The 7 Best Sports Psychology Books of 2022

Athletes, coaches, and parents can foster mental resilience with these reads

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If you’re an athlete, coach, or sports parent, sometimes you’re looking for that extra piece of inspiration to optimize performance. Many psychological aspects of sports affect performance. Self-assurance, motivation, and concentration can determine whether an athlete wins or loses a game or achieves their desired results.

Reviewed & Approved

Our best overall selection is Think Like a Warrior by Darrin Donnelly for the way it brings to life legendary and well-known coaches to help you build your inner strength. If you're interested in building mental toughness, The Art of Mental Training by DC Gonzalez is a good choice.

To build these skills, sports psychology books can be a game-changer. While there are many that give classic advice, others explain the latest techniques for harnessing an athlete’s talent, motivation, and mindset. Our selections present the basic building blocks of sports psychology and explain how to harness it to optimize an athlete’s performance. We chose sports psychology books for our list based on their content and relevance for the intended audience, author credentials and expertise, and overall value. 

Here are the best sports psychology books on the market.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Darrin Donnelly’s Think Like a Warrior

"The book’s unique perspective is great for athletes who have little experience with sports psychology."

Best Budget: The Art of Mental Training

"Popular with athletes but can apply to entertainers, musicians, or businessmen among others."

Best for Beginners: Sports Psychology

"Complete with explanations of field experiments and summations of key findings."

Best for Athletes: Relentless

"The book uses a variety of anecdotes to explain sports psychology ideas of how to dedicate oneself to a goal."

Best for Parents: Changing the Game

"O’Sullivan uses his own personal experience to write about how parents can help create a positive and fun environment for children to play sports."

Best for Youth Coaches: Sport Psychology for Youth Coaches

"Covers important coaching areas such as legal responsibilities of a coach."

Best Comprehensive: The Champion’s Mind

"Tells readers how to prepare for games, what makes a great teammate and how to mentally lock into the game."

Best Overall: Darrin Donnelly’s Think Like a Warrior

Darrin Donnelly’s Amazon bestseller "Think Like a Warrior" uses a fable to get its point across making it easy to read and understand, which is why we selected it as our best overall pick. This book uses a fictional account of a man being visited by five famous coaches, including UCLA basketball’s John Wooden, Alabama football’s Paul "Bear" Bryant, Vince Lombardi, Buck O’Neil, and Herb Brooks, to teach key lessons of modern sports psychology, when he is down and out.

The author boils down these coaching philosophies to five lessons including how to build your self-confidence and mental toughness, use the power of self-talk, and more. The book’s unique perspective is great for athletes who have little experience with sports psychology but want to understand key concepts in a fun way, it can also be used to help you become a powerful leader to your family and business. Think of it as becoming the ultimate coach to whatever your life needs.

Best Budget: The Art of Mental Training - A Guide to Performance Excellence

Inexpensive and well-rated, "The Art of Mental Training - A Guide to Performance Excellence" helps readers understand how to achieve their “peak performance.” Written by performance coach DC Gonzalez, "The Art of Mental Training" teaches readers how to harness sports psychology and mental training information for more confidence, mental toughness and success.

This book is popular with athletes but can apply to entertainers, musicians, or businessmen among others. Focused on teaching mental toughness techniques, the book promises to help people deal with high-pressure situations. Gonzalez's tips will also help you improve your focus and concentration, which can help in all aspects of your life.

Best for Beginners: Sports Psychology - A Complete Introduction

If you want to understand sports psychology, it’s not a bad idea to take the approach of a student starting an introductory college course. The book "Sports Psychology - A Complete Introduction" is designed as an easy-to-read, plain English introduction to the field.

Complete with explanations of field experiments and summations of key findings, author Dr. John Perry from the University of Hull breaks down sports psychology in a book that students can use to teach themselves. This book may be the best way to learn a lot about sports psychology, but it definitely takes an approachable, yet academic route.

Best for Athletes: Relentless

Athletes who want to learn more about sports psychology and how to apply it to themselves may want to listen to Tim Grover. Grover is a trainer best known for working with athletes such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to help them harness their mental toughness and exploit the weaknesses of their competitors.

In "Relentless," Grover writes about what it takes to be a top athlete and to win at the highest levels. The book uses a variety of anecdotes to explain sports psychology ideas of how to dedicate oneself to a goal and what it takes to succeed. His tone is direct and brutally honest leaving readers with a clear idea of what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

Best for Parents: Changing the Game

One of the biggest audiences for sports psychology books isn’t the athletes themselves, but rather parents who want to ensure their children excel at sports in the optimal way. There are many books on sports psychology that parents of athletes at any age can enjoy, but John O’Sullivan’s "Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids" is among the best.

