Your Professional Reading Program

When it comes to coach education, if we wait for national organizations to do the right thing, we might be waiting until hell freezes over.  We have many dedicated volunteers trying to do the best job they can, but honestly, none of the organizations has espoused a great vision when it comes to developing better educated coaches.  For that reason, we coaches must take development into our own hands.  We must become autodidacts- self-learners- driven only by our desire to better ourselves as educators.

A day after I published my last post, The Chicken-and-Egg Dilemma, I learned of a USA Judo coaching seminar that was being held not very far from my city.  By taking this 3-hour course, you could be certified all the way up to national level!  And it would only cost you about $120 to do so!!!  Folks, if this kind of fundraiser, I mean insanity, doesn’t convince you our national governing body doesn’t care about coach education, I don’t know what will.

Real coach education is something different than what USA Judo is peddling. On numerous occasions, I have alluded to a professional reading program.  Of all the things that our national organizations should be doing, establishing a professional reading list is the easiest and cheapest one to implement.  After all, it’s merely a list of recommended books that coaches should read.  How difficult can it be to compile such a list?  Rather than wait for the answer, I suggest you establish your own professional reading list.

One of the first things to do is set a reading goal.  Mine is to read between 45-50 books a year.  This doesn’t include the numerous articles I read.  Without this goal, it would be easy for me to become as lazy or disinterested as the average Joe.

Next, you must compile a list of the books you have read to see if you’re on track to reach your annual goal.  My reading list keeps me honest and on task. Yours will too.

Finally, what comes next is the most important part of your professional reading program. You must take notes.  Reading a book is the easy part. Retaining what you have read is more difficult, thus, the need to take notes. When I read a book, I note on a separate piece of paper all the sections that are significant to me, i.e. p 57, mid para 2.  Once finished, I create a “book review” by transcribing to my computer all the sections that I had marked as significant.  This can be time-consuming, but it’s well worth it.  Later on, when I’m searching for something, but I’m not sure where I read it, I can do a simple word search and retrieve the information.  It’s also a good idea to go over your book reviews from time to time just to refresh your memory.

Some of you are thinking why don’t I just highlight the book itself rather than do the extra work to transcribe.  It’s a good question, and I have an answer. One, for some reason I’m anal about defacing books.  Two, most of the books I read don’t belong to me.  Three, transcribing improves the retention of the information.  And four, it’s not as easy to retrieve information if you have to leaf through the book.  I guess in the perfect world, I would not be anal, so I would highlight the book- if it were mine- and still transcribe to computer.

I’m a voracious reader and can’t afford to own every book I read.  My addiction would cost me well over $1,000 per year.  I do buy books that I feel are “encyclopedic,” in other words books that I know I’ll refer to frequently because of their breadth of information.  By and large, I get most of my books from the library.  On occasion, when it’s obvious my library doesn’t or won’t carry a book I want, I’ll buy a used copy.  I find a very useful site to find books that even Amazon or Barnes & Noble don’t carry.   Another idea to help keep costs down is to establish a reading group within your club or among your colleagues.  These groups can lead to group discussions and exchanges of ideas.

What to read?  Since our national organizations are not pointing us in the right direction, we need help.  I’m not ashamed to admit I have a mistress who helps me decide what to read.  I consult her at least once a week.  When I’m bored and need a mental pick-up, I visit her.  Her name is Barnes & Noble. She’s my local bookstore. ☺ Browsing the new non-fiction sections helps me discover my future reading materials.

Since not all of you have access to a good bookstore, your library and the Internet will have to do.  Select a variety of topics that you enjoy reading about from among the many topics you should know something about, such as nutrition, sociology, psychology, physical education, coaching, teaching, leadership, personal growth, etc.  A “key word” or “subject” library search should bring up many books to choose from.

Biographies of coaches, educators, and military and industry leaders are great sources of pertinent information.  Take a look at some of the book reviews I provide on the web site.  You’ll go crazy with the choices at Google ScholarHuman KineticsSport Books Publisher, and Turtle Press, which just published Winning On The Mat by my colleague Steve Scott.

Still not sure what to do?  Find out what your colleagues are reading. Browse the lists of best sellers to see if something is of interest to you.  Check out what textbooks your local university is requiring in the physical education department.  Enlist a mentor to recommend books.

In addition to topics you like, force yourself to read about topics that are difficult to handle, but important in your development.  Most books on motor skill learning are college textbooks chock full of academic jargon that is painful to wade through.  But wade through you must if you care to learn about a subject that is vital to Judo coaches.  I waded through Motor Learning and Control by Richard Magill slowly but surely, and I’m glad I did. By the way, this is one book that I did highlight since it was so full of significant sections.

If I had just one wish for those of you who read my blog, it would that you all become autodidacts and voracious readers.  Reading will empower you, and enable you to become better coaches and players.  Attending 3-hour USA Judo courses will only rob you blind.  Start your personal professional reading program slowly.  If you set your goal too high, you’ll become disenchanted, and soon abandon your program outright.  Remember to connect the dots between what you read and what goes on on your Judo mat. If you need help getting started, I’m all ears.

2 thoughts on “Your Professional Reading Program

  1. As a retired academic interested in judo, I guess I am almost bound to be in agreement with you!!! Google Scholar is an excellent medium for FREE articles on aspects of judo in PDF and HTML formats. It is, also, of course, excellent for accessing information re. any scholarly interest. More power to your pen/word-processor, Gerald.

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