Summer is never actually as long as it appears to be to non-academic folks who believe “college folks” have summers off. Nothing could be farther from the truth. ADs and coaches use the 8 –10 weeks of summer to catch up on NCAA documentation, recruiting (if still needed for the 2016 year and most assuredly for the 2017 year) and summer athletic camps both on and off campus. Some coaches coach in established summer leagues, including with collegiate players. Others run day camps for various age groups on their own campus. I get it; summer is not a summer vacation.
But, answer this question:
Which of these six books have you read in the last several years (to be sure, some are quite new and some are old chestnuts)? Circle yes (I have read it) or no (I have not read it). They are listed by publication date, not importance.
Here’s my point. This summer, it would be my suggestion that ADs and coaches read at least three of these books. All are available for KINDLE or Ipad. Most are reasonable in price. To be sure, readers may have other and better sports books to read and non-sports books too. But, the point of the books on this list is to get at issues in sports from different angles and perspectives, selected to literally wrench one’s current thinking into a new mindset so to speak.
The list, to be sure, does not cover nearly all of the many issues in athletics on college and university campuses like sexual assault, Title IX, sports injuries, guarantee games, facilities’ acquisition and improvement, conditioning, athletic training, sports psychology, referees, the NCAA and NAIA. It does not cover particular women and men athletes in great depth (and there are some other books written as biographies that would make for good summer reading). Books on Mohammad Ali are selling at a rapid rate – and I am sure some are truly a worthy read.
Instead, this list has several overarching themes that link these identified books together: the value of team; the nature and role of competition; the effort it takes to succeed athletically (dance included); the benefits of athletics; the social impact sports can have (including the power of collegiate athletes); and the ethics of sports. These books, then, are designed to make readers – especially ADs and coaches – ask questions about their programs, themselves and their student-athletes.
In reading these books (and if this is sounding like a summer reading assignment given to incoming first year students, my apologies), ponder this: do any of these books beg for you to do at least one thing differently as an AD or as a coach? I hope the answer is yes. If so, I’ve selected well.
Here’s another challenge: share your views after you have read one of these books and let’s see what your peers think. And, perhaps we can get a range of college and university presidents to chime in too. Also, presidents, ADs and coaches can identify a book or books they think would be pivotal reading, and we can post those suggestions on CollegeAD in response to this piece. I look forward to reading some of the books you recommend. Here’s how to do that:
For the record, this is most assuredly not the first time I have challenged folks to think about a set of books about which I cared. It grows out of my love of books. And, when I did this once, there was even a contest and radio show related to my effort, conducted when I was a baby college president. There is merit to reading anything actually, something worth remembering. But, there is value in directed reading designed to engage, inspire and force thought.
Have a wonderful summer – and I hope you can make three of these books part of your summer “work.” Perhaps reading these books will turn out not to be “work” at all. That would be a very good outcome indeed. Let me know.
Books recommended in this article:
True Competition: A Guide to Pursuing Excellence in Sport and Society By David Light Shields and Brenda Light Bredemeier (2009)
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (2013)
Sisterhood in Sports: How Female Athletes Collaborate and Compete by Joan Steidinger (2014)
Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Midlife Quest to Dance the Nutcracker by Lauren Kessler (2015)
Cheated: The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes, and the Future of Big-Time College Sports by Jay M Smith and Mary Willingham (2015)
The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph by Scott Ellsworth (2015)
Karen Gross is the former President of Southern Vermont College, an NCAA DIII institution fielding 13 teams. She was the president of the college's Athletic Conference, the NECC. She also served on the NCAA DIII Presidents' Advisory Council. A lawyer by training, she represented an NFL quarterback (decades ago) and is a serious professional and college sports fan. She currently is senior counsel to a crisis management firm in DC where she specializes in education. A Red Sox fan, she knows a lot about losing and winning. Her son, now a professor, is a former NCAA Division I athlete.