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  1. Teaching Literacy on World Book Day

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    Happy World Book Day

    They marched into sunlight

    Interesting and well written

    I hope you get a chance to read a good book. I am currently reading “They Marched Into Sunlight” by David Marannis. Do your children enjoy reading? Without a good book (in their terms) it is unlikely they will learn to read well no matter what ill-advised literacy scheme their school introduces.

    If you encourage and enable your children to choose interesting material to read, they will read by choice, rather than through coercion. If this is football match reports, instructions on how to make a fairy garden or the amount of sugar contained in breakfast cereals, it all counts as reading.

    Children often learn to read despite the efforts of education policies, rather than because of them. My children read well because we help them choose interesting things to read, share time with them and take them to the library where the staff share an enthusiasm for reading.

    Frank Smith on Literacy

    world book day

    How children learn

    Frank Smith  wrote two books in the 1970s about the myths and flaws of much language education:

    • “Essays into Literacy”
    • “Reading”

    In them he debunks the obsession by teachers on slowing down the learning process by going through phonics and instead extolls the virtues of learning through listening and sharing.

    It would be difficult to exaggerate the complexity and unreliability of phonics…. Children who believe they can read unfamiliar words just by blending or sounding them out are likely to develop into disabled readers.

    My children’s school told all the parents to encourage their children to use phonic cards when reading. They then abandoned that scheme for another because new teachers found it difficult to understand!

    Why Accelerated Reader Decelerates Reading

    My children’s school introduced a scheme called “Accelerated Reader” about 2 years ago which reduces the process of reading to a competition on who can read the most words. Books are ranked on number of words and each child takes a short term memory recall test at the end of each book.

    Children are rewarded and praised for getting 100% on each test (recommendation is for 90% before going up a level) and targets are placed around the classroom showing which children are Winning. Little communication is done with teachers about the joy and love of the subject of reading, instead the interaction is with an ipad (technology is cool, paper is boring).

    Smith on computers:

    The negative side of computers in literacy education is that children, parents and teachers will become persuaded that these nonsensical and pointless activities are what constitute reading and teaching reading.”

    He also  talks about the anxiety caused when children have to recall facts in the short term: they are reading to pass the test and this disrupts their flow.

    Frank Smith Literacy

    Reading is more than tests

    My daughter, who reads for at least an hour every night of her own volition, was so put off by having to do a test on each book she said,

    Daddy, I don’t like learning anymore.”

    When I explained this to the school and asked them to provide evidence about the long term benefits of this scheme I was given the following reasons:

    • Boys are competitive, so they like it
    • The local secondary schools use it.”

    I reminded them of my daughter’s gender and then asked why they insisted on using a scheme with no evidence to support it and which had stopped one of the best readers from loving reading. No answer was given.

    Smith says “To teach reading and writing as if their most important uses were for completing tax returns and job applications is like using a telescope as a doorstop.”

    If you pick up every book knowing you are going to be quizzed at the end, then you will simply choose simplistic books to get higher scores. My kids have figured this out and know how to “Juke the stats“. Sometimes we have to do this in life, but we should have the honesty to tell children that this is what we are doing.

    However, if you read books, magazines and Pokemon guides which are interesting, challenging and diverting, you will love reading.  Read for fun on World Book Day rather than have the fun sapped out of reading.

  2. Love to read books 2016

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    Love to read ?

    Here are the 78 books I have read in 2016, with a brief commentary on each. My top 3 books read this year are:

    • Physical Education for Children: A Focus on the Teaching Process. Ed Bette Longsden.
    • Start With Why: Simon Sinek.
    • Harry’s War: Harry Drinkwater.

    It would be great if you could add a favourite of yours at the bottom. A mixed bag with some fiction, some coaching, some technical and some on culture and learning.

    top books 2016

    Christmas gifts

    The Japanese noun for a pile of unread books is Tsundoku. My personal Tsundoku is now 27 books (with these pictured added thanks to Santa).

    I am lucky enough to have a few good friends and colleagues who are happy to add to the pile with their recommendations! Plus Mandi Abrahams from Castle Books in Beaumaris and the Hayridge library in Cullompton.

    1. Hellicona Spring: Brian Aldiss. Classic British SF novel.
    2. Leading: Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz. Patchy book from the Manchester United Manager. Some great insights, but poorly written. Epilogue is excellent.
    3. The Dispossessed: Ursula Le Guin. More classic British SF. Thought provoking novel about benefits of true communist, meritocratic society.
    4. This Is Your Brain on Sports: R.E.M. Grand & A.D. Goldberg. Largely anecdotal look at sports trauma stress disorder (slumps, yips, etc.). Some practical exercises at the end.
    5. Anatomy Trains: T.Meyers. In depth look at fascial anatomy. Has many good points, although soft tissue work is outside of my remit.
    6. Canticle For Leibowitz: Walter Miller. SF novel set in post apocalyptic Earth with heavy Catholic bent. Very interesting and thought provoking.
    7. The Hungry Spirit: Charles Handy. Thought provoking book from 20 years ago about quest for meaning beyond capitalism. Much of which has come to pass.
    8. A Void: Georges Perec. Novel without the letter ‘e’. Tortuous in parts, an interesting concept, but hard to read.
    9. My Story: Louis Smith. Lightweight book with some nice pictures, reveals little about gymnastics or training.
    10. love to read

      Culture and society

      Culture And Society 1780-1950 : Raymond Williams. An insightful series of essays about different authors and how they have influenced our (British) culture. Extremely well written and informative.

    11. The Big Gold Dream: Chester Himes. Crime thriller set in Harlem. Punchy, colourful, atmospheric.
    12. The Uses Of Literacy: Richard Hoggart. In depth look at the Northern Working Class in 1957. What constitutes their culture, background and forms of reading. Thoughts on aspirations and constraints of every day folk.
    13. You Win In The Locker Room First: Jon Gordon and Mike Smith. Excellent short read about creating the right culture to help you win. Well broken down with good examples from the Atlanta Falcons.
    14. Hellicona Summer: Brian Aldiss. Sequel SF Novel, more royal drama than SF. Less enjoyable than first.
    15. Simple Rules: Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt. Excellent book on decision making, goal setting and doing what matters most. Very well written, clear examples, useful tips, humorous.
    16. Secrets of Soviet Sports Fitness & Training: Michael Yellis and Richard Trubo. 1988 book which starts every paragraph with variation of “Soviet methods are better..” Poor.
    17. Pretty Girls in Little Boxes: Joan Ryan. Whistle blowing account of 1990s ice skating and gymnastics in the USA and its affects on the girls involved. Hopefully things have changed since.
    18. Soul On Ice: Eldridge Cleaver. Powerful, intelligent and very well written series of essays written from within Folsom prison in the 1950s-60s. Cleaver was one of the leading lights behind the Black Panthers.
    19. The Female Brain:Louann Brizendine. Excellent book about the developing female brain and how it changes with age. Well researched, good examples, funny.
    20. Hellicona Winter: Brian Aldiss. Concluding part of this SF trilogy. Poignant story about man and relationship with environment and others.
    21. The Modern Writer and His World: G.S. Fraser. Review of prose, poetry, praise and literary criticism from 1890-1960.
    22. Judas Unchained: Peter Hamilton. Overlong SF novel, high on action and scope, but low on dialogue or maintaining interest. Bloated in attempt to become “epic”.
    23. Team of Teams: General Stanley McChrystal. Very interesting book about working in complex, fast moving environments. Uses examples from the Iraq conflict. Must read for people in big organisations.
    24. Sea Harrier Over the Falklands: Sharkey Ward. Insightful book about the Commanding Officer of 801 Squadron and his combat experiences. Details the bureaucracy and inter-service rivalries even when lives are at stake.
    25. Best coaching books

      Excellent leadership book

      Turn This Ship Around: David Marquet. Excellent book about leadership from this USN submarine Captain. Tells the story of how the USS Santa Fe went from worst performing boat to best. Well laid out and written, with clear action points at the end of each chapter.

