Industry Insights

9 Suggested Readings for Anyone Involved in Youth Sports

By Jamie Hancock
January 20, 2020
6 min

At the 2020 United Soccer Coaches Convention (USCC), which took place from January 15th-19th, several themes emerged that we’ve recently seen across other sports. If you didn’t attend the convention, or even if you did, you might be wondering “how do I learn more and share my insights with members of my organization?” After all, as the world’s largest gathering of soccer coaches and administrators, this convention was jam-packed with opportunities to learn and grow. Well, this question—along with our unique access to a long-time bookstore manager—inspired us to develop a list of suggested readings for youth sports organizers, coaches, parents, and players. 


Eddie Sutton wears many hats at Manhattan Soccer Club, one of the most enterprising partners we have at LeagueApps. His roles include registrar, tournament director, practice field scheduling coordinator, and technology/website coordinator—to name a few. MSC is the biggest soccer club in New York City, offering all levels of development and competition from ages 3 to 23. Its community of more than 800 families comes from all five boroughs and the surrounding area. 


When he’s not coordinating schedules or exploring new opportunities to help the club run more efficiently, Sutton manages the famous Strand Book Store in the East Village. He’s been there since 1991 and is familiar with some of the best books in each genre. We sat down with Sutton at USCC to discuss the most valuable reads for those involved in youth sports. He attended our Innovation Dinner—an event that brought our soccer community together for some delicious seafood, breathtaking views of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and a panel session featuring some of our partner clubs. Based on the key topics and challenges that were identified, we give you our top book recommendations (in no particular order). 


The panel session at our Innovation Dinner, featuring (from right to left) Lou Fousz Soccer Club, Bethesda Soccer Club, Atlanta United FC, and US Sports Club Insurance.


1. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Author: Ryan Holiday

Recommended for: Organizers, coaches, and parents

Categories: Personal Growth | Stoicism


“[Ryan Holiday] sees most people getting stuck in the face of obstacles, but some people thriving at every challenge. He wants everyone to thrive in the face of obstacles, so he studied those rare people.

He discovered that the difference between the successful and the unsuccessful is not skill but rather the method for dealing with obstacles. Since method is something anyone can learn, he wrote this book to share the method for turning obstacles into advantages.”

Alex Chen


“The book on stoicism that’s taking the NFL by storm.”

Sports Illustrated


2. Radical Candor

Author: Kim Scott

Recommended for: Organizers and coaches

Categories: Management | Communication


“Radical Candor is packed with illuminating truths, insightful advice and practical suggestions, all illustrated with engaging (and often funny) stories from Kim Scott’s own experiences at places like Apple, Google and various start-ups. Indispensable.”

—Gretchen Rubin, author of NYT bestseller 
The Happiness Project


“Reading Radical Candor will help you build, lead, and inspire teams to do the best work of their lives.”

—Sheryl Sandberg, author of the New York Times bestseller Lean In


3. Growth Mindset: a Guide to Professional and Personal Growth

Authors: Joshua Moore and Helen Glasgow

Recommended for: Organizers, coaches, and parents

Categories: Professional Development | Personal Growth


The book explores various areas of professional and personal growth to help you develop and implement goals, including:


  • The Balancing Act of Personal Growth
  • Growing your Career to its Maximum Potential
  • Developing professional growth plan
  • How Personality Affects Growth Development
  • Networking vs. Collaboration
  • Social and “Soft” skills Development


4. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Author: Paul Tough 

Recommended for: Organizers, coaches, and parents

Categories: Child Development | Socioeconomic Challenges


“In this absorbing and important book, Tough explains why American children from both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum are missing out on these essential experiences. … The book illuminates the extremes of American childhood: for rich kids, a safety net drawn so tight it’s a harness; for poor kids, almost nothing to break their fall.”

—Annie Murphy Paul, The New York Times Book Review


“Nurturing successful kids doesn’t have to be a game of chance. There are powerful new ideas out there on how best to equip children to thrive, innovations that have transformed schools, homes, and lives. Paul Tough has scoured the science and met the people who are challenging what we thought we knew about childhood and success. And now he has written the instruction manual. Every parent should read this book – and every policymaker, too.” 

