This end of the year blog is where I share what/where I have learned. It is mostly books, but also some video clips I found worth watching.  I love that Michelangelo at age 87 said “I am still learning.”  I find that most people who struggle with the research found in motor learning science, are simply uncomfortable, or too set in their ways and refuse to change based on what they believe vs. what the science is adding to our knowledge. These people usually will fall back on statements like “100 years ago the science said this, and we know that is not true now…” If you want to be first in getting the material and research finds I dig up, follow me @JohnKesselUSAV


Faster, Higher, Stronger by Mark McClusky – I am jealous of my friend Mark, as not only does he get to work at Wired magazine, but he got to go around the world and learn from in honor of the title of this blog, I share first the book insights by an interview done by John O’Sullivan. As a reminder of the one MUST read book/blog – Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, this line comes from his review of Mark’s book “Success in top-level sports is no longer just an athletic contest- it’s a learning contest that takes place on the frontiers of science, technology and the human body. It you’re intested in understanding and competing in this new world, you need to buy Mark McClusky’s smart, invigorating and useful book right now.”

Boys in the Boat – We work in a team sport, but I don’t think there is any more beautiful team sport than 8 person rowing. To watch that many people working in total unison with such power and speed is just a wonder to behold.  My grandfather was a rower for the University of Washington in like 1908. Boys in the Boat has had nearly 10,000 reviews on Amazon, and has a 5.0 rating. It is that good.

Brain Rules – John Medina - The book can be purchased hereBrain Rules reveals – in plain English – 12 ways our brains truly work.  John has visited Colorado Springs to work with NGB Educators and the US Air Force Academy, and I know I benefited from our talks. 

The Rise by Sarah Lewis – “Creativity, the gift of failure and the search for mastery” is the subtitle. It is written by a ceramicist, who uses innovation and insight into getting across the chasms of self-doubt. It is a pretty unique read.

Being Mortal – Atul Gawande -  I think I am sharing this book not for the volleyball side of things, but for the those with older parents or even those of us who are older coaches. Atul shares guidance on how to live to the last with autonomy, dignity and joy. Given what has happened to me in this past year, I can only say Amen.

Make it Stick – by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger & Mark McDaniel -  A book on learning that uses stories about people who have achieved mastery of complex knowledge and skills by a wide variety of people who have mastered complex skills to illustrate their arguments about how successful learning takes place. For those who are teaching in the motor skill science area, the debunking of massed vs distributed/more random learning is particularly important.

Top Dog – The Science of Winning and Losing – Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman - While Top Dog came out in 2013, I am re-noting it as it covers such a  key area of sport – The science of competition. As our USA teams have learned how to balance cooperation and competition, calling it “coopetition,” the research behind this area is important to know.  Some of it is culture – Japanese kids hate the game of musical chairs, so insights into this area are also of value.

Leaders Eat Last – Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t - by Simon Sinek –  The author of Start with Why and one of the top 3 TED talks (How Great Leaders Inspire Action) news on leadership belongs on your bookshelf.


Mark O’Sullivan just does some good stuff.


Court & Spark – Which was released in Dec 2013, and I have blogged about…just it is so good to teach kids how it is the size of your heart that matters.

When the Game Stands Tall –A true story based in the sport of football about team over personal records and a caring coach. 

Catching Kayla – An inspiring ESPN video on the cost of competing…10 min of how to be there for your athletes and the importance of just being normal.

Will Power – Another powerful ESPN video. Dan Gable, who narrates it, lost only one match in his school career. Will won only one. A great story about process, effort, willpower and great parenting.