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Best Sports Management Books for Your Career

March 25
Man drinking coffee and reading one of the best sports management books for your career

One of the best ways to reach the top is to start by standing on the shoulders of those who’ve already succeeded. If you’re looking to maximize your career in sports management, it may be time to hit the books—great sports management books, that is.

Read on to find out which sports management books you can check out and a little about their highly accomplished authors so you can start ascending to the top of the sports management industry.

“When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi” by David Maraniss

Vince Lombardi, the namesake of the famous NFL trophy, has inspired hundreds of players and millions of people, and this book breaks down the man behind the legend. It focuses on a combination of successes and setbacks, including when he struggled as a high school football coach before his days creating champions in the NFL.1

One of the book’s primary messages is to never give up and David Maraniss hammers home how tenacity—combined with teamwork, leadership, and discipline—can help you succeed both on and off the field.

“The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse” by Tom Verducci

The Cubs were not only baseball’s world champions in 2016, but they also overcame a 108-year-old “curse,” 22 years longer than the specter the Red Sox overcame in 2004, and this sports management book explains how. It hones in on the clubhouse culture that made it possible for an underdog team to meet the standards of both management and loyal Cubs fans.2

A combination of statistical analysis and an examination of more subtle intangibles power this compelling book which explores what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

“The Game” by Ken Dryden

Ken Dryden, one of the most dominant hockey goalies in the 1970s, breaks down his path to becoming president of his team, the Montreal Canadiens, and the people who helped along the way. In his sports management book, Dryden also goes into detail about some of the more influential games that helped shape his destiny as a leader, with and without skates on.3

Dryden’s perspective in the book is unique in that he doesn’t hold back from criticizing systems that negatively impact players, as well as how health and team dynamics play a significant role in the success of a team. Dryden also demonstrates how some of his specific experiences impacted the game, starting ripple effects we still feel today.

“Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis

Even though “Moneyball” was enshrined as a classic when it inspired the film by the same name, the book made its mark long before the cameras started rolling. Michael Lewis breaks down how statistics overpowered skill and team politics to foster the success of the Oakland Athletics.4

The book explains how Billy Beane’s unorthodox approach lead to success and how he leveraged the analysis of a range of stats to drive—and inspire—those around him.

“Wooden: A Coach’s Life” by Seth Davis

Jim Wooden, a college basketball coach who had an 88-game winning streak and 10 championships is revealed through the lens of the players who went to battle for him day in and day out. Seth Davis brings together the stories and experiences of the young people Wooden motivated to provide a rich portrait of one of the greatest coaches ever to hold a clipboard.5

This sports management book also analyzes how Wooden navigated the challenging economics and politics a UCLA NCAA team faces daily. Ultimately, this book provides readers with a deep, detailed depiction of the ins and outs of succeeding at the highest level.

“Imperfect: An Improbable Life” by Jim Abbot

Jim Abbot, a pitcher born without a right hand, describes the challenges, successes, and setbacks he faced on his way to becoming a celebrated major league hurler. It illustrates Mr. Abbot’s path through the amateur level, including college and the Olympics, as well as the insecurities and discrimination he fought through to reach his goals.6

This book shows how anyone, regardless of background or difficulties, can succeed by developing the right mindset and skill set. It also drives home the importance of surrounding yourself with the right kind of people at the right time so you have a support system ready to lift you to the next level.

“Attitude: Develop a Winning Mindset On and Off the Court” by Jay Wright

“Attitude” provides readers with a roadmap to how to become a winner and inspire others to do the same. Jay Wright, the Villanova University men’s basketball coach, outlines the dynamics of how he approaches competition and the values that serve as the framework for his success.7

Mr. Wright gives readers a combination of personal stories and the advice he got from others to draw a personalized picture of how he succeeds both on the court and off. Not only is “Attitude” one of the best sports management books, it’s also packed with insights that can apply to succeeding at work, school, or other endeavors.

“Call an Audible: Let My Pivot From Harvard Law to NFL Coach Inspire Your Transition” by Daron K. Roberts

It’s not every day you hear about someone going from the hallowed halls of Harvard to the NFL, but exactly what Daron Roberts did, and his sports management book explains the how and why of his journey. Readers get a glimpse of the blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifices Mr. Roberts was forced to make to realize his dreams.8

Along the way, you’re treated to a detailed description of how to beat the odds, not just in education and football, but life in general. Anyone who wants to make a switch, whether a student or already in a career, can benefit from reading Roberts’ story. He not only talks about the challenges, but he also describes the mindset needed to overcome them.

Start Your Own Sports Management Story with KU

If you're looking for inspiration, the sports management books above can get you started. If you’re ready to upgrade your sports management acumen, consider how an Online Master’s in Sport Management from a globally recognized athletic powerhouse like the University of Kansas can help you network and open doors.