Shortly after the First Annual Boston Hockey Summit in the summer of 2009, I received an email from one of Mike Boyle’s interns and strength and conditioning coach for the Worester Sharks, Jamie Rodriquez. Just as I did in my younger years, Jamie was asking local-area strength coaches which books he should be reading to improve his craft. He stated that he had either already read or was planning on purchasing what I would consider must-haves in any strength coaches library (see below) but was searching for additional ones that would provide him a “professional edge”. (On a side note, Mike Boyle has a nice list of professional books I would also recommend you check out on strengthcoach.com)
The list of strength coach must-haves include:
Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairments by Shirley Sharman
Supertraining by Mel Siff
Physical Examination of the Spine and Extremities by Hoppenfeld
Athletic Body in Balance by Gray Cook
Low Back Disorders by Dr. Stuart McGill
Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers
Designing Strength Training Programs and Facilities by coach Boyle himself
Jamie came to me and asked the same question as to what books he should be reading. The two books that I recommended to Jamie however, may have surprised him. As important as it is to read as much research and information as you can in your specialty, I believe it is just as important to become a master in communication and leadership if you hope to rise to the top of your chosen profession. With that said, the two non-sports medicine or strength and conditioning books that have had the greatest impact on my career and the two that I recommended to this young coach were Good to Great by Jim Collins and Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. Here is a short review of each book:
Good to Great by Jim Collins (the following contains excerpts from Jim Collins Website, www.jimcollins.com)
Jim’s research shows that building great organizations (yes, even training facilities and college sports medicine departments) proceeds in four stages. (Some of the most important points are briefly outlined below; however this list is not complete and I recommend that you read this book in its entirety)
STAGE 1: DISCIPLINED PEOPLE
First Who … Then What. Whether you just opened a new training facility or were promoted to lead a new team, the most important first step is getting the right people on the bus (your team), the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats before you decide to drive the bus anywhere. This goes for the hiring process. It's better to move forward and do some extra work and not hire someone for a while, than to make a rushed decision and hire someone that really isn’t interested in being on your bus.
STAGE 2: DISCIPLINED THOUGHT
Confront the Brutal Facts—Nothing is worse then putting off the truth because it's more convenient to keep doing “business as usual.” Ask yourself and your team tough questions and engage in furious debates in search of the truth and brutal facts. You might find out that the success you thought you were headed for won’t happen in a particular area, but it's better confronting that fact initially than to invest in a product or idea that leads you to a dead end later on.
STAGE 3: DISCIPLINED ACTION
The Flywheel. When building a business or a department (say within an athletic department) that you wish to reach the level of greatness, there is never a single moment in which people will turn to you and say “That was it! That’s what caused you to be great!" There is no distinct program, no miracle exercise or hiring. Instead, greatness is a relentless and never ending daily push against a “flywheel.” Then, without any one particular moment being credited for it, the flywheel begins turning on its own; turning faster and faster until its moving on its own. Many organizations go years upon years, sometimes for decades prior to experiencing success, but their actions each and every day was setting the groundwork for greatness.
STAGE 4: BUILDING GREATNESS TO LAST
Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress. Collins talks about two really important points here that are worth sharing.
i) Sticking to your core values no matter what, while having a “willingness to challenge and change everything except those core values.” For example, a core value for your sports medicine department should be to practice Evidence Based Medicine, but then willing to challenge and change for example the best way to provide auxiliary services such as hours of operation or compensation time for team travel; but NEVER move away from or at the expense of the core value(s).
ii) In order to stimulate progress, Collins suggests setting a BHAG, or a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Now I’m sure you’ve all heard of SMART goal setting, and although I agree with these and continue to set them, no one gets excited about a SMART goal. By setting a goal so large and exciting (BHAG) you’ll be sure that those that work alongside you will be excited about your vision and working towards that end.
Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
Farrazzi opens his book with a quote worth sharing here:
“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in a relationship with everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.”
- Margaret Wheatley
If the above quote didn’t quite set it, here is a story that I often share with students and young interns. I originally met Henry at a John Berardi Seminar that Eric Cressey was putting on several summers ago. A couple of coaches in attendance, including myself, jolted to Uno Chicago Grill during lunch break to discuss the morning's lecture and grab a quick bite. As I was walking out the door, a young student approached me and asked if he could sit with us during lunch. Not knowing who he was, but impressed by his bravado, we pulled him into our group and enjoyed his company that day. Long story short, Henry continued to stay in touch with myself and other members of that group and ended up eventually interning and spending time at some of the best strength venues in the nation including Cressey Performance, Boston College Strength and Conditioning and USC Football Strength and Conditioning, all prior to graduating from Springfield College. After graduation, Henry was accepted and started his Master’s degree program at the University of Connecticut but soon found himself at the University of Washington as the assistant strength coach for its football program under former USC strength coach, Ivan Lewis.
Without even knowing it, and even prior to me reading the book, Henry did exactly what Farrazzi preaches: He never ate alone. Henry thanked those that offered advice and always stayed in touch with those same people – constantly expanding his network and thus expanding the opportunities that were available to him; this of course all happened, because he didn’t want to eat alone.
Final Takeaway: As this coming summer quickly approaches, and you’re putting together your leisure reading list, continue to read and develop your skills in your particular field, but when given the chance to step outside the traditional books of your craft, a weekend with either of these two books might just be the read you’ve been waiting for.
Art Horne is the Coordinator of Care and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Basketball Team at Northeastern University, Boston MA. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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