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Confident, Calm & Clutch Blog/Parents/Top 10 Books for Parents of Athletes

Top 10 Books for Parents of Athletes

Friday, December 29, 2023

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Hi, I Am ValErie Alston

Certified Mental Performance Consultant

Resilience Trainer and Performance Expert for the Army


Former D1 Softball Player

Crossfit Enthusiast

Avid Traveler and lover of food

And Awesome Auntie!

Top 10 Books for Parents 

Help your Child build mental toughness and Resilience so they can thrive in sport, school and life.

This list is what I believe to be essential reading for parents who want to support their child's athletic development along with their mental toughness, character and overall wellness to thrive and flourish in today's world.  They are not presented in any particular order as they pull from many fields and can not be ranked against each other. 

They are all amazing for different reasons.  I tried my best to give a short blurb on why I believe each book is essential for parents.  One of the biggest things you should know is that if you want to help your child be more resilient, mentally tough and healthy the best way to do that is to model it.  Take the lessons from these books and model the behavior, thoughts, conversations, etc that they suggest to the best of your ability.  No one is perfect. You will have good days and bad, great parenting moments and ones you wish you could take back.  Do the best you can.  If you would like more support consider joining my Facebook Group here:

Most books come in kindle, paperback and audio so you can choose the format you like best.  I personally get paperbacks because I like to write notes in the margins and underline things.  But I also use most of these books as references for my own coaching and writing so I approach it a bit differently. 

If any of the books interest you I have provided links to their pages on Amazon. 
If you choose to buy through my links I will receive a small commission.  

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
by Carol Dweck

I would consider this to be a foundational book for any parent or coach.  This book describes the Growth Mindset and how it is essential to progress and reaching our potential.  As parents, you have a huge influence on your child's mindset.  The way you give feedback, talk about skills and abilities, the way you talk about other people and their skills all heavily influences your kid's mindset
This book (specifically chapter 7)  gives incredible guidelines on how to give feedback to your kids in a way the fosters the Growth Mindset which is THE essential ingredient to success in all aspects of life.  

I also personally find that the more Growth Minded a person is the less they struggle with failure and confidence issues.  The mindset alone solves many of the issues kids have today with perfectionism and comparing themselves to others. 

GRIT: The power of Passion and Perserverance
by Angela Duckworth

For me this book does an amazing job explaining the pathway towards long-term success.   Grit is an essential ingredient of resilince and success. It is the combination of passion and perseverance that allows people to stick to goals, finish hard things, pick themselves up after failure, and so on.  This book will help you understand the value of cultivating GRIT by showing your kid how to do hard things and helping the foster passion and peseverance.  

This book really takes the blinders off on the overall characteristics that lead to success in any field. And believe it or not TALENT is not as big a factor as you would think. 

Chapter 10 is specifically about parenting style and gives no-nonsense tips to being a parent who fosters GRIT.  She highlights the most effective parenting style for building GRIT and there is a quick assessment to see where you fall on the parenting style continuum.  

The Coddling of The American mind
by Greg Lukianoff & JOnathan Haidt

This book was an eye opener for me about the real reasons our young people are struggling so much with their mental health.  This book highlights the societal and structural changes in our current times that are causing so many problems for our youth.  

The book focused on 3 big "Untruths / Beliefs" that have found their way into our society that are undermining people's resilience and mental health.  They specifically focus on how these untruths evolved in school systems, parenting and government.  There are many factors at play and it is not a simple issue.  

The good news is that the authors offer really awesome pathways forward for "undoing" some of the damage.  Specifically in chapter 12 they focus on parental strategies for not "coddling" your kids with the untruths so that they can experience the world in a way that enables growth, development, critical thinking skills and most importantly mental health!

Confident, Calm and Clutch: How to build confidence and mental toughness for young athletes using sports psychology
By Valerie Alston

Now obviously I'm a little biased towards this book because it's mine.  But I genuinely believe it is a amazing book for parents to understand the essential ingredients to helping your young athlete build confidence in their skills and abilities, stay calm under pressure and be clutch in key moments in their life.  

This book is a labor of love to provide athletes with the knowledge I wish I had in High School to help me have a better experience.  It takes a holistic approach to mental wellness helping young athletes understand the tools and skills need to build mental toughness.   I provide personal examples from my life in high school to help highlight they main topics.  There is also a section devoted specifically to parent to help avoid some of the common mistakes parents make that affect their child's success. 

This is a great way to open up conversation between you and your kid about what they want out of sport, to get on the same page with expectations and to provide simple tools and drills to work on together.   

Peak: Secrets From the new science of Expertise by Anders Ericson and Robert Pool

If you really want to know what it takes to become an expert (or to help your kid become an expert) in anything this is the book for you.  This book breaks down the science of "practice" and the actual mechanism of getting good at something.  

This book breaks down the role of deliberate practice and how to actually do it (have a specific goal, get out of your comfort zone, and get feedback).  It discusses the importance of adaptability and using mental representations as part of the deliberate practice process.  

As parents, this book is vital because it helps you understand the science behind achievement in any endeavor (math, science, music, sport...) and gives you very practical ideas to help build your own expertise but more importantly how to help your kid practice the right way.  It discusses the relationship between talent and expertise.  

