Note: The links here benefit me through the Amazon Associates program. Amazon does not allow “double-dipping,” so the links to my own books are not coded for monetization. (In other words, if you buy from most of these links, I’ll get a little bit of money, but if you follow a link to a book I wrote, I just get royalties, not Amazon Associates money.)
The categories are: Youth Soccer, Youth Sports, Women’s Soccer, Soccer History, General Soccer.
The Baffled Parent’s Guide to Coaching Youth Soccer (Bobby Clark) was sitting around my house when I first started coaching in the late 2000s, but it seems to have disappeared. I’ll need to order another copy. Or maybe Clark should write an update now that he has retired from coaching. He cites U.S. Youth Soccer recommendations on small-sided games that are now seriously outdated, thanks in part to the U.S. Soccer mandates, and the advice on heading also has been superseded. The general principles, though, never change.
Related to that: Great Soccer Drills: The Baffled Parent’s Guide has a few useful suggestions, and it’s not quite as baffling as the drills you’ll find from coaching organizations.
Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Soccer (Lindsey Blom and Tim Blom) is cute, using fun nicknames for player archetypes to guide coaches through some of the situations they’ll encounter.
Single Digit Soccer: Keeping Sanity in the Earliest Ages (me) mixes memoirs and everything I’ve learned about U10 soccer and below into an informative, entertaining (hopefully) take on how to be a parent, coach or administrator at the grassroots level.
(All of these books are cited in Single-Digit Soccer.)
Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids (John O’Sullivan) is the cornerstone of an ongoing project in which O’Sullivan, an accomplished coach, tries to bring a counterweight to the stereotypical overbearing youth coach.
Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children (Tom Farrey) traces the decline of recreational sports as an unintended consequence of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978. Farrey, a longtime ESPN reporter, went on to direct Project Play, which is aimed at increasing access to youth sports across the board.
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (Paul Tough) isn’t a sports book, strictly speaking, but it talks about learning to deal with adversity, one of the life lessons we’re supposed to be instilling in soccer.
Until It Hurts: America’s Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids (Mark Hyman) was cited in Single-Digit Soccer. It’s basically a catalog of burnout. Depressing read, but something you should throw at a coach who insists on making your kid do too much, and it has a bit of U.S. youth sports history.
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance (David Epstein) takes the “10,000-Hour Rule” through a thorough but engaging reality check.
101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent: Making Athletics a Positive Experience for Your Child (Joel Fish and Susan Magee) offers some guidelines for raising a good kid and not just an athletic demon.
Parenting Young Athletes the Ripken Way: Ensuring the Best Experience for Your Kids in Any Sport (Cal Ripken and Rick Wolff) shatters the myth that Hall of Fame baseball players think kids should be single-minded robots trying to make a travel team at age 8.
Under the Lights and In the Dark: Untold Stories of Women’s Soccer (Gwendolyn Oxenham) shows what players all over the world have been through just to play at the highest possible level. You’ll see Allie Long battling it out in a New York men’s futsal league, and you’ll meet players in Africa whose pro paychecks changed their lives. See more of my fellow Dukie’s work below and check out our podcast interview.
Beyond Bend It Like Beckham: The Global Phenomenon of Women’s Soccer (Tim Grainey) surveys the global women’s soccer scene after Parminder Nagra skipped out on the wedding to hit that free kick.
The Man Watching: Anson Dorrance and the University of North Carolina Women’s Soccer Dynasty (Tim Crothers) is a lively look at the former national team coach and longtime (lonnnnngtime) coach at the University of North Carolina. The way he handles issues within the team is instructive; his early reliance on seeking out competitors rather than skilled players is ironic given his later recruitment of dazzling players like Crystal Dunn, Yael Averbuch and Tobin Heath; and his tendency to get to the airport right before the flight takes off would drive me absolutely insane. He’s a character, and this is a fun read.
Forward: A Memoir (Abby Wambach) is the best of the memoirs written by the women’s national team players of the 2000s. It’s a candid, cautionary tale about driving single-mindedly toward soccer success.
Enduring Spirit: Restoring Professional Women’s Soccer to Washington (me) is the story of the Washington Spirit’s first season. They didn’t do very well, but they were all nice people. Mostly.
Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America’s Forgotten Game (David Wangerin) is the definitive U.S. soccer history from the 19th to 21st centuries. Wangerin also wrote Distant Corners: American Soccer’s History of Missed Opportunities and Lost Causes, which fleshes out some of the more obscure turning points in that history. Wangerin is greatly missed.
Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism (Andrei Markovitz and Steven Hellerman) is worth the slog through some academic prose, giving vivid detail on why soccer isn’t the No. 1 (or No. 2 or No. 3) sport in the United States.
Corner Offices & Corner Kicks: How Big Business Created America’s Two Greatest Soccer Dynasties, Bethlehem Steel and the New York Cosmos (Roger Allaway) is one of several books by one of the country’s foremost soccer historians (see also Rangers, Rovers, And Spindles: Soccer, Immigration, And Textiles in New England and New Jersey or The Encyclopedia of American Soccer History), and it’s an interesting comparison of the two pre-MLS soccer booms in this country.
A History of the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (Clemente Lisi) is rather self-explanatory. You’ll find my name on the back cover with this blurb: “From the ‘well-aimed blows’ of Thomas Cahill’s cane against a Swedish intruder to the 2013 ‘snowclasico’ victory and beyond, Clemente Lisi’s book captures the soul of a national team that has always had to scrap for recognition and respect. Player portraits and contemporary news accounts bring to life a history that had been swept away in soccer’s barren times but continues to unfold in the 21st century.”
Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League (Ian Plenderleith) is a rollicking read through the old days of Pele, Studio 54, etc.
Soccerwarz: Inside America’s Soccer Feud Between MLS, NASL and USL (Kartik Krishnaiyer) is written by the NASL’s former communications director. He’s appropriately skeptical of all parties here, and this is an illuminating inside look.
Sounders FC: AUTHENTIC MASTERPIECE: The Inside Story Of The Best Franchise Launch In American Sports History (Mike Gastineau) is certainly a homer’s perspective, but it’s a good instructional story of starting an MLS juggernaut, helped along by several coincidental circumstances such as the recent departure of the NBA’s Sonics.
Unlucky: A Season of Struggle in Minor League Professional Soccer (Dave Ungrady) is a first-person account in which the author, who had played college soccer many years prior, signs up to play with the Northern Virginia Royals of D3 Pro League in 1998. He gets good inside info on what it was like to play for a nominally “pro” team that didn’t see a whole lot of paychecks.
On Level Terms: 10 Legal Battles that Tested and Shaped Soccer in the Modern Era (Ted Philipakos) is exactly what it says it is, and it’s a clever, insightful way of telling the history of soccer. He includes the Bosman case, which shattered European clubs’ tight controls over domestic players and made the English Premier League as we know it (that is, mostly not English) possible. And he has a couple of landmark cases that have changed the course of U.S. soccer history.
Long-Range Goals: The Success Story of Major League Soccer (me) is a history of MLS through early 2010.
Inverting The Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics (Jonathan Wilson) is exactly what it claims to be in the subtitle, and it’s definitive.
Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World’s Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power (Simon Kuper) — or Football Against the Enemy, depending on where you buy it — might be a little dated (original draft in 1994) and occasionally dystopian, but it’s a necessary history of how politicians (think “dictators,” not “Democrats and Republicans”) often exploit the sport’s sectarian passions to pit groups against each other, like a mix of soccer and Risk. Also, the snapshot of the USA on the verge of hosting the 1994 World Cup is valuable.
How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization (Franklin Foer) covers some of the same sociopolitical territory as Kuper’s book, and it concludes with a chapter on the USA and the anti-soccer forces that dominated the conversation for so long. (Yes, Millennials — seriously.)
No Hunger in Paradise: How to Make it is as Professional Footballer (Michael Calvin) is an often bleak look at English youth football, which cruelly spits out a lot of the kids who have pro dreams. Also check out The Nowhere Men by the same author.
Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty-five Countries, and the Search for Pickup Soccer (Gwendolyn Oxenham) is the companion piece to Oxenham’s wonderful documentary Pelada, in which she and her husband-to-be (along with a couple of intrepid fellow filmmakers) travel the world looking for diverse pickup soccer experiences — everywhere from basic street soccer to dirt fields in Africa to a prison. Yes, prison.
When the Dream Became Reality: The journey of a professional soccer player, and the push for meaning, purpose, and contentment (Bobby Warshaw) is a candid look at the struggles of being a professional. Warshaw, a thoughtful Stanford alum, grapples with the balance between being a hard-nosed pro and being a kind human being.
Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World (Raphael Honigstein) is, to be picky, a little disjointed, but the details of Germany’s reconstructed soccer programs are essential for anyone interested in reforms in another country (say, the USA).
An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish (Elliott Turner, Erik Ebeling, Brian Phillips) will help you watch games on Telemundo or Univision even if you weren’t paying attention in high school Spanish (or studied French or Latin instead).