Four Steps to Lead a Successful Book Study

There are a lot of ways to begin making room in our current win-at-all-costs sports culture for purpose-based athletics. As you begin your journey to becoming an InSideOut school, I recommend you engage your coaches in a book study. The single most influential book I’ve read on purpose-based coaching is “InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives,” by InSideOut Initiative co-founder, Joe Ehrmann. Below are four steps I believe can you help you successfully lead a collaborative and collegial book study.  

Step 1: Read the Book with purpose

The first step in starting a book study with your coaches is to read Joe’s book. Be careful not to just open the book and scan the pages. Read Joe’s book with purpose—while you read it, think of yourself as a teacher that is studying an important curriculum that you will soon be delivering to others. Highlight the book as you read it and make personal connections to your own journey through athletics. Jot down notes about your own experiences with transformational and transactional coaches. As you continue to read about Joe’s personal narrative in sports, try to visualize and imagine what it was like to have the positive and negative experiences he had. Ask yourself how that must have felt from both the athlete’s and coach’s perspective. Reflect and journal on the four questions from Joe’s book:  

  1. Why do you coach?
  2. Why do you coach the way you do?
  3. How does it feel to be coached by you?
  4. How do you define success

Step 2: Invitation to grow

Create an opportunity for coaches to opt-in to the upcoming book study, and don’t be discouraged by those who choose not to opt-in. Your believers will eventually influence others. Choose a time and location that makes sense for the majority of participants, and plan all the meetings in advance. I recommend scheduling four dates for the book study. Create a formal invitation for coaches and follow up with them to RSVP. My first book study with coaches took place at 6:30 am at a local restaurant, where I provided breakfast for those who were willing to commit their time and attention. 

Step 3: The logistics

Provide each coach with a copy of Joe’s book and outline of which chapters will be covered at each session. The book study guide is provided for you on the InSideOut Resources page. Joe’s book is broken up into two distinct parts—his personal narrative/journey and his purpose/philosophy. As the facilitator of the book study, you should plan two sessions for each section of the book. Coaches will only be required to read and reflect on two to three chapters between each meeting. Be prepared for coaches to read ahead—the book is hard to put down once they begin reading.  I recommend completing the book study in under 6 weeks. Ideally, you want to meet one time per week for four consecutive weeks. Plan for an hour of reflection and collaboration for each session.  

Step 4: Reflection & Collaboration

As the facilitator, you will need to get the conversation rolling. Re-read each assigned chapter prior to the book study session. Review your own thoughts, reflections, and reactions to the book. Remember, the goal of this book study is to become the best version of yourself. Do the inside work! If you want to be a better coach or better athletic director, you have work to become a better you. Be willing to be vulnerable with your coaches. Share the reactions and reflections you wrote down while reading the book and encourage others to share as well. If your experience is like mine, once you get the conversation started, others will quickly join in. After each session, carefully document and reflect the discussion so you have some guided notes for future book discussions. This can also be helpful for those who may miss a session.  

If you want to be a better coach, you have to be a better you

Remember that if you want to be a better coach, you have to be a better you. A book study with the key stakeholders on your team is a great place to start! You can also follow the implementation pathway here for more steps to move you and your coaches down the transformational coaching continuum.