    26. CEO Strength Coach:Ron McKeefery. Surprisingly useful read about how to become a strength coach at a US college/ pro team. Quite short, but easy to follow. Useful for undergraduates and those aspiring to become S&C coaches.
    27. Enemy Coast Ahead: Guy Gibson. Enthralling book by the Dambusters leader. An account of his 174 sorties over enemy territory, culminating in his most famous mission.
    28. It’s Not About The Coach: Stuart Haden. Great title, but then goes down hill. Self indulgent waffle, badly written with lots of typos and ill constructed sentences.
    29. Nelson Brittania’s God of War: Andrew Lambert. Interesting biography of the great sailor, leader, diplomat and national hero. Inspiring and insightful.
    30. The Last Stand: Nathaniel Philbrick. Detailed account of Custer and Sitting Bull. Revealing story of the poor leadership from Custer, Benteen and Reno amongst others. Very well researched.
    31. Top Performance: Zig Ziglar. Excellent book about developing yourself and others. Written with sales people in mind, but applies well to coaching.
    32. Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It: Gary Taubes. Light weight read about diet and fat. Interesting look at insulin.
    33. Frankenstein Unbound: Brian Aldiss. Timeslip SF novel featuring, Shelley, Byron and Frankenstein. Clever and interesting.
    34. The Energy Bus: Jon Gordon. Interesting, easy to read fable about taking control of your own life.
    35. The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck. Re read after 25 years. Outstanding novel about the Depression struggles of economic migrants in 1930’s California. Resonates today.
    36. A Guide to the Good Life: William B. Irvine. Very useful guide to Stoicism in the 21st Century. Applicable, relevant and meaningful.
    37. Eagles at War: Ben Kane. Historical novel about massacre of 3 Legions by Germanic tribes.
    38. The Pressure Principle: Dave Alred. A look at performing under pressure by kicking coach/ psychologist. Some good points, but simplistic.
    39. summer reading recommendations

      Much better than expected

      Winners and How They Succeed: Alastair Campbell. Excellent book looking at strategy, vision, will to win and managing in a crisis from Blair’s spin doctor. No Campbell fan, but great use of case studies and interviews from many successful people.

    40. Born to Run: Christopher McDougall.  Interesting, but highly anecdotal tale of Long distance running in Mexico.
    41. 21st Century Guide to Individual Skill Development: Brian McCormick. Excellent short book for players who are looking for ways to improve their game. Well researched, transferable to other sports.
    42. The Silo Effect: Gillian Tett. Quite academic book about how silos have led to insularity and lack of oversight. Heavy on financial institutions, but also offers insight into Chicago PD, Facebook and the Cleveland Clinic. Interesting, but dry.
    43. Just Mercy: Bryan Stevenson. Gripping account of Death Row inmates, poor Southern black Americans and injustice. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal doses. Highly recommended.
    44. Middle Distance Running: Percy Wells Cerutty. Written in 1964 by the famous Australian coach. Entertaining read, borderline eccentric, but very informative.
    45. Think Like a Freak: S.D.Levitt & S.J.Dubner. More stats stories from the authors of Freakonomics. Useful look at behaviours.
    46. The Prince: Machiavelli. Treatise on gaining and maintaining power from this 15th century politician. Astute analysis and relevant today.
    47. Muhammad Ali His Life and Times: Thomas Hauser. In depth look at Ali with many transcripts from people around him. Written in 1990, so missed his last 26 years.
    48. Pure: Andrew Miller. Fictional account of a rural engineer commissioned to destroy cemetery in Paris in 1785. I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.
    49. The Secret: Deric Henderson. True story of a double murder by spouses disguised as suicide. Unpleasant reading.
    50. Lord of the Rings: JRR Tolkien. Rearead with my Daughter. Still has many good points.
    51. The List of Seven: Mark Frost. Entertaining Victorian thriller about Arthur Conan Doyle and his inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.
    52. Start With Why: Simon Sinek. Excellent thoughts on these now famous circles. Underpins everything we do as coaches. Must read.
    53. Our Iceberg Is Melting: John Kotter. Use of Penguins in a fable about how to implement change in big organisations.
    54. Today We Die a Little: Richard Askwith. Detailed and inspirational account of the Czech distance runner Emil Zatopek.
    55. By Air to Battle: Official Account of the British Airborne Divisions. Ministry of Information 1945. Small but personal account of the start of Airborne operations in World War II. Written in immediate aftermath, the exploits are delivered in matter of fact tone. Downright heroic in parts.
    56. Planet of the Apes: Pierre Boulle. Novel on which the film was based, interesting but simplistic. Different ending to film.
    57. King and Country, Selections from British War Speeches 1939-1940. Speeches by King George, Churchill, Eden and Princess Elizabeth amongst others. A reminder of how dark times were, and how our Country stood alone.
    58. Win Forever: Pete Carroll. Clearly written account of how he developed his coaching philosophy. 20+ years in the making.
    59. lovetoread

      Book of the year?

      Physical Education for Children: A Focus on the Teaching Process. Ed Bette Longsden. Very detailed book looking at how to structure a physical education programme. Educational dance, gymnastics and games are highlighted. Must read.

    60. Pour Me A Life: A.A. Gill. Humorous and revealing autobiographical account of alcoholism.
    61. The Mastery of Movement: Rudolf Laban. 1950s source on detailing movement with dance emphasis. broken down into component parts for classification. Foundation work.
    62. Harry’s War: Harry Drinkwater. World War 1 daily diary by an ordinary chap doing extraordinary things in an infantry battalion. Very detailed account and a great historical record. The danger, the boredom, the muck, the futility and the importance of a hot meal and shelter are clearly described. Page turner.
    63. Moonwalking with Einstein: Joseph Foer. Story of journalist training for US memory championships and winning it. Funny and self deprecating in parts, reveals the techniques and methods behind storing information.
    64. The New Rules of Marketing & PR: David Meerman Scott. Well laid out and systematic overview of spreadng a message. Follow up to World Wide Rave.
    65. Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry: B.S.Johnson. Nihilistic novel about a 1960s anarchist/ accounts ledger clerk. Short, funny, original.
    66. Circuit Training For All Sports: Scholich. Can’t believe I hadn’t read this sooner. Great mix of theory with practical ideas.
    67. Does it Make the Boat Go Faster?: Ben Hunt-Davies & Harriet Beveridge. Practical ideas on attaining a specific goal. Based on the GB rowing eight winning Gold in Sydney Olympics. Well laid out and extremely useful.
    68. All Shot Up: Chester Himes. Harlem crime novel from 1960s. Short, violent, colourful and snappy.
    69. The Country and the City: Raymond Williams. Classic book looking at society’s move from country to city through literary sources. Very well researched, quotes are well used. Insightful.
    70. Education in Movement: W. McD Cameron & P. Pleasance. Great little aide memoire on Primary School gymnastics based on Laban’s work.
    71. The Woman Chaser: C. Willeford. Pulp Fiction Novel about would be movie Director and used car salesman. Funny and off beat.
    72. The Secret War: Max Hastings. Extensive account of spies, intelligence gathering and blunders in World War II. Interesting in parts, shopping list of facts elsewhere.
    73. Spartacus: Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Written before the Howard Fast novel which became the film. Bleak, brutal and pacy. Excellent novel.
    74. The Psychology of Strength and Conditioning:Ed. D. Tod & D.Lavalle. Poorly written excuse for a book by academics for academics. 2-3 useful chapters out of 10. The rest were amalgamations of research from different fields with authours trying to extrapolate toS&C.
    75. The Sirens of Titan: K.Vonnegut. Thought provoking sci-fi novel from 1959. Contains big questions and answers about the meaningless of life.
    76. mapping the second world warEconomic Philosophy: Joan Robinson. Short series of essays written in 1962 explaining the human side of economics.     Puts Brexit and the “austerity years” into context.
    77. Neon Rain: James Lee Burke. First of the Robicheaux detective novels, set in New Orleans. Very descriptive and violent.
    78. Mapping the Second World War: Peter Chasseaud. Well laid out overview of WWII with nice maps on almost every page. Coffee table type book.

    I have spent some time reviewing and highlighting the main points from the technical books. Like these coaching philosophy books ( I am always trying to get the candidates on our strength and conditioning courses to read more books).

