As an avid reader who is obsessed with rugby there aren’t very many books about the sport and the people who have impacted it I haven’t read. Now that I have become consumed with coaching the spectrum of my reading material has expanded to topics like; sports psychology, sports management and the study of great coaches in other sports. Below is a list of my top ten MUST read for any rugby player and/or coach.
10. It’s in the Blood: My Life by Lawrence Dallaglio
The life story of former England captain, London Wasp legend, and all around great guy Lawrence Dallglio. His story is unique in the way that he was one of the last amateur players to retire in the professional era. He paints a vivid picture of transitioning from a guy with a 9-5 who plays rugby for “boot money” on the weekends, into an international rugby star appearing in Nike adverts. American readers may see similarities between where the USA game is now and the start of professionalism in Europe as he tells the story. For the hardcore fans Dallglio pulls no punches when he addresses the drug scandal that ended his reign as England captain and opens up about the tragic death of his sister. Overall, it’s a well written book penned by a true legend of the game with many interesting stories that are funny, sad, and most importantly truthful.
9. Food for Rugby: Eat Well Perform Better by Jane Griffin
If you’re like me and consider a diet ordering a small Blizzard from Dairy Queen instead of the large this book is for you. If you are like my nutritionist who probably read that last sentenced and slammed her fist on the desk in rage over my dietary ignorance, don’t worry this book is for you too. Packed full of the science of why and how food fuels your rugby body it balances itself out with helpful, easy to read graphs and handy menus (the healthy bar menu is a personal favorite) that anyone can follow. It doesn’t matter if you are a teenager just getting into the game, a college student who plays socially or residing at the OTC this book can help you take care of your body so you can reach whatever your goals.
8. Mind Gym by Gary Mack and David Casstevens
Written by Gary Mack a leading sports psychologist who has worked with some of the top athletes and teams in America. The book is made of 40 lessons and packed with stories of these lessons being put to practice. We all know a friend or player who constantly struggles with the mental side of this sport and this book is written for them. It is a quick, easy read (I got thru it in a cross country plane ride) and enjoyable. Read this book and enjoy building your mind gym and getting the mental edge.
7. The Fighters Mind: Inside the Mental Game by Sam Sheridan
Think you’re a bad ass? Wait until you read the story about the ultra marathoner who broke his leg, kept running and finished the race! No big deal you say? It was a race from LA to New York. This book goes and gets some of the top athletes and coaches in sports and burrows into their brain to find out what gives them that drive to train, compete, and reach the top of their sport. Don’t confuse this book as something written by a meat head, about meat heads. It packed full of insight into how to train your mind to do what you might not think physically possible. It’s gritty and honest and will force you to look at yourself and your mental make up.
6. Wooden John Wooden with Steve Jamison
If you’re a bookstore nerd like this guy you probably would have to take off your shoes to count how many John Wooden books you could find in the sports section. But, this one is different. Written near the end of his life, by him and a friend, this book explores his life and coaching philosophies. Wooden wasn’t just a great coach but a great teacher and person, and that is highlighted throughout the chapters. The lessons he shares from his days coaching UCLA basketball (where he won 7 straight national championships) will make you look at how you coach your team. One of the standouts in the book is a poem titled “A Parent Talks to a Child before the First Game” which should be read to every high school and college rugby team.
5. Confessions of a Rugby Mercenary John Daniell
This is a true story by New Zealander John Daniell and his adventures in pro rugby. Focusing mostly on his time in France’s pro series he tells the tale not often heard, the one of a journey man role player. The author is not a star by any means and often plays off one year contracts. He does a great job showing the gritty behind the scenes business side of rugby. I will caution you though, if you are looking for a book packed full of stories about partying, pranks, and all the nonsense of rugby this is not it. The racist story he tells is the lights out tunnel fight that happens before kick-off. Otherwise, this is a quick read and well written book about a rugby player who is chasing his dream.
4. Think Rugby by Jim Greenwood
Everyone knows (at least you should) the book Total Rugby, well this is the follow up book to it. In Total Rugby you get all the pieces to a great rugby machine; in Think Rugby you are given the directions to assemble all those pieces. In true Greenwood fashion things are explained with importance to detail. He gives you step by step instructions in how to build a playing system and make it work for your team. This isn’t just a book for coaches it should be read by players as well to help give them a deeper understanding of the mechanics inside the game.
3. Jonah Lomu Autobiography by Jonah Lomu
If you are in the age range of 28-35 in America I will bet you $5 (you can pay me later) your first exposure to rugby was a video clip of Jonah Lomu from the internet (this was before the days of YouTube kids). Lomu was one of the first marketable individual players in rugby simply because when he had the ball in hand it was almost a guaranteed highlight. The book is written with an over all humble tone from a man who was the face of rugby. It’s also very revealing as he tells of his struggles of growing up and shares the full story of his diagnosis and treatment of his kidney disease which ended his playing career. It’s a great story about one of the biggest superstars in the game. It also gives all of us forwards hope that one day our coaches will realize that we to can play wing just like Jonah.
2. Total Rugby by Jim Greenwood
Plain and simple, this is the Bible of rugby. Jim Greenwood is responsible for creating the game we play today. He has inspired coaches like Clive Woodward and Eddie Jones with his expansive style and patterns. This book is all about the fundamentals of rugby. It is written with such detail to make sure that all of your questions are answered and nothing is left to chance. Do you want to know why you are missing kicks? This book will help you identify the reason by breaking everything down from what your feet are doing to where your eyes should be looking. This is a must own for all players and coaches.
1. Winning by Clive Woodward
This book is a game changer. Written by Clive Woodward the world cup winning England coach this is a guide to how he built England into a rugby powerhouse that concluded with them winning the World Cup. His approach was unique in the way that he applied his experience in business management to coaching a rugby team. While you won’t agree with everything he says and does in this book, you will appreciate his forward thinking and organizational skills. If you are serious about the business of coaching rugby I can’t urge you enough to read this.
That’s it, my top ten rugby must read list. Did I leave a book off? Let me know!