Books to Boost Performance: The Top 10 for Student-Athletes

Being a student-athlete is no small feat. Maintaining academic and athletic performance goals requires hard work, dedication, and discipline. But the truth is that working hard isn’t always enough to achieve success. Dedication and discipline aren’t enough either; you also need knowledge. That’s why having access to the right books can make a huge difference in your performance as a student-athlete.

So, what are the best books for student-athletes? Here is our list of the top 10 books to boost performance:


In the best-selling book Extreme Ownership, two U.S. Navy SEAL officers demonstrate how powerful leadership principles used on the battlefield can be applied to business and life. Drawing on their experiences as commanders of the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War, this book will help leaders everywhere understand their ultimate purpose: to lead and win. With a compelling narrative and direct instructions for any team or organization in any leadership environment, this book by Ryan Holiday (originally published in 2014) will take America and the world by storm!


In his book, Ryan Holiday outlines the formula for success adopted by some of the greatest icons in history, from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs, to turn barriers into opportunities and rise above impossible situations. With Marcus Aurelius’ wise words as a foundation (“The impediment to action advances action; what stands in the way becomes the way”), this 2014 published work offers readers an invaluable roadmap for success and triumph.


In her 2018 New York Times bestseller, Angela Duckworth clarifies that the key to success is not necessarily talent but “grit.” Combining perseverance and passion in equal measure can help anyone reach their goals. One People reviewer said this book is an “inspiration for non-geniuses everywhere.”


This New York Times bestseller from Daniel James Brown, initially published in 2014, is the #1 story about the inspiring success of nine working-class boys from the American West at the Berlin Olympics under Nazi German rule. Their grit and determination to overcome adversity was an impressive display of courage and hope during great despair. It has since inspired a PBS documentary, making it perfect reading for fans of Unbroken.


In 2002, Gary Mack published his book Mind Gym. He explains how mental strength is just as important, if not more so, than physical skill on the sports field or court. You will learn how to build your mental strength through forty easy-to-understand lessons and stories from successful athletes he has coached. This book is an invaluable guide for gaining an advantage in any competition.

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In The Talent Code by journalist Daniel Coyle (released in 2010), the idea that one is born with limited talent is debunked. He reveals that ability can be developed and improved through original research. He sheds light on what leads to big leaps in performance and provides valuable tips for training your brain to reach its full potential. Examples from a music school in Dallas, Texas, and a tennis academy in Russia demonstrate how our brains can be rewired depending on how we approach tasks.


Tim Grover has been working with renowned athletes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade since 1994, helping them reach their fullest potential. His 2014 book, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, shows you how to train your mind and body for total dominance and achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself.


Jennifer Enier’s 2009 book Bring You “A” Game promotes the idea of mental training, featuring 17 chapters that focus on a single skill. Concepts such as goal-setting, confidence-building, pre-performance routines, and imagery are discussed, as are exercises to develop these skills. The book encourages athletes to use these techniques daily and in their practice sessions so that they become instinctive during competitions.


Jay Bilas, a four-year starter at Duke, developed a strong work ethic in college and later served as an assistant coach for three seasons, helping the Blue Devils win two national championships. His book, Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off the Court, was published in 2014. He is now one of basketball’s most recognized faces due to his analysis on ESPN’s SportsCenter and College GameDay.


In The Champion’s Mind, sports psychologist Jim Afremow, PhD, provides insights on what it takes to excel in sports. He shares the advice he gives championship athletes, including Olympians, Heisman Trophy winners, and professional athletes. Published in 2014, this book is ideal for those seeking to improve their athletic performance. It looks at the mental aspects of performance and includes lessons on building confidence, mastering focus, and achieving peak performance.

To excel as a student-athlete, practicing hard and developing mental strength is important. By reading these books, student-athletes can gain valuable insights into how to boost their performance. They can reach the heights they are striving for with dedication and knowledge. Each book provides unique perspectives, forming an invaluable toolkit for success. With practice and these books, you will be equipped with powerful strategies to help you become unstoppable.

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