    Please leave your suggestions as a comment below and Happy Reading for 2017

  3. Summer reading 2016

    3 Comments

    Book recommendations for reading this summer

    Summer reading

    My current Tsundoku

    I hope you get time for some summer reading (if we get a summer). I try to read more fiction or biographies of non work related people whilst on holiday, rather than technical manuals.

     

    Here are my Top 5  summer reading books for coaches I have read so far this year (in no particular order):

    1. You Win In The Locker Room First: Jon Gordon and Mike Smith
    2. The Female Brain:Louann Brizendine.
    3. Team of Teams: General Stanley McChrystal
    4. Top Performance: Zig Ziglar.
    5. Winners and How They Succeed: Alastair Campbell.

    (full list is below).

    The Japanese have a word for the pile of books that have yet to be read: Tsundoku. I seem to gather recommendations quicker than I can read (and I read pretty fast). I struggle to keep up with those given me to me for our monthly book club.

    summer reading

    Book club poster

    I have a list of books to read after attending GAIN  last monthIt is great to spend time with coaches who read a lot, rather than the “book of the year bandwaggon” (See Bounce, Legacy, Mindset, Grit et al).

    Top 5  book recommendations from other coaches

    Here are the Top 5 gathered from GAIN, which I have yet to read:

    1. Just Mercy: Brian Stevenson
    2. You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and PracticesSwen Nater; Ronald Gallimore
    3. Physical Education for Children: Bette Logsdon, Kate Barrett
    4. The Gold Standard: Mike Kryzewski
    5. Win Forever: Pete Carroll

    (There were at least 25, but need to filter that down).

    Books I have read so far in 2016

    Here is the full list.

    1. best coaching books

      Must read

      Hellicona Spring: Brian Aldiss. Classic British SF novel.

    2. Leading: Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz. Patchy book from the Manchester United Manager. Some great insights, but poorly written. Epilogue is excellent.
    3. The Dispossessed: Ursula Le Guin. More classic British SF. Thought provoking novel about benefits of true communist, meritocratic society.
    4. This Is Your Brain on Sports: R.E.M. Grand & A.D. Goldberg. Largely anecdotal look at sports trauma stress disorder (slumps, yips, etc.). Some practical exercises at the end.
    5. Anatomy Trains: T.Meyers. In depth look at fascial anatomy. Has many good points, although soft tissue work is outside of my remit.
    6. Canticle For Leibowitz: Walter Miller. SF novel set in post apocalyptic Earth with heavy Catholic bent. Very interesting and thought provoking.
    7. The Hungry Spirit: Charles Handy. Thought provoking book from 20 years ago about quest for meaning beyond capitalism. Much of which has come to pass.
    8. A Void: Georges Perec. Novel without the letter ‘e’. Tortuous in parts, an interesting concept, but hard to read.
    9. My Story: Louis Smith. Lightweight book with some nice pictures, reveals little about gymnastics or training.
    10. Culture And Society 1780-1950 : Raymond Williams. An insightful series of essays about different authors and how they have influenced our (British) culture. Extremely well written and informative.
    11. The Big Gold Dream: Chester Himes. Crime thriller set in Harlem. Punchy, colourful, atmospheric.
    12. The Uses Of Literacy: Richard Hoggart. In depth look at the Northern Working Class in 1957. What constitutes their culture, background and forms of reading. Thoughts on aspirations and constraints of every day folk.
    13. You Win In The Locker Room First: Jon Gordon and Mike Smith. Excellent short read about creating the right culture to help you win. Well broken down with good examples from the Atlanta Falcons.
    14. Hellicona Summer: Brian Aldiss. Sequel SF Novel, more royal drama than SF. Less enjoyable than first.
    15. Simple Rules: Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt. Excellent book on decision making, goal setting and doing what matters most. Very well written, clear examples, useful tips, humorous.
    16. Secrets of Soviet Sports Fitness & Training. Michael Yellis and Richard Trubo. 1988 book which starts every paragraph with variation of “Soviet methods are better..” Poor.
    17. Pretty Girls in Little Boxes: Joan Ryan. Whistle blowing account of 1990s ice skating and gymnastics in the USA and its affects on the girls involved. Hopefully things have changed since.
    18. Soul On Ice: Eldridge Cleaver. Powerful, intelligent and very well written series of essays written from within Folsom prison in the 1950s-60s. Cleaver was one of the leading lights behind the Black Panthers.
    19. The Female Brain:Louann Brizendine. Excellent book about the developing female brain and how it changes with age. Well researched, good examples, funny.
    20. Hellicona Winter: Brian Aldiss. Concluding part of this SF trilogy. Poignant story about man and relationship with environment and others.
    21. The Modern Writer and His World: G.S. Fraser. Review of prose, poetry, praise and literary criticism from 1890-1960.
    22. Judas Unchained: Peter Hamilton. Overlong SF novel, high on action and scope, but low on dialogue or maintaining interest. Bloated in attempt to become “epic”.
    23. Team of Teams: General Stanley McChrystal. Very interesting book about working in complex, fast moving environments. Uses examples from the Iraq conflict. Must read for people in big organisations.
    24. Sea Harrier Over the Falklands: Sharkey Ward. Insightful book about the Commanding Officer of 801 Squadron and his combat experiences. Details the bureaucracy and inter-service rivalries even when lives are at stake.
    25. Best coaching books

      Excellent leadership book

      Turn This Ship Around: David Marquet. Excellent book about leadership from this USN submarine Captain. Tells the story of how the USS Santa Fe went from worst performing boat to best. Well laid out and written, with clear action points at the end of each chapter.

    26. CEO Strength Coach:Ron McKeefery. Surprisingly useful read about how to become a strength coach at a US college/ pro team. Quite short, but easy to follow. Useful for undergraduates and those aspiring to become S&C coaches.
    27. Enemy Coast Ahead: Guy Gibson. Enthralling book by the Dambusters leader. An account of his 174 sorties over enemy territory, culminating in his most famous mission.
    28. It’s Not About The Coach: Stuart Haden. Great title, but then goes down hill. Self indulgent waffle, badly written with lots of typos and ill constructed sentences.
    29. Nelson Brittania’s God of War: Andrew Lambert. Interesting biography of the great sailor, leader, diplomat and national hero. Inspiring and insightful.
    30. The Last Stand: Nathaniel Philbrick. Detailed account of Custer and Sitting Bull. Revealing story of the poor leadership from Custer, Benteen and Reno amongst others. Very well researched.
    31. Top Performance: Zig Ziglar. Excellent book about developing yourself and others. Written with sales people in mind, but applies well to coaching.
    32. Why We Get Fat and What To Do About it: Gary Taubes. Light weight read about diet and fat. Interesting look at insulin.
    33. Frankenstein Unbound: Brian Aldiss. Timeslip SF novel featuring, Shelley, Byron and Frankenstein. Clever and interesting.
    34. The Energy Bus: Jon Gordon. Interesting, easy to read fable about taking control of your own life.
    35. The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck. Re read after 25 years. Outstanding novel about the Depression struggles of economic migrants in 1930’s California. Resonates today.
    36. A Guide to the Good Life: William B. Irvine. Very useful guide to Stoicism in the 21st Century. Applicable, relevant and meaningful.
    37. Eagles at War: Ben Kane. Historical novel about massacre of 3 Legions by Germanic tribes.
    38. summer reading recommendations

      Much better than expected

      The Pressure Principle: Dave Alred. A look at performing under pressure by kicking coach/ psychologist. Some good points, but simplistic.

    39. Winners and How They Succeed: Alastair Campbell. Excellent book looking at strategy, vision, will to win and managing in a crisis from Blair’s spin doctor. No Campbell fan, but great use of case studies and interviews from many successful people.
    40. Born to Run: Christopher McDougall.  Interesting, but highly anecdotal tale of Long distance running in Mexico.
    41. 21st Century Guide to Individual Skill Development: Brian McCormick. Excellent short book for players who are looking for ways to improve their game. Well researched, transferable to other sports.
    42. The Silo Effect: Gillian Tett. Quite academic book about how silos have led to insularity and lack of oversight. Heavy on financial institutions, but also offers insight into Chicago PD, Facebook and the Cleveland Clinic. Interesting, but dry.

