Book Club For Jocks

Successful people read.

Studies (we assume conducted by avid readers) confirm this.

And while you might instinctively know that it's true in the fields of finance, and education, and communication, it also turns out to be true in athletics.

Yes, jocks and books go together.

For that reason, we polled some of the local sports community to find out what they are reading. It should be noted that the genesis of this project was when Ohio State men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann responded to a casual request for his favorite reading material, only to have him generously and thoughtfully respond with his 16 favorites.

In our poll, Malcolm Gladwell was a popular author, and a handful of books were recommended more than once. They included Grit: The Power & Passion of Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together & Other’s Don’t by Simon Sinek, and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin received a couple votes.

"Far from your typical military leadership book," Ohio State men's volleyball coach Kevin Burch explained. "It addresses how to take ownership of mistakes as a leader and why it’s so important with those you lead. Mistakes and failure are a part of life, but rarely do you read about how to respond and learn from those failures."

Buckeye women's volleyball coach Geoff Carlston recommended Wolfpack by Abby Wambach, as did women's lacrosse coach Amy Bokker.

"[Wambach] discusses eight new rules to inspire the “wolfpack” of women you lead or work with," said Bokker. "I love how inspiring this book is and the rally for women in leadership."

Although Wambach is a now retired soccer player, neither soccer coach who weighed in on our poll had Wolfpack on their list. However, both OSU women's soccer coach Lori Walker and Columbus Crew head man Caleb Porter did recommend Good to Great by James Collins.

And, of course, it's not just books.

"During the baseball season, most of my reading has to do with baseball teams, players and statistics," said Columbus Clippers president and general manager Ken Schnacke "Sports Business Journal, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Baseball Weekly, etc."

So check out what's on the shelves of some of coaches in Columbus.

The List:

CHRIS CLARK (Columbus Blue Jackets director of player personnel)

  • Mind Gym by Gary Mack

CALEB PORTER (Columbus Crew SC)

  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  • Good to Great by James Collins

KEN SCHNACKE (Columbus Clippers President and GM)

  • The Last Stand by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • The Vagabonds by Jeff Guinn

TONY MANSOLINO (Columbus Clippers Manager)

  • Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown
  • Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together & Other’s Don’t by Simon Sinek
  • The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team by Mike Krzyzewski

CHRIS HOLTMAN (Ohio State men’s basketball)

  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
  • Into Thin Air and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  • Grit: The Power & Passion of Perseverance by Angela Duckworth 
  • A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliott
  • A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
  • Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson
  • A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein
  • They Call Me Coach by John Wooden
  • Showtime by Jeff Pearlman
  • A Season with Coach Dick Bennett by Erik Ferris
  • Meat Market by Bruce Feldman
  • Wooden-A Coach’s Life by Seth Davis
  • My Life on a Napkin by Gene Wojciechowski

KEVIN MCGUFF (Ohio State women’s basketball)

  • Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
  • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
  • Living with the Monks and Living with a Seal by Jessie Itzler

KEVIN BURCH (Ohio State men’s volleyball)

  • Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin
  • Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  • Grit: The Power & Passion of Perseverance by Angela Duckworth 

TOM RYAN (Ohio State wrestling)

  • The Case for Christ by Lee Stroble
  • The Shack by William Paul Young
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

MATTHEW SAUK (Columbus Destroyers)

  • Paracelsus, the Biography
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • QB: My Life Behind the Spiral by Steve Young
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry
  • Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World by William McRaven

RYAN TANOUE (Ohio State rifle)

  • In Pursuit of Excellence by Terry Orlick, PhD
  • The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

GEOFF CARLSTON (Ohio State women’s volleyball)

  • The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
  • Wolfpack by Abby Wombach

MEREDITH PAULICIVIC (Ohio State women’s gymnastics)

  • Perfect 10: The UGA GymDogs & The Rise of Women’s College Gymnastics in America by Suzanne Yoculan

AMY BOKKER (Ohio State women’s lacrosse)

  • Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together & Other’s Don’t by Simon Sinek
  • Wolfpack by Abby Wambach
  • The Power of Positive Team by Jon Gordon

BILL DORENKOTT (Ohio State swimming & diving)

  • Mindset by Carol Dweck
  • Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
  • The Edge by Howard Ferguson
  • Prophet of the Sandlots by Mark Winegardner

LORI WALKER (Ohio State women’s soccer)

  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  • Good to Great and Built to Last by James Collins
  • Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

JAY MOSELEY (Ohio State men’s golf)

  • The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon
  • Better than I Found It by Mike McGraw

TY TUCKER (Ohio State men’s tennis)

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  • Season on The Brink by John Feinstein

And if you would like to know more, or maybe are looking for information to supplement your own reading list, some of the coaches surveyed provided their own book reviews! A more thorough look at their answers can be found here.

And special thanks to Holtmann, who--as we previously mentioned--was the inspiration for this project, and to Kyle Kuhlman, who went over and above to help us gather the recommendations of the Ohio State coaches.

Book List
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