As part of my education in soccer and coaching youth soccer, I have used various books and manuals. I reference them in blogs, but I thought having a page for them would be helpful to someone. I read a lot and learn in that style, so books are a comfortable way for me to learn. Here goes…
1. Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics, Jonathan Wilson (Orion 2008). Wow. I seriously love this book. Some say Wilson overdoes his tactical analysis, but this book is a great response to those who think that coaches (at the professional level) should just “let the players play.” There is more to it than that and Wilson proves it. He traces the history of tactics from no offside and the 2-3-5 to the modern 4-5-1. Great read. Wilson writes for The Guardian and I blog about his articles a lot.
2. Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, David Winner (Bloomsbury 2000). Love this one too. As I have studied the game, I have become fascinated with Dutch football – their academies are legendary – and “total football.” This book describes the history of total football, influences of early coaches (not just Johan Cruyff), and compares the soccer philosophy with the life philosophy of the Dutch. Very interesting. Short but rewarding read.
3. Arsenal: The Making of a Modern Superclub, Alex Fynn & Kevin Whitcher (Vision Sports Publishing 2008). Fun read about the making of the current Arsenal squad and its evolution to the beautiful passing game you can now enjoy. Some say it hasn’t netted them any trophies recently (let’s get back to Boring, Boring Arsenal), but this book details Arsene’s influence in the club. Easy read and fun.
4. Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why German and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey–and even Iraq–are destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski (Nation Books, 2009). Written in the Freakonomics style (football writer with economic analysis), this is an interesting read. For English fans, he concludes that they are about where they should be (6-8th in world) considering their population and GDP. He gets into Outliers 10,000 hour rule and applies it to soccer (more on that in another book). Like Freakonomics, a fun read.
5. Arsene Wenger: The Biography, Xavier Rivoire (Aurum Press Ltd. 2007). It is what it says – I am intrigued with him obviously. Good read.
6. Soccer Men: Profiles of the Rogues, Geniuses, and Nuerotics Who Dominate the World’s Most Popular Sport, Simon Kuper (Nation Books 2011). This is a fun and easy book as it is broken into small chapters detailing the childhood, adolescence (some times), and pro careers of many current stars and recent stars. He doesn’t limit himself to players and includes managers and general managers too. Great book for kids and adults alike – you can pick and choose what you want to read.
7. The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer, David Goldblatt (Riverhead Books 2006). I have not finished this comprehensive history book, but what I have read, I love. Goldblatt’s writing quality is first class – feels like you are reading H.W. Brands or even Howard Zinn (two of my favorite history writers). Goldblatt tackles soccer with and gives the sport the courtesy of first class research and writing that you are accustomed to reading in a university setting.
8. Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby (Riverhead Trade 1998). Book made famous in America by the adaptation to baseball in the movie Fever Pitch starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Hornby’s neurotic love of Arsenal, how he arrives at it post his parents divorce, and his life lone love affair with it are twisted and funny. The way he describes the winning goal against Liverpool for Arsenal in the critical late season match. The goal is better than an orgasm because it is unpredictable, rare, etc. Fantastic read.
1. Baffled Parents Guide to Great Soccer Drills, Tom Fleck & Ron Quinn (Ragged Mountain Press 2002). This was one of my first books. I used it a lot for drills and ideas. As you learn the game more, the drills will make more sense, but Fleck and Quinn did a good job of keeping it simple. Use Meter: Lots of use early on.
2. The Spanish Soccer Coaching Bible: Volume 1 – Youth and Club, Laureano Ruiz (2002). This is a relatively new book to me. The quality of the writing and organization are poor (so it is hard for me to enjoy – I am a touch picky). But, there are some great ideas and I love the consistent reinforcement of mastery over the ball over tactical stuff like teaching passing too soon. He recognizes that you need to let kids be selfish. People assume, based on Spain’s style, that they must teach kids early to pass, pass, pass. They do not. They focus on ball control and dribble, dribble, dribble. Use Meter: Seldom.
3. Luis van Gaal and the Ajax Coaches, Henny Kormelink & Tjeu Seeverens (1997). Short book that provides a lot of anecdotal stuff. Some of it helpful, a lot of it not. I skimmed through it but barely use it. Use Meter: Rare.
4. Coaching Soccer: The Official Coaching Book of the Dutch Soccer Association, Bert van Wingan (Reedswain 1997). Love this book! I post a lot about it because of its teachings of 4v4 soccer and the importance. Jason Babcock and I used the 4v4 exclusively for a whole season. It has a lot of other great stuff but I particular love all the variations of the 4v4 to use to emphasize different aspects of the game. Use Meter: Often.
5. Ajax Training Sessions, Jorrit Smink (Reedswain 2004). Love this extremely short book! Straight drills and it is good stuff. Nothing fancy – real simple – but very effective. Ajax has a legendary youth training academy so I was interested to see how they train. The writer is a journalist who followed them around for a year writing about their practices from warm ups to injury sessions to full sessions. Use Meter: Often.
6. The Soccer Coaching Bible, NSCAA (2004). I wish I could say that I have used this book more but I have not. It is lengthy and seems good but I do not qualify to write anything about it.
7. Soccer: Skills and Tactics, Glenn Moore (Parragon 1997). Thomas Shenton lent me this book to allow my boys to use it. But I read it more. It is not long nor wordy, but it is effective. Lots of pictures demonstrating proper technique. Fantastic book. There is a series of these they use in England a lot. I love it. Derek fixed his corner kicks by studying its pictures and notes. Great book. Use Meter: Often.
Non-Soccer but Related Books:
1. Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell (Little Brown and Company 2008). Gladwell is a psychologists that has some great stuff relating to the pursuit of excellence. This is the book that has the 10,000 hour rule (that he took from another’s research). Gladwell popularized the 10,000 rule even though it was not his theory. Great read.
2. Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell (Little Brown and Co. 2005). Gladwell again – this time writing about “thin-slicing.” It is how our brain makes snap decisions. Good stuff.
3. The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t Born, It’s Grown. Here’s How, Daniel Coyle (Bantam 2009). This book is referenced by Jurgen Klinsman to soccer coaches. Coyle refines the 10,000 rule to say that you are not building muscle memory, you are growing myelin sheathing – that is what makes you great. You grow it by “deep practice” – not by repetition of something you know. By trial and error and pushing yourself on something you don’t. Great book.
4. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall (Alfred A. Knopf 2009). Wow. What a book. If you want to know why you should run, or how you can help your soccer player run better, read this book. It is about what it states – we are born to run. From our cooling system (sweat) to the ligament in our neck to keep our heads still, we were made to run, and evil shoe companies have attacked our basic trait to force us to run wrong! You must read the book to see how. Great read.
5. Bounce, Matthew Syed (Harper 2010). UNBELIEVABLE! This is my favorite book along these lines so far. In Bounce, Syed applies the 1991 psychologist experiment by Anders Ericcson at Florida State University. and other evidence, to argue that talent is not had, its developed. Syed was a world class table tennis player and a graduate of Oxford University. Fantastic read — the pages will fly by.
And a Fantasy Book:
Just because I love this book so much, a book list by me would be incomplete without it. If you like fiction, please read Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It is the greatest work of fiction I have ever read (and I read a lot). It is adult fiction. I cannot recommend it enough.