    Other book recommendations:

    If you have read any other worthwhile books, please leave a comment below. It is always great to hear what people have enjoyed, or where they have found a useful insight.

    Thanks as always to our Book Club members , Castle Books in Beaumaris, Devon Libraries, Pete Bunning, Chris Brown, Topsy Turner, Andy McCann and Abe books.

  4. Books read in 2016 so far

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    A list of books I have read so far in 2016

    (Updated April, includes some excellent coaching and leadership books).

    1. you win in the locker room first

      Very useful guide

      Hellicona Spring: Brian Aldiss. Classic British SF novel.

    2. Leading: Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz. Patchy book from the Manchester United Manager. Some great insights, but poorly written. Epilogue is excellent.
    3. The Dispossessed: Ursula Le Guin. More classic British SF. Thought provoking novel about benefits of true communist, meritocratic society.
    4. This Is Your Brain on Sports: R.E.M. Grand & A.D. Goldberg. Largely anecdotal look at sports trauma stress disorder (slumps, yips, etc.). Some practical exercises at the end.
    5. Anatomy Trains: T.Meyers. In depth look at fascial anatomy. Has many good points, although soft tissue work is outside of my remit.
    6. Canticle For Leibowitz: Walter Miller. SF novel set in post apocalyptic Earth with heavy Catholic bent. Very interesting and thought provoking.
    7. The Hungry Spirit: Charles Handy. Thought provoking book from 20 years ago about quest for meaning beyond capitalism. Much of which has come to pass.
    8. A Void: Georges Perec. Novel without the letter ‘e’. Tortuous in parts, an interesting concept, but hard to read.
    9. My Story: Louis Smith. Lightweight book with some nice pictures, reveals little about gymnastics or training.
    10. Excellent read

      Excellent read

      Culture And Society 1780-1950 : Raymond Williams. An insightful series of essays about different authors and how they have influenced our (British) culture. Extremely well written and informative.

    11. The Big Gold Dream: Chester Himes. Crime thriller set in Harlem. Punchy, colourful, atmospheric.
    12. The Uses Of Literacy: Richard Hoggart. In depth look at the Northern Working Class in 1957. What constitutes their culture, background and forms of reading. Thoughts on aspirations and constraints of every day folk.
    13. You Win In The Locker Room First: Jon Gordon and Mike Smith. Excellent short read about creating the right culture to help you win. Well broken down with good examples from the Atlanta Falcons.
    14. Hellicona Summer: Brian Aldiss. Sequel SF Novel, more royal drama than SF. Less enjoyable than first.
    15. Simple Rules: Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt. Excellent book on decision making, goal setting and doing what matters most. Very well written, clear examples, useful tips, humorous.
    16. Secrets of Soviet Sports Fitness & Training. Michael Yellis and Richard Trubo. 1988 book which starts every paragraph with variation of “Soviet methods are better..” Poor.
    17. Pretty Girls in Little Boxes: Joan Ryan. Whistle blowing account of 1990s ice skating and gymnastics in the USA and its affects on the girls involved. Hopefully things have changed since.
    18. Soul On Ice: Eldridge Cleaver. Powerful, intelligent and very well written series of essays written from within Folsom prison in the 1950s-60s. Cleaver was one of the leading lights behind the Black Panthers.
    19. best coaching books

      Must read

      The Female Brain:Louann Brizendine. Excellent book about the developing female brain and how it changes with age. Well researched, good examples, funny.

    20. Hellicona Winter: Brian Aldiss. Concluding part of this SF trilogy. Poignant story about man and relationship with environment and others.
    21. The Modern Writer and His World: G.S. Fraser. Review of prose, poetry, praise and literary criticism from 1890-1960.
    22. Judas Unchained: Peter Hamilton. Overlong SF novel, high on action and scope, but low on dialogue or maintaining interest. Bloated in attempt to become “epic”.
    23. Sea Harrier Over the Falklands: Sharkey Ward. Insightful book about the Commanding Officer of 801 Squadron and his combat experiences. Details the bureaucracy and inter-service rivalries even when lives are at stake.
    24. Best coaching books

      Excellent leadership book

      Turn This Ship Around: David Marquet. Excellent book about leadership from this USN submarine Captain. Tells the story of how the USS Santa Fe went from worst performing boat to best. Well laid out and written, with clear action points at the end of each chapter.

    25. CEO Strength Coach: Ron McKeefery. Surprisingly useful read about how to become a strength coach at a US college/ pro team. Quite short, but easy to follow. Useful for undergraduates and those aspiring to become S&C coaches.

    A varied start to the year: heavy SF bent based on recommendations from Brian Aldiss’s “Billion Year Spree”.

    Also, big thanks to my own book search engine : Mandi from Castle Books in Beaumaris and to Devon libraries for providing more.

    Any recommendations you may have: please leave as a comment.

  5. Books of 2015

    4 Comments

    The best books of 2015

    coachign books 2016

    Just a few

    I read many good books in 2015, plus a couple of great ones, I also discovered a fantastic bookshop in Beaumaris which helped rejuvenate my love of reading.

    Here is a brief review of all the books read so far, plus top 5 overall.

    The Top 5

    In no particular order:

    • The War the Infantry Knew, 1914-1919. Captain J.C.Dunn.
    • Strength Training and Coordination an Integrative Approach: Frans Bosch.
    • The Big Fat Surprise:Nina Teicholz.
    • Round the Bend: Nevil Shute.
    • Make it Stick: The science of successful learning. Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, Mark McDaniel.

    The full list:

    1. Stronger Minds, Stronger Bodies: Randall Strossen. Excellent compilation of articles from Ironman magazine on how to train your mind. Aimed at strength type people, the 60 articles are emminently readable and applicable to all sports people.
    2. One Step Behind: Henning Mankell. Crime thriller featuring Kurt Wallender.
    3. From a Clear Blue Sky: Timothy Knatchbull. Account of the Mountbatten bomb attack and one survivor’s attempt to recover. Emotionally wrenching about life, death and the loss of a twin.
    4. Show Your Work: Austin Kleon. Lightweight very short book about sharing good work. World wide rave is much better.
    5. Das Kapital: Karl Marx. Heavy going economic classic from the 19th century. The last 200 pages were much easier reading and forecast a lot of the problems of inequality we are currently suffering from.
    6. Eleven rings

      Philosophical

      The Liberator: Alex Kershaw. World War II account of Felix Sparks who fought from Sicily through to Dachau. Very interesting, lots of brutal facts and hones truths portrayed, as well as the horrors of war.

    7. Eleven Rings: Phil Jackson + Hugh Delehanty. Excellent account of this very successful basketball coach’s championship wins. Lots of leadership and coaching ideas, including how he managed to coach dominant personalities.
    8. The Burning Room: Michael Connelly. Detective novel featuring Harry Bosch in possibly his last case with junior partner.
    9. The Drop: Michael Connelly. Detective novel featuring Harry Bosch and the politics of LAPD.
    10. Winning Ways: How to Succeed In The Gym and Out. Randall Strossen. Really good practical sports psychology book. Collection of 80 short but highly relevant articles about lifting weights.
    11. The War the infantry knew

      Excellent account

      The War the Infantry Knew, 1914-1919. Captain J.C.Dunn. Outstanding account of an infantry battalion in the first world war. Written by medical officer, but includes many first hand accounts from officers (Sassoon, Graves included) and men. A must read.

