Archive for Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: An Insider’s Guide for Aspiring Baseball Players

The title of the book is JUST BASEBALL: A Guide to Navigating the World of Baseball Recruitment for Players and Parents.

And playing off the title is the author’s name, Mike Just, who was a star player at Liberty University before embarking on a career in professional baseball in the independent professional leagues. That  background suggests to me that Mike received a first-rate education at how college and professional baseball operate when it comes to scouting and signing talent.

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BOOK REVIEW: QB -My Life Behind the Spiral by Steve Young with Jeff Benedict

As most of you know by now, I tend to see the positive aspects of adversity, especially when it comes to sports. All athletes will, at some point in their careers, will confront adversity.

It might be a serious injury that they have to come back from. Perhaps they get cut during a tryout. Maybe the kid makes a mistake in judgment and now has to pay the price in terms of sitting out a bunch of games or even an entire season.

Trust me. The real measure of a kid’s heart and determination is how much they respond to adversity.

Which takes me to NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young.

His long-awaited autobiography officially publishes on October 11th, and it’s quite a story. (Full disclaimer: I served as the editor on the book, and it was a joy.)

Steve was, like so many others, a gifted athlete. Growing up in Greenwich, CT, he was a star in football, basketball, and baseball. He was such a gifted runner in football that his HS coach decided to make him into an option quarterback, so he didn’t pass very often in games. Rather, he ran for score after score.

Recruited primarily by UNC and BYU (he’s a long-time descendant of Brigham Young, plus Steve’s Dad, Grit, played football at BYU), Young ultimately decided on BYU. Being All-State in Connecticut, he felt pretty good about making him name in Provo. But adversity slapped him right in the face.

At his first practice as a freshman, he was stunned to see he was listed as 8th string on the depth chart. He was so low on the chart that not only would he not make the travel team for away games, but he wouldn’t even suit up for home games. Discouraged beyond belief, Steve never unpacked his suitcase for the fall semester. He called his Dad and told him he wanted to quit and come home.

Grit Young replied steadily: “Steve, you can quit….but you can’t come home. We believe in this family that you have to complete what you start.”

This was not the reply, of course, that Steve wanted to hear.

What happened next? Steve decided to confront his adversity and spent the next 4 months working out by himself, over the winter, in the BYU football facility. He just threw pass after pass, until he had thrown close to 10,000 passes. After a while, one of the offensive coaches spotted Steve and his constant practice. The coach spoke to LaVell Edwards, the head coach, and told him how impressed he was with this kid. Edwards was surprised; after all, he assumed that Steve Young would end up as a defensive back, never a quarterback.

But by the end of the spring football season, Young had leapfrogged all the way to being the second string QB behind Jim McMahon.

Let me stop here. The book is honest, forthright, and full of ups and downs but told in such a way that you can’t help but root for Steve. Jeff Benedict from Sports Illustrated who helped Steve write the book did a magnificent job.

In the next few weeks, you’ll be hearing more about Steve’s book as he makes the round of publicity. It’s a great read for any football fan. I would heartily suggest you go to Amazon now and pre-order a copy. I just have a hunch this book is going to sell out quickly.



DON’T “SHOULD” ON YOUR KIDS: Build Their Mental Toughness

By Dr. Rob Bell and Bill Parisi

Reviewed by Rick Wolff

This delightful sports parenting – and coaching – guide features a most unusual title, which is clearly intended to motivate Moms and Dads to try and think twice before putting their own personal expectations onto their kids who play sports.

Adapted from one of the earlier chapters in the book, the authors pinpoint some of the daily interactions that sports parents have with their kids before the youngster goes into action:

“Alex, you shouldn’t be nervous.”

“Dwayne, you shouldn’t make so many mistakes.”

You get the idea. Any well-meaning sports parent who has exposed to their 10-year-old to a post-game analysis on the drive home from a game will immediately recognize what Dr. Bell and Mr. Parisi are alluding to in this chapter.

