner.  Jonathon Wilson knows his stuff and is a great writer. Highly recommend.

 Team Building: the road to success:  Written by Rinus Michaels, but dedicated to Vera Pauw (former Houston Dash Head Coach) and Bert Van Lingen for their help. The book includes Michaels’ journey as a coach through the different levels.  ‘Team building” is one of the three keys to creating a successful team. The other two are the talent you are working with and the match mentality.

Focused on Soccer: How to win the mental game Bill Beswick is always a sell out at the convention due to his depth of knowledge and entertaining style.

Here are his key to building a mentally strong players and a successful team.

Fever Pitch: Entertaining, as are all of Nick Hornby’s book.  This book captures the dedication of a true fan.

The Modern Soccer Coach   There’s a whole series of books with Curneen’s philosophy of the game and useful and practical games and tips. I believe this was his first. Many useful nuggets of information and games.

More recently Curneen has published Pressing and Coaching Your 4-3-3. Curneen emphasizes aligning your game philosophy to your tactics in the latter.  

The Last 9 Seconds   You want your team to score more goals?  All about goal scoring.  Jay Martin reviewed this book positively a few years back in the soccer journal.  (This and a little swimming book called Two Lengths of the Pool.)  That’s what drove me to buy it and I was not disappointed.

Very tangible information and practical. It also helped me think about how to train goalkeepers.

How Simple Can it Be?  I enjoyed this. Raymond Verheijen has a clear picture of how he thinks the game should be trained and played. He is not afraid to say what he thinks, which makes it entertaining on top of useful.

The Original Guide to Football Periodization This is a gem of a book. Although tactical periodization did not originate with Verhiejen he provides a clear, logical explanation and method of implementation.

The Barcelona Way How did Barcelona create such a winning program? You’ll uncover their philosophy, commitment to culture, a lot about Cruyff, Pep etc.

How to Watch Soccer More memoir than anything than structured explanation that the title implies. I enjoyed it.

The Future at their Feet

Best ball pump

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Responsible for Results

I have been working on a “leadership ladder” for a high school team. The ladder begins appropriately with “lead yourself,” but one of the rungs en route to the top is “responsible for results.” In order to talk about each rung I look for books, video and quotes to illustrate the point.

Anyway, at this rung there are several keys to success, one of which is dealing with pressure.

The Inner Game of Tennis remains one of the best books for athletes dealing with performance.

Steve Kerr, one of my favorite coaches, often references the books value for him as a player. No surprise then that I use video of him talking about making big shots in big moments. Not the superstar, but a very good player off the bench willing to take the big shot.

Winner Take All (Updated)

This past week The United Soccer Coaches annual convention was held in Chicago. By any measure the convention was a big success. We celebrated coaches, met to discuss and organize, and were able to take part in remarkable educational opportunities.

I was particularly impressed by the presenters, panelists, entrepreneurs, athletes, coaches and leaders who are working as advocates. There are some people making a real difference through sport. I realized I have to educate myself more. Not just about the problems, but about the solutions. About language. About what I don’t know that I don’t know.

So I bought Winner Take All by Anand Giridharadas. Looking forward to it.

Update: After having read about a third of the book am appreciating its view of the value and benefits of a good government. Reminds me of another book I recently read by Micheal Lewis (of Moneyball and The Undoing Project fame) called The Fifth Risk. If these things interest you I recommend it.

In addition, the book has me thinking quite a bit about the journey of Dorothy Day a Catholic lay person who shifted mid-life to found the Catholic Worker and live among and with the poor she served. Day’s autobiography The Long Loneliness is still one of my favorites.

I’ve added another read to my current list. I’m rereading Montaigne who retreated from society to figure out how to live a better life. Sometimes in the craziness of our current times I’m tempted to do the same. This is like a short respite.

Two books:

The Complete Essays

How to Live

I would welcome any other recommendations of books I should be reading or podcasts that are out there.  

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The Magic of Thinking Big

Harness the Power of Belief

I’m enjoying this book. I started it afraid it would be a version of “the secret” type thinking or magical thinking.  What I’m finding instead is a reminder to stay positive, hopeful and active in any pursuit of achievement.

The book reminds that negative beliefs are self fulfilling. This does not mean that positive beliefs are a fast track to where you want to go. Achievement requires positive and thoughtful actions. But there is an interplay between the voices in our heads and the choices we make.

The book recommends we create a plan for self development and growth. In order to put a positive voice to work you must prioritize action over all else. What you do matters. Nobody will put that action plan for development in place for you. This is on you.

The book suggests it is just such a program with 3 prongs:

  • What to do
  • How to do
  • Achieve results

Your “What to Do” begins with copying the attitude and success of others. Although the book is rife with examples, you have many examples all around you. People you know or public figures. Pay attention to the successful ones, the ones you admire, the ones who achieved what you wish to achieve

“How to Do” is detailed in each chapter. He suggests you read the entire book first. Then take a week with each chapter really considering the principles therein. Apply those principles every day of that week. Then in the evening review how well you did.  When you have completed this weekly step then re-read the entire book every month for a year.

This is what I intend to do. He says to establish a schedule for it. I’ll detail it here.

Finally, this book seems like a book my father would have read and used. I’ve written briefly about my father before. We made a little fun of him sometimes because he was a deeply practical man in the midst of a family full of artists and academics. I was the youngest and had not yet found my place, but I admired my father’s kindness, work ethic, stoicism and approach.

In other words, this will be a fun experiment.

January update: On the other hand, I then read this at the smart site Epsilon Theory and am reminded to keep my values and my skepticism always on hand.

If you don’t care about what it is that you actually did, a smart person can make a comfortable life in America by selling little more than confident answers to the earnest questions of corporate executives and really wealthy people.

Gridiron Genius

“It hasn’t happened yet.” Branch Rickey at 74 when asked to recount is most significant accomplishment

I picked up Gridiron Genius after listening to Michael Lombardi on a podcast. I wish I could remember which one–it was an investing podcast–so I could plug it here. I do remember that I immediately bought  the book Lombardi (no relation to Vince) had just released.

The book describes the lessons he learned from a lifetime in football front offices and specifically the lessons gleaned from three leaders, Bill Walsh, Bill Bellichick and Al Davis.  It also details the missteps by others and some of the approaches and strategies Lombardi took himself.

A few things stand out:

Pro Level

The pro game is different from the college game.  I know this seems obvious, but the reason I mention it–I think coaches should spend more time looking at the nuanced lessons from the coaches at their level.

For instance, preparing for a draft is very different from recruiting for your school.  At both levels you need to evaluate talent well. Particularly evaluate the ability to play at the level of your program, fit your style and culture and have the appropriate character to succeed. Character always matters.

Recruiting requires sales skill and persuasion. Drafting requires a strategic approach. You are unlikely to get the top 5 players available, but you may be able to get your top 5 picks.  You have tools like trades and time outs that you need to employ well. Some trades are more valuable in advance of the draft and others are more valuable on the day of the draft. Digging into those kinds of distinctions are the fun of a book like this and where the gold is found.

Lombardi’s book reveals many of these detailed decisions making it excellent reading for a pro coach.

Work Ethic/Pay Your Dues

On the other hand, the work ethic required to be great at any level is enormous. There are no short cuts–don’t discount this when you set your goals. He recounts how Walsh valued “working smart” but this was not a short cut, it was simply a different way to work hard.

Lombardi himself did legions of work preparing for drafts or learning about players when he had no promise of a job or a paycheck.

This paid off for him in the long run.

Standard of Performance

This phrase sums Bill Walsh up. His great book, perhaps the greatest coaching book at the pro level, Finding the Winning Edge, describes his standard of performance in detail.

Here you get a good, but much shorter look at Walsh’s  “Standard of Performance.”

His Standard of Performance wasn’t a way to define his genius; it was his genius. It was the compass that guided everything he oversaw–coaching, scouting, managing—allowing him to transform the 49ers from a laughingstock to a powerhouse in fewer than 1,000 days. By accomplishing that feat, Walsh essentially used football to prove the famous dictum of another management expert, Peter Drucker: “Culture can eat strategy for lunch.” That’s why, for people inside the NFL, people in the know, Walsh’s Standard of Performance is as much a part of his lasting impact as his West Coast offense. Maybe even more

I have often thought of Walsh and Drucker as similar and am happy to have someone who worked so closely with the former validate this.

This book is worth it for a coach at any level just for the insights about Walsh and leadership.

Leadership Requirements

 One of his duties during his front office career was to hire coaches. Lombardi details his process including a checklist for hiring a coach.  The checklist needs to be modified by sport and situation, but the example of process is excellent.

Like Walsh he thinks a coaches strength as a leader is more important that his knowledge of the game. I agree.

He spells out clearly the five qualities he values:

  • Command of the room
  • Command of the message
  • Command of self
  • Command of opportunity
  • Command of the process.

Build Your Team

Building a team is an inexact science. Collecting talent is not building a team.

You want to do your best to minimize the risk and improve your odds by creating a strong system for evaluating character as well as talent. 

A small but important point he makes about selecting talent–consider the level they are competing at. It’s a big leap to the NFL.


I highly recommend this book. It’s great for the pro level front office professional or coach, and good for any level coach or leader.

Happy Holidays