    12. King and Maxwell: David Baldacci. Short novel (but padded out with large print and spaces) about p.i.s investigating military cover up. Author getting lazy.
    13. The Education of a Coach: David Halberstam. Excellent biography of Bill Belichick up to 2005. Shows his background well, and how he became successful.
    14. Starting Strength: Mark Rippetoe. Excellent book detailing the mechanics and key coaching point so the squat, press, bench press, power clean, power snatch and deadlift. Definitely written with a “barbell is best” premise, so needs to be put in context. However, the drawings and explanations are really useful.
    15. Steven Erikson. The Lee’s of Laughter’s End. 3 novellas in one book, entertaining and well written fantasy.
    16. Affluenza: Oliver James. Interesting but overlong and self-indulgent view of the materialistic western societies. Good premise, written pre financial crisis, but way too many personal anecdotes and autobiography. 100 pages shorter and it would have been better.
    17. The Reversal: Michael Connelly. Procedural legal novel featuring Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch. OK, but not his best.
    18. Limbang Rebellion: Eileen Chanin. Account of 7 days insurgency in December 1962 in Brunei. Rescue mission by Royal Marines of local administrators.
    19. One Summer, America 1927: Bill Bryson. Self indulgent ramble about Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh et al. Got annoyed with one error, may be more.
    20. Gardens of the Moon: Steven Erikson. Huge fantasy novel that has very good bits. Too many characters, races and magic to keep up.
    21. Deadhouse Gates: Steven Erikson. Even longer fantasy novel, which has more characters and races. Was a chore to get through certain story lines, which had no relation to the rest!
    22. Where Else Would You Rather Be: Marv Levy. Real page turner of an autobiography by this excellent writer and coach. Lots of great anecdotes and reflections, very humorous, ideas on building and creating teams. Highly recommended.
    23. Leaders Eat Last: Simon Sinek. Useful look at what it means to be a leader. Anecdotal evidence from the US military, combined with hypothesis of baby boomers leading selfish generation.;
    24. educational gymnasts

      Classic text

      A Movement Approach to Educational Gymnastics: Ruth Morison. Must read for p.e. teachers who want to help young people move. Contains first “physical literacy” reference that I have seen.

    25. I am Legend: Richard Matheson. Classic SF novel about the last surviving human. Written in 1954, this is a well written, dramatic and bleak outlook of a post plague world.
    26. Enjoying Track and Field Sports: Ed Ann Kramer. Beginners guide to the nuts and bolts and rules of athletics.
    27. The Greatest Podcasting Tips in the World: Malcolm Boyden. Dated, but useful guide to setting up a good podcast.
    28. Gymnastics a Mechanical Understanding: Tony Smith. Excellent book highlighting key moves and how the mechanics underpin them. Very useful.
    29. Movement Efficiency for Developing Athletes: Kelvin Giles. Short book, but full of clear information and useful examples. Really should be part of physical educators toolbox.
    30. Blood on the Sand: Michael Jecks. Historical novel set in the 100yrs war. Immediately forgotten.
    31. The Science of Swimming: James E. Counsilman. Excellent book written by a very experienced swimming coach. I am no swimmer, but coach those who do. Insightful look at the technical and human side of coaching.
    32. Make it Stick: The science of successful learning. Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, Mark McDaniel. Interesting and well researched book about how people learn. Highly recommended for all coaches and teachers.
    33. Trustee From The Toolroom: Nevil Shute. Old novel about a man taken out of his comfort zone. Excellent diversion.
    34. Building a Champion: Bill Walsh. Autobiography of time around the 49ers. Some great reflections and insights.
    35. Why People Believe Weird Things :Michael Shermer. Excellent book on pseudoscience, skepticism and pseudo history. Busts some myths and explains why people stick to what they want to know.
    36. Creole Belle: James Lee Burke. Detective novel set in Louisiana with a political slant. Very enjoyable and shows the author is still working hard on his craft.
    37. The Second World War: Antony Beevor. Overview of the conflict, particularly critical of almost everybody in a leadership role except Stalin!
    38. Aspects of Science Fiction: Ed. G.D.Doherty. Collection of short stories from 1959 and an overview of different themes. Asimov, Alias, Wells included. Enjoyable.
    39. Nudge:Thaler & Sunstein.Libertarian Paternalism explained using choice architecture. Good premise and first 2/3rds. Repeats a bit at end.
    40. Black on Black: Chester Himes. Short stories and essays from the 1940s. Life in the USA for black people according to this angry writer. Riveting.
    41. Mastermind: How to think like Sherlock Holmes: M Konnikova. Interesting read about concentrating on the right things at the right time. Good use of Holmes stories to illustrate points, but I preferred “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Kahneman.
    42. Handbook of Physical Training Volume II. 1910, Royal Navy. Guide to organising recruits. Includes fencing, boxing, wrestling, joy jitsu and Indian Club swinging games.
    43. Understanding Voluntary Organisations: Charles Handy. Excellent read, well written, on different aspects of organisational culture. Useful to understand different motivations.
    44. The Weightlifting Book: Tamas Fever. Technical guide to the lifts in pdf dormat. Has some really good points, especially on technique and coaching attitudes. Downside is it is on pdf and the Hungarian system of using numbers instead of names for the exercises is very frustrating. Can’t keep going back/ forward on the pdf! Feher has some excellent coaching philosophies. One for purists only.
    45. Well written

      Well written

      Weightlifting Programming: A Winning Coaches Guide: Bob Takano. Well written book, with a different perspective on how the body works, coming from his Biology teacher background. No technical points, but has a good system of programming for different categories of lifters. Well laid out.

    46. Reference Book of Gymnastic Training for Boys: Board of Education (1947). Excellent resource on how to create a comprehensive school gymnastic programme. A very dry read, and hard to follow some of the abbreviations at points. Based on old Swedish p.t. exercises and uses drill commands a lot,have used lots of ideas in our school class.
    47. Round the Bend: Nevil Shute. Fantastic page turning novel about aircraft company set in post WWII Middle and Far East. Absorbing detail, with an underlying story arc of religion in the workplace. Thought provoking.
    48. Preparing for Competition Weightlifting: David Webster. Hit and miss older book on weightlifting, didn’t get much from this.
    49. Hanns and Rudolf: Thomas Harding. Story of the capture of Rudolf Hoss, the Kommnandant of Auschwitz by Hanns Alexander. Detailed account of how Hoss got to where he was and the steps that led him to be responsible for the murder of over 2 million people.
    50. The Big Fat Surprise:Nina Teicholz. Game changing book for me and my family. In depth look at nutrition research and advice from the last 50 years. Must read book. Highly recommended.
    51. The Sport of Olympic -Style Weightlifting: Carl Miller. Short book, quite hard to place. Not sure who it is aimed at.
    52. Daley Thompson:The Subject is Winning: Skip Roizin. Early biography, before his 2nd Olympic Gold. Interesting insights into training, background and competitiveness.
    53. Tales of Dunk and Egg: George R.R. Martin. Pre Game of Thrones tales of a hedge knight.
    54. Free to Learn: Peter Gray. Interesting, but repetitive book about a different type of schooling for children. Based mostly on Sudbury Valley School in USA. Children learn through play.
    55. The Tin Roof Blowdown: James Lee Burke. Excellent novel portraying New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. Passionate, graphic and gripping.
    56. The New Book of Gymnastics: Meg Warren. Very clear and well laid out book on female gymnastics. Only cost 1 pence! Great for transition from school to club gymnastics.
    57. Educating the Intelligent: M. Hutchinson & C. Young. Thoughtful book from 1962 about setting blueprint for the future of the post-war Britain. Especially liked the thoughts on physical edcuation.
    58. Pandora’s Star: Peter F Hamilton. Sprawling SF epic set in the Space Commonwealth. Combines crime thriller with bug eyed monster fear stories. Very long, but good read.
    59. Strength training and co-ordination

      Must read for coaches

      Pegasus Descending: James Lee Burke. Crime novel with Detective Robicheaux. Violent story with racial undertones described graphically and emotionally. Page turner.

    60. Strength Training and Coordination an Integrative Approach: Frans Bosch. Outstanding book on motor learning and strength training. So much detail, clearly written and very applicable. One for experienced coaches of many sports. A must read.
    61. Bury My Heart at W.H.Smith’s: Brian Aldiss. Excellent book on writing from this sci fi author. Uses autobiographical accounts to highlight points.
    62. The Glass Rainbow: James Lee Burke. Crime novel with Detective Robicheaux, bit fragmented.
    63. Essays into Literacy: Frank Smith. 13 essays about reading, language and the differences between how they are learnt and taught.
    64. Non Stop. Brian Aldiss. His first SF novel about a journey home from outer space. Excellent.
    65. Trillion year spreeThe Status Seekers: Vance Packard. Sequel to “The Hidden Persuaders”, an analysis of 1959 USA social, religious, racial and economical society and its “classes”. How much has changed?
    66. Trillion Year Spree: Brian Aldiss with David Wingrove. More than just a comprehensive review of Science Fiction up to 1986, it is an historical delight of literary analysis. How I missed this until now, I have no idea. Makes me want to write better and read more.
    67. Tarzan of the Apes: Edgar Rice Burroughs. Classic yarn, well told.