Of course, most sports parents feel it’s their obligation to lay these “shoulds” on their kids, especially when the game just finished and the action is still fresh in one’s mind and the parents are driving their son or daughter to their next event. Problem is, this kind of parental grilling only ends up alienating the youngster from the sport. It does not motivate them to play harder or better.

The rest of the chapters in the book offer timely and other pertinent parenting and coaching insights as well, including advice on specializing in one sport, dealing with pre-game jitters, coping with adversity, keeping calm during games, and other related topics. The authors do a fine job in peppering their book with case studies of young athletes as well as professional ballplayers, all of whom have experienced the thrill of victory as well as the agony of defeat on a personal level. It makes for compelling reading.

Overall, because the chapters are short, this is a fast-paced and entertaining read that adds real insight into the library of sports parenting and coaching manuals.  I do think that we are gaining ground in educating sports parents and coaches about the intricacies in how we communicate with our kids who are developing athletes, and Bell and Parisi have written an excellent manual that every Mom, Dad, and coach ought to read before they start a conversation with their aspiring youngster. In other words, Mom and Dad, think twice before you lay a “should” on your athlete.


Dr. Rob Bell is a long-time sports psychology coach who has worked with top athletes as well as with corporate employees. For more information, his website is

Bill Parisi is well-known for his highly popular Parisi Speed School outlets throughout the country. A former NCAA All-American in track and field, Parisi qualified for the 1988 Olympic trials in the javelin throw. Check out

DON’T “SHOULD” ON YOUR KIDS is available on Amazon. 152 pages, $18.

BOOK REVIEW: Winning More Than The Game

WINNING MORE THAN THE GAME:  Developing Character Through Sports

By Fred Northup


The world of sports represents, for many of us, a higher level of calling.

That is, if one aspires to be an athlete, then one should also aspire to lead a life that transcends the usual and pedestrian disappointments of human frailty. If one is an athlete, then that carries a built-in responsibility of not only inherently always competing in a fair and honest way, but to live one’s life at a higher standard. As the author suggests, it’s not just about winning or losing games – it’s about how go about your pursuit of winning.

Although generations and generations of athletes have striven to follow this unique and special code, the truth is – no one has ever really taken the time to study this special Code, and then actually write it down.

That’s where Fred Northup comes into play. A former athlete himself, Northrup founded Athletes for a Better World, and in this fine work, Northup outlines what he perceives as the three elements of The Code. As he sees it, The Code sets an unwritten standard for one’s life – as an individual, as a member of a team, and as a member of society.

His book is peppered with pithy observations from famed philosophers, as well as with stories of athletes who have striven to do the right thing. Along the way, he elucidates the so-called Code of standards that athletes should strive for. A good deal of his message is making it clear that you and you alone are responsible for taking charge of your life and your decisions. For many athletes today, that’s a responsibility that they seem to avoid.

By the end of the read, you will come away, refreshed and rejuvenated, by Northup’s observations and, quite frankly, challenges to see if you, too, can live up to The Code. It’s an excellent read, and I recommend it highly to all parents, coaches, and student-athletes.

BOOK REVIEW: CHANGING THE GAME: My Journey Through Life and Sports – George Selleck with Wendy Fayles

BOOK REVIEW: CHANGING THE GAME: My Journey Through Life and Sports

By George Selleck with Wendy Fayles

Dr. George Selleck has led an extraordinary life. And he’s done it with sports as his internal compass.

In this rare and thoughtful memoir, Selleck – one of the all-time great athletes at Stanford University, starring in both basketball and baseball – writes poignantly that sports was not just fun for him as a child, but that they provided him with the emotional pathway to develop his self-esteem and ultimately his self-confidence to become one of the most accomplished and innovative psychologists and counselors of our time.

His resume of accomplishments? In basketball, he was named California Player of the Year in his senior year in high school. At Stanford, he was a star as well, averaging 14 points and six rebounds a game, even though physically he topped out at 5’8”. He was so good that when he graduated from Stanford he had the choice of either signing with the Philadelphia Warriors in the NBA or with the Pittsburgh Pirates for baseball. He opted to turn both pro teams down, and instead, chose to attend graduate school, including attaining a master’s degree in educational psychology at Stanford, a master’s in theology at Princeton, and a doctorate in counseling psychology at USC.