O’Sullivan, a former youth sports coach and athlete, uses his own personal experience to write about how parents can help create a positive and fun environment for children to play sports. He wants to put the “play” back into “play ball,” he says, rather than think of sports in the adult-centric way that many youth leagues are run today. About 70 percent of kids drop out of sports by the age of 13 because it just gets too competitive and cutthroat.

Those who have read "Changing the Game" almost universally recommend the book to parents, with many calling for it to be required reading for coaches.

Best for Youth Coaches: Sport Psychology for Youth Coaches

The well-titled "Sport Psychology for Youth Coaches" helps youth coaches understand how their actions impact kids and what they can do to make the most of their leadership positions. The book provides behavioral guidelines to help motivate and inspire kids while also minimizing anxiety and stress on and off the field for athletes.

The book also covers important coaching areas such as legal responsibilities of a coach and sport psychological skills that can deliver the best outcomes. Reviewers recommend the book for its straightforward approach and educational tone. It promotes a coaching style of holistic youth development rather than pure competition.

Best Comprehensive: The Champion’s Mind

Geared toward athletes but applicable to parents and coaches, The Champion’s Mind is the perfect mix of sports psychology information and real-world application. Written by sports psychologist Jim Afremow, "The Champion’s Mind" focuses on the psychological attributes that allow some athletes to thrive and others to not make the most of their physical talent. The book purports to give readers the same advice as Afremow has given Heisman Trophy winners, professional athletes, and Olympians.

The Champion’s Mind tells readers how to prepare for games, what makes a great teammate and how to mentally lock into the game, among other things. Besides advice, this book also has cutting-edge workouts from top trainers to take your game to the next level.

Final Verdict

Sports psychology books are often addictive—after reading one book, we're fired up but also looking for the next inspirational boost. Since that’s often the case, start by reading our top recommendation: Darrin Donnelly’s bestseller, "Think Like a Warrior" (view on Amazon). Written like a fable, it is a fictional account of a man who receives advice from five famous coaches, including UCLA basketball’s John Wooden and Green Bay's Vince Lombardi, to teach critical lessons of modern sports psychology when he is down and out.

This book is excellent for athletes because it provides a unique perspective and a psychological road map that can offer advice to a coach. It delivers fun, manageable concepts that are easy to learn and understand. 

What to Look for in Sports Psychology Books

Relevance

Choose a sports psychology book with an appealing topic you can relate to. For instance, if you are an athlete, a book geared toward competition mindset and perseverance may appeal to you. If you are a coach, you likely want to look for books related to improving your team or athlete's morale, dedication, and drive.

Consider whether you are looking for technique tips and actionable step-by-step advice, or prefer evidence-based background on sports psychology and motivation. Since there is a wide range of sports psychology books available, do a little research to see which book(s) fulfills your needs.

Author Expertise

The author of the book you choose should have an appropriate background that appeals to you. For instance, you may wish to learn from an experienced successful coach or be inspired by a well-known athlete. Alternatively, you may want to look for a book authored by a professional sports psychologist for the best theory and practice-based evidence.

Reader Reviews

Even if the subject matter and author are appealing, you may not enjoy it or even finish reading if a book isn't written in an engaging and digestible way. Check online reader reviews or ask like-minded friends, fellow athletes, or coaches for recommendations. Keep in mind that everyone has differing opinions on what makes a book worth reading, but you can garner a good idea of how well a book is written if it has significant positive reviews.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of sports psychology?

    Sport psychology can benefit athletes and coaches. Knowing the basic principles and techniques of sports psychology can help athletes surmount psychological issues related to performance, increase motivation and drive, conquer self-doubt, and set and reach goals. Sports psychology uses science-backed strategies to overcome mental obstacles.

  • How can sports psychology help athletes?

    Sports psychology can help athletes overcome mental roadblocks that may be holding them back from reaching their potential. It can also help athletes set and achieve goals related to their sport. If performance anxiety or self-doubt becomes a problem for an athlete, sports psychology techniques can help address those issues.

  • What do sports psychologists do?

    Sports psychologists work with athletes who come to them for help with various issues related to their sports mentality such as performance anxiety, self-doubt, coping with pressure, pain tolerance, motivation, self-esteem, and more.

1 Source
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  1. American Psychological Association. Sport psychologists help professional and amateur athletes.