Here are two books I can highly recommend, which initially, will appear to have no bearing on coaching. However both are terrific reads in their own rights, but there are coaching connections which I will endeavour to explain.

The books are

EXIT WOUNDS - One Australian's War on Terror by Major General John Cantwell with Greg Bearup and

GROWING UP WITH SUBBUTEO- MY FATHER INVENTED THE GAME by Mark Adolph

Two completely different books but both fascinating stories.

Firstly then- EXIT WOUNDS

Many years ago, whilst Head Coach of the Victorian Institute of Sport, I was fortunate enough to be selected to attend a six week intensive Leadership Course conducted by an arm of the Victorian Police. Attendees were other VIS coaches, athletes- including Cathy Freedman and Melbourne Victory's Leigh Broxham and administrators.

The course was designed to give us different scenarios on Leadership, what it may look like, how you may develop it for yourself and players coaches come into contact with and give you the tools and skills to devise solutions to problems we may face, both on the sporting fields and within competition and just in every day life.

Theory sessions were always followed by practical challenges and guest speakers came in from time to time to share their stories. One such guest speaker was the head trainer of the Special Operations Group ( SOG) and what a powerful presentation he gave. He talked about creating the appropriate culture and enviroment within a team organisation and how you would nurture that towards successful outcomes. In our sport, it may be to beat a top team in a major game so your preparation and game plan is vital. In their world it might be to take down a criminal in a particular volatile situation. In football it is about scoring goals and winning a game. With the SOG it is about capturing an individual or diffusing a situation. In our game if something goes wrong we lose the match. With the SOG, if something goes wrong or not to plan, someone dies!!! The planning of both situations is vital but the attention to detail with the SOG is something all coaches can learn from- I certainly did.

EXIT WOUNDS is a very powerful story about Major General John Cantwell who went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and came home with PTSD- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. On the surface it is a graphic account of his life in war zones and decisions he needed to take and actions resulting from those decisions. From my point of view and thinking back to the VIS course many years ago, I believe it is  a book about Leadership. Powerful, raw, at times controversial but an incredible story of courage under fire- something coaches sometimes feel they have to put up. The only difference though, in our world we lose a game or our coaching position...in other world's lives are lost!!! Remember, contrary to what Bill Shankly once said- it is only a game!!! Maybe reading this book will put it all in context.

 

The second book I would highly recommend is

GROWING UP WITH SUBBUTEO- My dad invented the world' greatest football game by Mark Adolph

Growing up in the UK, everything was always centred around football. Everywhere I went I took my best friend- my football. I dribbled it with me when mum sent me to the corner shop for errands bouncing it off the walls of houses or kerbs pretending I was going past Tommy Smith of Liverpool or Norman Hunter of Leeds and dreaming all the time of scoring the winning goal in the next FA Cup Final!!! Like most kids of that era, I often went to bed with my football boots on, still holding on tight to that ball I had kicked a thousand times that day and will kick again a thousand times tomorrow.

The few times I let go of the ball was to then set up our 'Wembley ' pitch on the floor of our front room, moving to the side all furniture, to challenge either my brother or dad to a game of SUBBUTEO! WOW. The excitement was incredible. Through tears of joy, flicking one into the top of the net past the outstretched hands of the goalkeeper to tears of sorrow when I knelt on my right winger breaking both his legs requiring more glue , rather than the magic sponge, we spent many happy hours playing SUBBUTEO. Leagues were formed, teams were relegated and promoted and Christmas Day was perfect, when opening up one of the few gifts ,to find the complete new team decked out in the England team strip. Could not wait to get dinner out of the way and challenge all comers to a game.

Subbuteo was THE game and this book tells of the story of how it came about. If you have ever played the game as a child this is a must read, which will bring back so many happy memories and if you are just interested in the history behind an institution that brought pleasure to millions, then I highly recommend this book.

But where is the coaching connection??

Subbuteo in the 50's and 60's gave innovative coaches such as Bill Nicholson at Tottenham,  Shankly at Liverpool and many others world wide, the opportunity to create coaching situations showing movement patterns using these figures. Coaching manuals, at that time, show coaches and players crouched around boards pushing and moving players to show patterns required for the coming Saturday afternoon's game. Where we now have DVDs and computers and in the early days coaches had chalk and blackboards or walls of the changing rooms, the midway link was a SUBBUTEO board and the requirement of the coaches and players imagination.

Could this game ever make a comeback? I am hopeless at FIFA Playstation 15 but give me a SUBBUTEO pitch any day and I am sure I can be world champion!!!!

Next book reviews will be back to pure FOOTBALL.