Along the way, he even found time to coach Brentwood High School to two Los Angeles City championships. Again, regardless of his educational pursuits, sports were always at the center of Selleck’s universe. At one point during his spectacular college career, he roomed with the legendary Bill Russell at a college all-star game. And as a psychologist, Selleck worked with baseball Hall of Famer, Ty Cobb.

He’s been inducted into the Stanford University Athletic Hall of fame, as well as the Pac-12 Hall of Fame.

When not on the court or on the baseball diamond– and Selleck played basketball well into his 70s – he has been at the forefront of educating and counseling young people on how to develop their own innate but unpolished leadership skills. His most recent leadership program, Leading2Play, is his most exciting program to date, and it’s already catching on in pilot programs in California.

All of this sounds like a wonderful All-American story. But as Selleck details in CHANGING THE GAME, it was anything but easy. George grew up in what he describes as a difficult family: parents with alcohol issues, a sister who had a hard time finding her way in school, and George’s twin brother, Butch, who had troubles from the day he was born due to physical and other assorted ailments. And even as a doting father himself, Selleck was crushed when his daughter Alison, a beloved physician, passed away from brain cancer.

But Selleck, somehow, was able to turn all of these tragic life events and transform them into a positive force that has continuously pushed him in his athletic and educational and counseling career.

Sports coaches and fans often talk about the life-lessons that athletics provide….terms like discipline, dealing with adversity, finding motivation, determination, and so on. For the most part, too many sports fans simply toss around these important terms in generic ways, and then unfortunately these vital lessons are forgotten.

But in George Selleck’s case, he’s one of those rare human beings who have fully embraced all of these key intangible life lessons – lessons that have to come to him through the hard-fought process of athletic competition.

And as a result, his new book, CHANGING THE GAME (published by Coaches Choice and available online and in book stores), is not only refreshing but also a real testament to how a life in sports can be so rewarding in so many ways. In short, Selleck is truly living proof that a life in sports can lead to great accomplishments in so many ways.  — reviewed by Rick Wolff


Dr. Louis D’Aquila has crafted a fine cautionary tale entitled, DADDY, IT”S ONLY A GAME.

The plot line centers on a very talented HS soccer player named Jennifer who, at the end of a heated HS game, is the innocent victim of a vicious punch from an opposing player during the traditional post-game handshake line-up.

Instincts take over, and Jennifer and her teammates immediately begin to fight back against “Number 21” – the opposing player who threw the punch. By the time order has been restored, the opposing player, who clearly initiated the scuffle, is badly beaten and unconscious. Jennifer is okay, but very much shaken by what has transpired.

The entire episode hits home with Jennifer as she begins to truly question how “only a game” could escalate with an opponent aggressively attacking her and then being seriously hurt. And of course, Jennifer sees first-hand how much her father is caught up in the fervor of sports parenting.

I won’t give away the ending, but for anyone who has ever wondered how our society has evolved (or devolved) from simple games of fun and enjoyment to the high-pressure stakes of today, this is a quick and good read.

In fairness, the book does contain some factual errors (the author refers to schools in the Ivy League giving out athletic scholarships, which of course they don’t) and there are typo’s and errors (Wade Boggs is referred to as Wayne Boggs).

But these are minor concerns. Overall, Dr. D’Acquila is to be saluted for making the effort to sit down and write a worthy book which is yet another clarion call for sports parents everywhere.

Clearly Dr. D’Aquila, like millions of other sports parents, is concerned about the rising stakes when it comes to our children playing sports, and of course, the concept of  “having fun”  is slowly being pushed off to the side.

DADDY, IT’S ONLY A GAME is published by Bookstand Publishing.


So what do former NBA superstars do when they retire?

Do they just sit around, counting their millions in the bank? Do they become TV commentators and rub elbows on the set with other former stars?

Or do they, like Penny Hardaway, return very quietly to their hometown to help out an old buddy who is battling Stage IV colon cancer, and who needs some help in coaching the Lester Middle School boys basketball team.

