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Saturday, August 3, 2013


A few weeks ago, I had a post about a book and made reference to the fact that I would have loved to have read it when I first started coaching.  In fact, it would be in my Top 10 books that I think could've impacted me greatly as a young coach just starting out.  I have since received a great number of requests asking for the complete list and so each day, over the next few weeks, I will list a book that I think young coaches would benefit from reading as they start their coaching journey.  I would imagine that many will be looking for X&O books -- just as I did when I first started coaching -- but instead you will find a list of books that will not only make you a better coach, but a better person. Books that concentrate on teaching, goal setting, communication and leadership.

Book #10
The Art of War
Sun Tzu

An absolute classic!  Bob Knight once called it his most valuable coaching book.  Of course there are many versions (I have 8 different ones) but my favorite is the one edited by James Clavell.  I love his simplistic interpretation.  I admit that there will be some young coaches who may struggle with some of the theories of Sun Tzu and how they may translate to coaching but with time, the teachings will become apparent.

I'll start with my favorite passage from the book:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself,
you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. 
If you know yourself but not the enemy,
for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. 
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself,
you will succumb in every battle."
In fact, Sun Tzu was incredible big on preparation:

"The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought."

"The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable."

How about Sun Tzu’s thoughts on transition defense:

"Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy will be fresh; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted."

Some more profound thoughts from Sun Tzu:

“The value of time — that is, being a little ahead of your opponent — has counted for more than either numerical superiority or the nicest calculations with regard to commissariat.”

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.

He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.

He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.

He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.”

“Security against defeat implied defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means take the offensive.”

“He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent, and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.”

“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him.”

“Rapidity is the essence of war.  Take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.

Bonus blog post from The Art of War by Sun Tzu on The Five Besetting Sins of a General