—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit


5. Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game

Author: Dr. Joseph Parent

Recommended for: Coaches and players ages 14 and up

Category: Mental Skills | Mindfulness


“The lessons in Zen Golf make the mental game seem so simple. Dr. Parent has given me very effective methods for working with thoughts and emotions, and for taking the negatives out of the picture.”

—Vijay Singh, Masters and PGA Champion


“Dr. Parent has taught me to be more aware in the present, to really bring out the best of my game. He’s helped me make my mental game stronger, to let my talent shine every time.”

—Cristie Kerr, U.S. Women’s Open Champion


“There’s no other book like this one. If you want to know what has gotten in the way of playing better and what you can do about it, look no further.”

—Mike “Radar” Reid, Senior PGA Champion


6. Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration

Author: Simon Sinek

Recommended for: Organizers, coaches, parents, and players ages 14 and up

Category: Teamwork | Motivational


A richly illustrated fable that tells the story of three kids who go on a journey to a new playground and take a stand for what they believe. The playground serves as a backdrop for the book’s broader message: We are more likely to overcome our struggles and find what we are looking for when we are willing to take others on our journey. Sinek shares such profound lessons as: 


  • A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.
  • Fight against something and we focus on the thing we hate. Fight for something and we focus on the thing we love.
  •  Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.
  • A star wants to see himself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him become stars.


7. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

Author: Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen

Recommended for: Organizers, coaches, parents

Category: Psychology | Management | Personal Growth


“Stone, Patton, and Heen have written an extremely clear and unpretentious exposition of how to develop effective communication skills and a guide to achieving openness and constructive outcomes in dialogue…this book is, and probably for some time to come will be definitive.”

Southern Communication Journal


“Does this book deliver on its promise of an effective way through sticky situations, whether ‘with your babysitter or your biggest client’? It does.”

The New York Times


“How do you confront your ex-spouse who’s late picking up the kids? How do you tell a client their project took longer than expected and the bill is twice as high? How do you say ‘I’m sorry’? Start by picking up Difficult Conversations.”



8. Mental Fitness Training: A Player Empowerment Program

Authors: Lauren Gallagher and Meghan Frey, Sync-It-Up Sports

Recommended for: Players ages 12 and under

Category: Mental Skills | Mindfulness | Personal Development


At the 2020 United Soccer Coaches Convention, we attended an educational session titled “Developing Mentally Fit Athletes in an Unfit World: The Influence of Mental Health on Peak Performance for theI-Generation.” One of the speakers was Lauren Gallagher, Ph.D., who co-founded Sync-It-Up Sports and co-wrote this book.  


Mental Fitness Training: A Player Empowerment Program is an interactive workbook that takes high level concepts such as mindset or emotional awareness, and breaks them down into activities with vivid illustrations, simple and meaningful language, and thoughtful questions which provide an ideal platform for young soccer players to learn.


9. Own Who You Are

Author: Compete Well Media

Recommended for: Players ages 12 and up

Category: Mental Skills | Mindfulness | Personal Development


Own Who You Are is the first workbook of the Compete Well Brain Training series. It is specifically focused on helping you, the performer, develop fundamental routines to maintain and build confidence, joy, and pride in your performance. Certified Mental Performance Consultant, Amanda Ferranti teamed up with a coach, an educator, and a school counselor to create the book. Coincidentally, she was the other speaker for the educational session at USCC titled “Developing Mentally Fit Athletes in an Unfit World: The Influence of Mental Health on Peak Performance for theI-Generation.”


Bonus suggestions directly from Eddie Sutton

Other books—some of which use business as a backdrop—about decision-making, connecting with people, and building and leading cultures:


Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts

By Annie Duke


The Four: Using The Four Agreements to Master the Dream of Your Life

By Don Miguel Ruiz with Janet Mills


Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

By Chip and Dan Heath


5 Most Important Questions: You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization

By Peter Drucker


The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

By Peter Drucker


What You Do is Who You: How to Create Your Business Culture

By Ben Horowitz


Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business

By Danny Meyer



This concludes our list of suggested readings for anyone involved in youth sports who’s committed to growing individually, as a team, or as an organization. Now, time to pick up that book and start reading!