Companion Books

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Everyone who takes the time to write and publish something, be it book, blog, clinic presentation or even Facebook status has an agenda (even me). That agenda might not always be clear to the reader or even valid, but it is there. That is not a bad thing. Because someone has an agenda doesn’t make what they write any more, or less, valid. What it does mean is that the reader must always be aware of what the agenda might be and consume that publication with a critical eye.
Coach’s books are perfect examples. They are always how the coach would like to think of himself, how he would like his philosophy to be interpreted by others. Therefore, the rough edges have been trimmed and the contradictions and failures excluded.
As I wrote, that doesn’t make the book any less valid and can make it more interesting, as long as we keep that critical eye open. In the case of a book one easy way to do that is to find a book’s companion. That is the book on the same theme or era or topic but from another perspective. Here are a few examples.
‘Sacred Hoops’ is unquestionably the greatest coaching book ever written. It is the story of one of the most successful coaches of all time, full of timeless coaching wisdom as well as incredibly well written and entertaining. Of course it cannot possibly be the (whole) truth, life just doesn’t work that neatly. To put it into perspective, I recommend ‘The Jordan Rules’, a book that came out a few years earlier that chronicles Jackson and the Bulls’ first championship season. To know for example, that there was no eureka moment between Jackson and Jordan but rather a long patient, process of convincing does nothing, in my opinion, to diminish his book. Instead it gives an added power and the understanding that it doesn’t have to work perfectly to work in the end.
Another set of companion books is ‘The Talent Code’ and ‘The Sports Gene’. ‘The Talent Code’ popularised the idea that success is the result of hard work and not of innate talent. This is an incredibly intoxicating idea especially if you a) don’t have talent and b) don’t take ten seconds to think critically and realise the central premise (that there is no such thing as talent) is ridiculous. By reading ‘The Sports Gene’ in companion, you can come to terms with the reality that success is an incredibly complicated process of which hard work is a vital part. Again for me, this actually strengthens the messages of both books.
Closer to (volleyball) home, I would propose ‘Spike!’ (and here) and ‘The Sand Man: An Autobiography’ as companions. But I’ve written about that before.
Ultimately the lesson, as always, is read widely, listen to everything,  question it rigorously, make your own final decison.


  1. I always think of Sacred Hoops and The Winner Within (Pat Riley’s book on coaching and management) as companion books. I read them one after the other and found it fascinating that both coaches talked about the importance of teamwork, selflessness and a number of other concepts, but came at them from completely different perspectives. It helped reinforce to me that, no matter what perspective you come from, the essential elements of team success remain the same.


  2. I saw a couple of ESPN documentaries that could be considered companion pieces recently – “The Book of Manning” and “The Marinovich Project”.


    1. I haven’t seen the Marinovich one, but wasn’t he the guy whose dad pushed him from the age of 2? And Manning’s dad never really pushed them. So you mean opposite ways to bring up kids?


      1. According to the Manning doco, Peyton wasn’t allowed to play tackle football till he was much older than most kids. Archie would only help his sons if they specifically asked him to. Marinovich was obsessed with engineering the perfect football player and his son turned out a bust and heroin addict.


      2. I knew that he was a bust but not the last part. There is another doco out now, maybe a 30 for 30, that follows a bunch of those insane parents. Apparently it is quite frightening. If I remember correctly it has a guy who started stretching exercises for his kid within a couple of days. I think it was made by Peter Berg.


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