    Books of 2014  Books of 2013

    The best bookshop

    I discovered Castle Books in Beaumaris, whilst on holiday. Thousands of books packed into what was effectively someone’s sitting room. Mandy the owner, is like a London cabby, being able to recall books and linked titles from the depths of her mind.

    My kids and I got some great books, and still do so by post. Shows the benefit of having random selections rather than just the 23rd of series X in your stocking.

    More in depth:

    Summary

    I read too many factual books early on, together with a few duff recommendations. I have tried to compensate later on in the year with more fiction, and more variety.

    Thanks to Hayridge and Devon Libraries for providing many of these books: helpful and cheery staff, makes reading very affordable. They always help my kids too; it is ever more important for real people to discuss real books with my children.

    With the unfortunate rise of Decelerated Reading in our county, counting words and chasing numbers has been deemed more important than discovery and escapsim. Reading should never be about competition: by definition, some people will “lose”.

    Thanks to Patrick and Rob for sharing as part of our book club.

    If you have any recommendations, please leave in comments below. Thanks!

  6. Weightlifting books review

    1 Comment

    What are the best books to read about Olympic Weightlifting?

    It depends on whether you are a lifter or a coach, and whether you are new or experienced. It might be that you are just interested to learn about the sport. You might be looking for technical information, or for a programme to follow.Here are 6 books I have recently read and used to some degree, it might help you choose.

    Skilful Weightlifting: John Lear. Paperback £7.95

    skilful weightlifting review     I got this book from my coach Keith Morgan back in 2002 and I still refer to it now. The book starts off with a brief summary of the rules, what kit might be needed and then a section on biomechanics.

    It has very clear instructions on how to perform the lifts, with cues for each part of them. It gives advice for coaches on how to manage beginner lifters and what are the key areas to look out for.

    There are clear diagrams and pictures throughout, which I find useful to show to my lifters (who are amused by the old school outfits). After the technical section, there is information on assistance exercises and how to fit them into your programme.

    There is a section on programmes for 16-18 year olds, more advanced lifters and also a 5 day a week programme for those who are unable to lift twice a day! This is clear information, set out in loads and sometimes %s. I would say that the youth programme lacks variation, which may be necessary to keep them interested and also to expose them to different aspects of the lifting.

    However, this is a very good book, easy to read, contains enough relevant information, a great place to start.

    Olympic Style Weightlifting for the Beginner and Intermediate Weightlifter: Jim Schmitz paperback $16:95

    Jim schmitz weightlifting bookThis is basically a set of programmes for 1 year of training for those new to weightlifting, or returning from a lay off. The book’s strengths are its description of the assistance exercises and how the programme is laid out.

    It is designed around a 3 days a week programme, with each week being on one A4 page which is easy to follow in practice. This does mean that some of the sessions are quite long: over 90 minutes, so be prepared to spend some longer sessions in the gym.

    It starts off with very simple programmes for the first 8 weeks, then progresses to the more varied programme which introduces different assistant exercises as well as increasing the load. In total there are 66 different exercises used.

    The technical information is limited to a few paragraphs on the major lifts and the quality of the photos is poor. The layout of the book is functional to put it nicely, but is basically photocopied sheets bound together.

    This book is best for those who have an existing technical understanding of the lifts, but want some idea of how to plan their year. It does that well.

    The Weightlifting Book; Tamas Feher pdf £29.95

    James doing split jerk

    James doing split jerk

    This is a very technical book and covers more than just weightlifting. It looks at the overall coaching process as well as talent identification for WL. The book starts with a detailed information on training methods, anatomy and physiology and then training processes.

    It then moves to an in depth analysis of the major lifts and their variations. This includes foot positions, hip and back angles and descriptions of how the different muscles are working at each phase. The accompanying pictures are clear, but very small.

    The next section is about strength development, followed by planning of loads and intensity, then overtraining and how to avoid it. These are well written and in depth. The sections on technical coaching for beginners, coaching philosophy and implementation are excellent.

    The training planning and training programmes are more difficult to read. Feher is Hungarian, and they use a system where numbers replace the names of the exercises. This results in the programme looking like this:weightlifting books review

    In a normal book, it might be ok to flick backwards and forwards to see what you are doing, but in a pdf it is just too laborious. The pdf format is the downfall of this book: I avoid screen time when not working, and carrying my laptop around in the gym is precarious. The other books I can just pull off a shelf and put in my bag, or keep them in the gym for reference. This one is strictly reference only.

    There is a dedicated section on coaching females, and another one on the role of the coach. Both of these contain very useful information and philosophies. I am unable to comment on the efficacy of the programmes (Still waiting for Bletchley Park to crack the codes), but the detail of the information around them is excellent.

    This book is strictly for coaches only.

    Preparing for Competition Weightlifting: David Webster Paperback 1 penny.

    best weightlifting bookThis book is from 1986 by the then Scottish Coach. It has some useful technical points, with good illustrations in the opening section. This is the only place that I have seen a weightlifting coach advise that the double knee bend should be coached specifically. Every other WL coach I have met, trained with or read has said avoid doing that (the UKSCA offers a different opinion, but they are not weightlifters).

    Webster offers some useful insights into Eastern European and Soviet training methodologies: remember this was written before the fall of the Iron Curtain and YouTube. He also looks at annual planning and preparation. He borrows heavily from his friend John Jesse (Wrestling Physical Conditioning Encyclopedia) and so circuit based training and interval runs feature prominently.

    At 1 penny, how can you complain? But this book was strictly one of curiosity and historical context with a few useful points.

    Weightlifting Programming A Winning Coach’s Guide: Bob Takano Paperback £20.92

    Bob takano weightlfting book review(Thanks to Topsy Turner for the loan).

    A well written, well laid out book which makes a huge difference to this reader’s experience. Takano offers a unique perspective at the beginning, looking at the Human Body and training systems from a Biology teacher’s viewpoint.

    There is almost no technical information on the lifts in this book. Instead it concentrates on how to develop programmes for different categories of lifters and explains the underlying rationale. The categories are:

    • Class 3 (85kg lifter Total 170kg)
    • Class 2 (85kg lifter Total 195kg)
    • Class 1 (85kg lifter Total 225kg)
    • Candidate for Master of Sport (85kg lifter Total 255kg)
    • Master of Sport (85kg lifter Total 295kg)
    • International Master of Sport (85kg lifter Total 365kg)

    The 85kg male lifter gives you an idea of how the classes progress. Takano then devotes a chapter to the programming of each class, followed by a 20 week sample programme from his club athletes. This is very well laid out, easy to follow and well explained. I am unable to verify the efficacy of these programmes, having only class 3 lifters at our Weightlifting Club at present. But, I do like how the categories are sub-divided beyond beginner, intermediate and advanced.

    The chapter on regeneration is insightful, categorising the different types of restorative methods available. I think Tom Kurz in “Science of sports training” is the other book that covers this well. The nutrition section is very short and lacking in helpful real information, talking about macronutrients, rather than food.

    The book finishes on the role of the coach and a call to action for coaches who want to improve what they do. Overall, it does what it says in the title, and it does it very well. One for club coaches I think, and a resource to use over time.

    The Sport of Olympic-Style Weightlifting: Carl Miller with Kim Alderwick. Paperback £30

    The sport of Olympic-style weightlfting

    Carl Miller book

    An A4 size book with 118 pages of text and charts, no images. The sub title is “Training for the connoisseur“, It has an interesting start, looking at identifying different limb and torso ratios and giving advice on how to adjust the lifts accordingly.

    Miller then briefly summarises Selye’s work on stress and adaptation, before devoting the next few chapters to training programmes. There is minimal technical advice here, just overviews of programmes and a list of exercises that should be included.  This part of the book is weak, and is done better elsewhere.

    The last part of the book is based around weightlifting competition preparation including nutrition advice for making weight and mindset. This is better. I especially like this section on coaching at competition:

    Any words should be simple and meaningful. Don’t clutter your mind with a lot of thought. You want a few cues that will allow things to happen automatically. 

    In the heat of the competition, only basic, familiar prompts are meaningful. The rest goes in one ear and out the other.

    Applies to every other sport too!

    I got lent this by Topsy, but would have felt aggrieved at shelling out 30 quid for this. Guess I am no connoisseur!

    Summary

    These are the 6 books I have read on the subject in the last year or so. If you have any further recommendations, then please comment below. For more technical information, I did enjoy reading Jim Schmitz’s series of article here.

    Our Weightlifting Club trains on Monday and Wednesday nights, and we run beginner sessions. Please contact me if you are interested.

  7. Coaching book reviews

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    Book Reviews

    Whenever I work with other coaches and discuss how they develop their own practice, reading books is always high as a favourite.  Unfortunately, a lot of them seem to be “sciencey” such as Syed’s bounce, but actually add to misinformation, rather than informing our practice

    Here are a few that I have read over the last year that apply specifically to coaching, in no particular order.

    Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training by Mark Rippetoe (recommended by Adam Taylor and Tracy Fober).

    Just when I thought I knew a thing or two about coaching the deadlift, squat, press, clean and snatch, I read this.  Although it says “starting strength”, I would recommend this to experienced coaches rather than novices due to the detail involved.

    This book explains the key barbell lifts with excellent diagrams and photos.

    I learnt a lot from his explanations and have used some of his cues to help the athletes I coach already with great effect.

    Rippetoe writes well and uses humour to highlight his points: “A Smith machine is not a squat rack, no matter what the girls at the front desk tell you.”  He does advocate barbell training to the exclusion of almost everything else, which is too narrow a focus in my opinion for transfer to the sporting arena. However, if you want to get strong in the gym and lift safely and effectively, read this.

    The 4 disciplines of execution by Chris McChesney and Sean Covey (recommended by Greg Thompson).

    This book focusses on how to choose “Wildly Important Goals” (Wigs) and then how to implement then effectively. It is very clearly written, with good examples and takes the reader through the process of finding your Wig and then acting on them.

    The authors use examples of good and bad goal setting, and highlight the dangers of having a list. To paraphrase: “if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority”.

    I like the use of a compelling scorecard, with just one priority on it, and clear measurement on whether the team is achieving it or not. The litmus test is if you can wake up a team member at 3am, ask them “what is our number 1 goal” and they tell you in 1 sentence.

    Highly recommended, can be used as part of a team, or for your own projects. I have found myself much more productive since adopting these principles.

    Where Else Would You Rather Be by Marv Levy (Review by Simon Worsnop who recommended it to me).

    This is the autobiography of Marv Levy, former Head Coach of the Buffalo Bills. It is well written, with a dry sense of humour accompanying the narrative. Levy is not a typical football coach, having a Masters degree from Harvard and a rich appreciation of history and literature. Unlike many managers/coaches, he also has an ability to treat sport for what it is within the grand scheme of things. His comments regarding World War 2 that I remember from the 1980s, illustrate this, and are comparable to former Aussie fast bowler turned commentator Keith Miller’s whereupon hearing a captain was under pressure, commented “pressure? Having a Messerschmitt up your arse, now that is pressure!”

    Levy played College Football but was never drafted, and the narrative follows his journey from schoolteacher and third team basketball coach to a four-time Superbowl Head Coach.

    Not only does the book take you through the historical coaching journey, but also describes the philosophy of football at the various stages of his career. It is interesting to understand how his mentor George Allen used the draft to swap players to create a successful team from virtually nothing using a clear philosophy and goal.

    His time in Canadian Football is of interest in how tactics can be switched to the opposite of what is expected in order to thwart the well-laid plans of an opposition. However, probably of most interest to today’s rugby coaches will be the section on how his coaching philosophy developed at the Bills, with an almost “Saul on the road to Damascus moment” after a final play-off game. This epistemological rupture with past practice was of paramount importance in the Bills future success. Without want to spoil this for the reader, it is well documented within the book showing how this affected match play, practice, player attitude, fitness and decision-making.

    The reader does not need an in-depth understanding of American Football to appreciate its relevance to coaching both on and off the field, and it is not littered with references to religion or psychobabble that sometimes mar American books.

    Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek.

    Sinek bases this book on an observation from the US marines that the officers only eat after the Men. The premise is that we are there to look after the people we lead. He uses anecdotes from the military to highlight why this is important and how selfless actions are common in that environment.

    He then switches to why we may have developed this as a species, including a “circle of safety” of about 150 people. This is the number of real people we could include in our tribe where we have meaningful relationships.

    Sinek is pretty scathing of the baby boomer generation and how they became the “Me generation”.  He mentions dopamine fixes a lot, which used to come from having secure relationships and feeling safe. Now, it comes from facebook “likes”, “retweets” and worryingly, stock market traders’ bonuses. This leads to either a short attention span, or dysfunctional behaviour that has an adverse effect on others.

    He uses examples from the USA such as Peanut Corporation of America’s cutting costs resulting in salmonella contamination and BP ‘s safety cut backs that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. (British readers: think of how Thomas Cook responded to the death of 2 children on their watch). He links this to the size of organisations and their reliance on numbers, rather than people.

    I see this all the time in sports partnerships and NGBs: we want athlete scorecards or measures of “impact” “sustainability” and “engagement”, rather than talking to people face to face! This results in a misguided measure of what is important and people at the bottom then have to produce numbers to keep the people at the top happy, rather than doing their job.

    Sinek uses Jack Welch as an example of how an overemphasis on “shareholder value” in companies means the customer gets short thrift. Welch later changes his approach 8 years after retiring and says “Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and products.”

    This book is a must read for those within organisations big and small. It has a few too many “folksy” anecdotes which feel like padding, but there are many good points and illustrations.

    Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty (recommended by Patrick McHugh).

    This is an inspiring and well written autobiography of a great NBA player and coach. Jackson has developed a coaching philosophy based upon humanity and people. He quotes extensively from Eastern philosophy texts and was adopting mindfulness before it was called that!

    For example coaching from a monk, Wayne Teasdale: “For work to be sacred, it must be connected to our spiritual realisation. Our work has to represent our passion, our desire to contribute to our culture, especially to the development of others.

    He recounts his early years as a player, and then his years with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. In that time he had to deal with some world class players and their egos. He gives detailed accounts of what worked with some, and how he worked with others.

    The book is excellent at describing how he was trying to create teams that could think and act independently on the court. This meant he was instructive in practice, but let them play on game day. “I don’t believe in using practice to punish players. I like to make practices stimulating, fun and most of all efficient.”

    This book was a real page turner, and worth rereading.

    The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam. 

    This Bill Belichick biography was written 10 years ago, when he had just the 3 Super Bowl rings! It details the rise of the highly successful New England Patriots coach, and how his coaching style and philosophy has developed.

    It starts with his immigrant grandparents, and the work ethic that was developed through his family and early life. It progresses through his early career and how his diligent scouting reports opened doors for him, despite his youth.

    For me, it is Belichick’s attention to detail and his ability to analyse the opposition that stand out in this book. He recognises what he is good at and coaches to his strengths, he seems to know that he is hardly an empathetic “people person” and so surrounds himself with people who possess those skills.

    You probably have to understand football or be a fan to like this book, but it is another page turner.

    Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership by James Kerr (recommended by Danny Newcombe)

    This is an easy to read book, with very clear examples and a wide range of lessons from aspiration to planning to humility. Each chapter has a clear structure, uses quotes, research and outside examples that can be easily related to outside of rugby and sport.