I think this really applies not just to sport but life.  One of the most important concepts in the book is to have accesss to a good teacher.  Parents, when it comes to life you can be that teacher (and you are whether you like it our not).  If you can share how you do things, break it down and give them good feedback you can help share your own life wisdom with your kids in more effective ways.  

The Gifts of Imperfection
by Brene Brown

The pursuit of perfection is one of the biggest reasons we struggle as humans.  For teens it's an even bigger challenge when you take into account their use of social media and the immense pressure cooker that is school and athletics.  Brene Brown's work (she has many books and podcasts it was hard to pick just one) is incredibly down to earth.  Yes it is grounded in research but she presents these truths is such simple terms and with easy to understand stories.  

This book is primarily about how to live a wholehearted life by having courage, compassion and connection.  Attempting to be perfect and feeling shame is one of the major roadblocks to living a whole hearted life.  Her lessons are invaluable for everyone but even more so for young people still trying to figure out who they are.  She focuses on building "shame resilience", learning to have compassion and love for yourself and building meaningful connections. 

To me this book is an amazing read because let's face it as a person/parent you probably also fall into many of the "perfectionist  shame" traps that your kids do.  NO ONE is immune.  The guideposts in this book will help you have more compassion for yourself as a parent and will hopefully help you model whole hearted living with your kids.  

Changing the Game
by john o'sullivan

There are several great books out their about the current problem in youth sports (mainly the adults) that is causing alarming number of kids to quite before high school.  In today's youth sport world there are many problems and this book lays them out clearly and succintly. 

What I love most though is that it offers very simple tips and steps for parents, coaches and organizations to make sure the focus moves back to the kids and their development.  It dispels many of the myths that parents have about youth sport and the money /business models that perpetuate them. 

The author describes the high performance state of mind that consisits of 7 C's (common sense, conditions, control, communication,  caring, competence, confidence) that should be the driving force in youth sport.  After each main section O'Sullivan provides questions and action steps to help you apply theses principles to your sports parenting. 

While all 7 C's are invaluable in my experience the ones that that have the biggest impact are conditions and caring.  Conditions does a great job explaining the role of a parent in youth sport and how they can look for the right physical, mental and emotional conditions for their child to play in.  The section on caring is really powerful in helping parents understand what their kid actually needs from them surrounding sport.  

by Martin seligman

Marty Seligman is the father of Positive Psychology and after 30 + years of research he has discovered what really drives someone to FLOURISH.  I often use thriving and flourish interchangeably.  In my work with Soldiers (literally chap 7 & 8 of the book, the program has changed it's name since the book was published but we are still doing the work) we spend a lot of time talking about the difference between surviving military life vs thriving in it.  And yes, there are certain circumstances in the military (injury, combat. etc) that make it more difficult, when people understand that they can choose to thrive instead of just survive it dramatically changes their outcomes.  

This book is the literal formula for how to thrive not just survive.  I believe as parents this will likely be relevant for you so that you don't just survive being a parent but can hopefully move towards thriving.  And what research shows is that your kids pick up what you do.  If you can flourish and show them how, they are significantly more likely to as well.  

The first section of the book focuses on the science of why flourishing matters and what it consists of.  The rest of the book focuses on how to flourish.  As far as application to your kiddos I believe chapter 5 about teaching well-being to young people will be very helpful to you as a parent.  It does focus on the school system but you can teach these principles at home.  

Crucial Conversations

This may feel a bit out of left field that this book is absolutely essential to understanding how to have tough conversations.  Much of the book focuses on workplace conversations but the principles are immensely valuable in every context. 

The reason I suggest this book is that if you have children you need to be prepared to have tough conversation often.  If you are married, you have to have tough conversations.  If you are human.... you get my point.  This book has helped me immensely in my personal life and at work dealing with colleagues and bosses.  If I could show you my copy you would see its a bit battered and worn.  It's my number 1 resource even at work when teaching Army leaders.  

Communication matters! And if you don't have the skills to have effective conversations even when they are hard everything in life is harder. Building strong relationships is essential to resilience and mental toughness. Effective communication is the way you build strong relationships.

The primary focus of the book is understanding when a conversation becomes crucial (strong emotions, opposing opinion and high stakes) and what tends to get in our way of having that conversation effectively.  Once you understand what gets in the way you can take action steps to avoid the barriers. 
I think the biggest take home for me was how to turn a tough conversation into something that I am not try to "win" and make it a dialogue.  As a coach and mentor I often have to give tough feedback to people and what I have learned in this book is how to do that in a way that maintains psychological safety so the person doesn't get defensive or go quiet.  

The upside of stress
by Kelly McGonigal 

For most of us stress is a constant in our lives.  Living, working, parenting are all inherently stressful.  And we have been taught to believe that stress is one of the biggest health problems in our society.  But it turns out...stress is only bad for you if you believe it's bad for you!!!  What?! I would insert a mind blown emoji if I could. 
This book is now part of the foundation that I teach to all athletes.  Stress isn't bad or bad for you unless you think it is.  I have adopted many of the strategies in this book (that largely come from positive psychology techniques) when teaching athletes how to better manage stress and pressure.  

In this book you will learn all about how to re-think your stress and embrace it so that it builds your resilience and makes you stronger, smarter and happier.  What I love most about this book are the very practical skills and exercise that you can engage in to start reframing stress and experiencing it in a more positive way.  

As a busy parent if you would like to just get the gist of it I highly recommend watching her TedTalk here: