We asked some of the top names in ultimate coaching to share their favorite books for learning useful leadership skills and becoming a more effective team captain. Check out what Ben Wiggins, Kyle Weisbrod, and Robyn Wiseman have to recommend.
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Ben Wiggins is an international ultimate coach and accomplished player. A few of his many notable accolades include winning the Callahan Award in 2003, winning three National Championships with Seattle Sockeye, and winning two silver medals at the World Championships. He's hosted coaching clinics in the Philippines, Colombia, Moscow and Siberia, Ireland, Japan and the Czech Republic. We asked him what he thought college captains could do over the summer to become better team leaders:
"One of the biggest obstacles for captains is that they’ve been raised in one system of leadership, so they don’t necessarily see all of the possible leadership types and tools available to them. Reading can give you those outgroups.
With my trademark lack of humility, I’d like to suggest a short piece I wrote about improving in ultimate. You can find it here or there are likely free versions somewhere out there as well. I tried to boil down improvement in Ultimate to something short and readable, so this is just a starter.
After that, my biggest push for you would be to read some history. Any history that you find interesting enough to read and with a documented analysis of leaders is good fodder for your mind. Look for contrasts or comparisons with the ways that you would have handled each situation. A few suggestions, from which I’d hope you would pick one.
- Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
- The Washing of the Spears by Donald R. Morris
- People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
- On China by Henry Kissinger
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu (because it is valuable, not because I want you to be some unbearable hipster investment banker)
- And a couple of ‘fiction’ books that have the same kind of leadership lessons:
- The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey
- The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
- Top Dog by Po Bronson
Robyn Wiseman is a two time world champion on the USA Mixed team, as well as a Callahan Award runner up in 2011. She began her ultimate journey at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and now spreads her love of ultimate through skills clinics in and around Wisconsin.
"The top two books on my list [for becoming a better captain], are:
The Last Season: A team in search of it's soul by Phil Jackson
Phil had to manage some difficult personalities that season with the Lakers. I think he does a great job of framing that issue, as well as mapping out an entire season (and a long one at that). Something good for a college team to think about.
Grit by Angela Ducksworth
Lou Burruss is a veteran coach for Oregon Fugue. He started his ultimate career playing for Carleton CUT, and went on to play for Seattle Sockeye, winning and placing at Worlds and Nationals multiple times before turning to coaching women's ultimate for Carleton Syzygy. Since Burruss has been coaching Fugue, they have won three national championship titles.
+1 for The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey
"This is the classic book about mind in sports and a must read. It introduces the concept of the two-mind brain and discusses the conflict for attention between the Doing Brain and the Word Brain. (My terminology.) It provides some practical suggestions for players and coaches. It is quite short, but if you want more detail, follow up with the first third of Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow."
On Leadership by Harvard Business Review
"This is a collection of essays written by different executives and thinkers. You have to wade through some business-speak, but underneath it the ideas are universal and excellent. The ideas in it are quite rich and I have returned to it on multiple occasions both in its entirety and for specific sections. Most young leaders spend 99% of their time focused on tactics and strategy, neglecting the more important foundations of people-skills and leadership methods. This book is a great place to begin thinking about those things."
"One challenge faced by current players is the vast ocean of available film. Unfortunately, most of it is useless from a development standpoint. Highlight reels and sick plays are great, but they aren't telling you much about what to do with your team or how to build an effective offense or defense. This is the best game currently available online. You are watching one of the greatest teams of all time at the height of their powers (Fury) get beat by a team that is immaculately coached and prepared. Fury brings size, physicality, precision and execution - they demonstrate one of the best examples of a classic horizontal offense. Japan coutners with incredible team defense built on one-and-a-half techniques. (You cover your person and half of another.) And of course, Hirai Eri delivers a performance for the ages."
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Over To You
Do you have any books or articles you'd recommend to your fellow captains? We're always looking for more recommendations!