    For example , when looking at transforming the culture after a poor series of performances, the inner circle of All Blacks came up with “Better people make better all blacks”. This simple mantra sums up the vision the Coaches had that by developing the players as individuals, the whole group would benefit. Indeed, without developing the individuals, progress would be difficult.

    Whilst the All Blacks are on the cover, and there are plenty of All Black anecdotes, Kerr samples heavily from other sources. Like Sinek, he looks at the US Military and how they are trying to move from “Command and Control” to “Mission Command” where decisions are made on the ground.

    This is essential for coaches because it is the players who play and make decisions based on what is happening in front of them in real time. Therefore, the players need to know the intent and overall mission goal, which the coach designs,  and then go out and execute it.

    My favourite quote is an Old Greek proverb “A Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never see.”  A bit different from “Just win on Friday”!

    Inside out coaching by Joe Ehrmann (recommended by Patrick McHugh).

    Yet another book by an ex American Football player, but this time the message is very transferable to every youth sports coach. The “Inside Out” refers to knowing oneself as a coach first before you are able to transform your coaching.

    The first part of the book is a very honest and sometime brutal account of Ehrmann’s early life. He details some truly harrowing experiences, and how he dealt with them at the time, and who helped him.  He also looked at some fictional or historical characters for inspiration and says:

    They show that coaching cannot be reduced to strategy and technique. Great coaching demands introspection, integrity and integration of the coach’s life history.

    In part 2, Ehrmann describes his transformational coaching programme that he does with young people now. He includes how he is able to reach the hearts, minds and souls of the disaffected youth. This includes anecdotes from his playing years and advice for other coaches and parents taken from his programme.

    For example, helping players discover their identity in their teenage years when they ask questions such as “Who am I? What do I stand for? Who will love me and whom will I love? Whom will I stand with? What can I do with my life?” which is taken from Erik Erikson’s stages of social and emotional development.

    These are the questions that are going on in teenagers’ subconscious, sometimes conscious, and so Ehrmann creates an environment which allows the players to answer them.

    Ehrmann is trying to improve the lives of young men and uses sport as the vehicle to do this. This type of book is rare, and I found it very useful, coaching mainly teenagers myself.  A must read for coaches of teenagers.

  8. Strength and conditioning for basketball: some thoughts.

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    If you think that basketball conditioning should resemble a scene from Coach Carter with repeated running in straight lines, you might be mistaken.

    Basketball speedI am lucky enough to train some good young basketball players. Most of them arrive with some sort of work ethic and overall athleticism.

    More than a lot of sports, they understand the need for work capacity, speed and the ability to jump.  They come
    from (or gravitate towards) training environments that encourage repeated
    efforts and work capacity.

    But is there too much of a good thing?

    Once the basics have
    been achieved, will just doing more “stuff” help the player, or potentially hinder them? I am trying to work with the players and their coaches on looking at more efficient ways of developing fitness that more resembles the demands and needs of the game and their positions.

    What are the positions?

    A recap on positions for those unfamiliar with the game.

    • Point guard: the general / organiser
    • Shooting guard: they shoot a lot
    • Small forward: good shooters, especially at free throws as
      they draw a lot of attention
    • Power forward: very assertive player, dominant in close
      quarters.
    • Centre: good at jumping, high skill level

    Whilst everyone has to be able to do everything, the positions do have differing demands. When looking at the physical characteristics of the positions, the game might develop people into those athletes, or certain types of athlete gravitate to those positions.

    Physical characteristics

    Centres and power forwards are the heaviest and tallest. They need the greatest mass due to the contact at box outs, picks and rebounds. They need great lower body strength due to prolonged periods of play in the low post/ middle post position.

    Point guards have to be the fittest endurance wise due to their versatility in play. Guards and forwards are only in static positions for 27%/ 28% of the time in a match. Conversely, Centres have been shown to only move linearly for 33% of the match, the rest is more lateral shuffling movements, checking, contact and such like.

    So we can see a difference between the needs of the positions already. As the playing ability goes up, so do the demands of the game as decision making and tactics affects movement demands.

    At International level, players do a lot more high intensity work (above 90% of max Heart Rate) but also a lot more low level work such as shuffling, to recover. The high intensity work is not just running; more body contact requires more static / isometric strength work and moving from this to running is fatiguing as inertia has to be repeatedly overcome.

    The nature of the International matches has been shown to be much more intermittent in nature than National Level matches where the players did not work at such high intensities. National level players spent much more time in a “middle zone” of intensity.

    How Can I get fit for basketball?

    basketball vertical jumpThis is the bottom line question that I am often asked. As you can see, there is more to basketball than just shuttle runs.

    If your training consists of repeated bleep tests and suicides, you are getting ready to play mid-level basketball as a guard or forward.

    If you want to play at a higher level, you need to adapt your training accordingly.

    I always follow this simple hierarchy of training:

    1 the person

    2 The athlete

    3 The position.

    Trying to train position specific before addressing the individual needs of the person, then their athleticism is a short cut that will come back to haunt you.

    So the priorities are:

    1 An overall sound movement pattern with no asymmetries.
    This includes the ability to run, jump, skip, land and move sideways. Then the ability to reproduce this repeatedly must be developed.

    2 Look to load these movements and progress to acceleration drills, deceleration drills and single leg work.

    3 Look at position work: with centres needing strength training
    that includes volume to allow an increase in mass. This strength work should be combined with movement patterns that encourage a low centre of gravity and multiple changes of direction in a small area. Guards and forwards can do more repeated jump work combined with high intensity shuttle runs.

    There is a place for testing basketball fitness, I prefer one of the yo-yo tests, plus vertical jump, plus our athletic screening.

    Whilst every young player asks How can I improve my vertical?” and proceeds to show me an Internet “Jump programme”, I emphasise the need for points 1 and 2 first. As they all practice lay ups and dunks at every opportunity, the priority is for teaching landing techniques and developing strength. The application of this will come through training initially, then specifics later.

    A sure way to detrain the athleticism of your basketball team is to do long slow runs, back to back bleep tests and upper body weights only.

    The players pictured are Sean Clifford (SWT and Excelsior client) who has been made Captain of the Leeds University team and Harry Turner (Millfield school) who played for England -Under 18s this summer.

  9. Coach development: Level 2 strength and conditioning course

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    The Continual Professional Development (CPD)

    as a Coach requires time, effort and often money. This came up quite a lot in the Level 2 Strength and Conditioning Course that I ran in Taunton, Somerset last weekend.

    A couple of key phrases and themes normally develop on these courses. On this one we talked about Integrity and also about Responsibility.

    I was lucky to have a group of very motivated Coaches who were looking to develop their skills further. We talked about the responsibility of learning: mine was to educate and guide; theirs is to go away and practice and reflect and read.

    The Integrity of behaviour as a Coach and working within the scope of practice was also discussed.

    We spent quite a bit of time looking at planning and sequencing, which was then neatly summarised as “Go Big before you go small.”  Meaning look at the main priorites of your sessions and work on them and the complex, compund movements before adding 42 ridiculous exercises that are just “work”.

    Some feedback I gained was that there was too much information given by me and I talk too fast! I might have to work on that before next time.

    I am looking forward to seeing how these coaches have progressed when I see them again in July.

  10. 3 steps to improve your profile as an S&C Coach

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    “Can you help me improve my profile?”

    I get asked this a few times every month by people I have never met. Students who are looking to enter the workplace want a full time coaching role at 22 years old. There are approximately 600 people currently studying for an MSc in Strength and Conditioning in the UK. There are not 600 full time roles, let alone for novice coaches.  

    80% of coaching in the UK is part time and voluntary: and you don’t need an MSc to do that! There are more ways to develop as a coach.

    Three steps to improving your profile

    1. Do a good job. 
    2. Do a better job.
    3. Do an excellent job.

    It’s that simple: stop worrying about your profile and concentrate on coaching the person or people in front of you. Don’t treat young athletes as “stepping stones” on your career pathway.

    The team in front of you are not Crash Test Dummies for your dissertation project or your “accreditation“: they are human beings who deserve better.

    I wish everyone the best of luck in their coaching, but you must be willing to invest time, effort and sweat in developing your practice.

    (5 tips on starting in strength and conditioning here)