Think about that. A former NBA All-Star goes back to his roots, in the less than stellar part of Memphis, to coach a bunch of middle school kids.

But this wasn’t about Penny’s ego, or his trying to embellish his name or reputation. He was just doing something out of a sense of compassion and kindess for a friend in need.

Wayne Drash, an award-winning writer and journalist for, has crafted a magical story about the relationship between Hardaway and Desmond Merriweather, and of course, the season for the kids on the team. A former basketball player himself, Drash captures the essence of this team, and the extraordinary friendship Hardaway and Meriweather.

No, I’m not going to give away the ending of this book, but trust me- this is the kind of stuff that Hollywood makes into movies. I should also point out that the book was honored by winning a prestigous Christopher Award, which is given out each year to salute works of great inspiration of the human spirit.

ON THESE COURTS: A Miracle Season That Changed A City, A Once-Future Star, and A Team Forever by Wayne B. Drash



BOOK REVIEWS: Two Worth Your Time….

Editor’s note: as you might imagine, I receive a number of sports parenting books each month, and I do the best I can to go through them all and read them. Unfortunately, I’m not able to review all the books I receive, but here are two that are worth noting:

YOUR RECRUITING PLAYBOOK: Maximize Your Opportunities to Play College Sports by Steven F. Binder

The truth is, there are a lot of books and websites on the market today that are designed to help aspiring HS student-athletes market themselves to college coaches. What Binder does in his readable book is to cut through a great deal of the bureaucracy of the college recruiting system and presents the basics that any athlete and their parents would need to know.

There are several important nuggets in the book, but one of the best is a chart which details just how meaningful it is to receive a questionnaire from a college coach, or a follow-up email, or a personal phone call from a coach, or to be asked to visit the campus, or to be told you’re an official recruit by the admissions office. The analysis is worth knowing.

As Binder points out, the sooner you know just how serious that college coach is about bringing you on board, the better you’ll know where you stand.

True, some of the advice in the book is a bit simplistic (e.g. play on a travel team, sign up for showcases in order to be seen), but overall, for the HS athlete who is just beginning to think about playing sports in college, this is a good primer with which to start.

For more information, go to or

TAKE THE LEAD: Make Youth Sports What They Were Meant to Be by Kathy Hogan

Hogan, a former field hockey player at Duke and a mother of four, has compiled an extraordinary number of inspirational sports stories that will entertain any sports fan.

In my years of working with youngsters, I have found that a lot of young athletes love to hear true stories about great athletes who have overcome tremendous odds and adversity to succeed. That’s the attraction of this book.

But the beauty of Hogan’s work is that she doesn’t spend too much time with the stories that are already well known (like Michael Jordan being cut from his HS basketball team as a sophomore), but instead focuses on sports stories of individuals that are not well known or well publicized.

That makes her work particularly unique and worthwhile. It’s worth getting a copy. For more information, contact Kathy Hogan at


Over the last 20 years, as the issues surrounding youth sports in this country have reached bizarre and at times disturbing heights, there have been a number of individuals who have felt compelled to write books about this national epidemic.

I know this, because I am one of those people. My first book on what was wrong with youth sports, GOOD SPORTS, was first published in 1992. Since then, I have done several more.

But I am not alone in my writing efforts. There have been a number of worthy books on the same topic. Some of these works have merely mirrored what we already know about our nation which seems to have lost its sense of priorities. Other books have pointed out that there are all sorts of studies that show that we’re going down the wrong path with our kids.

All of these books, of course, share a singular theme – that we, as American sports parents, are doing a real disservice to our kids when it comes to sports in the 21st century.

But then you find a book from V.J. Stanley, who brings a breath of fresh air into this very emotional topic. Stanley, a former top amateur athlete himself and who hails from Rochester, NY, has spent the last few years researching and looking for solutions to the everyday concerns of parents and coaches who are involved in youth sports, and he has penned a poignant and passionate plea to right the ship and to get back to what sports are supposed to be about – specifically, kids having fun. Like so many of us, V.J. wonders how today’s parents and coaches seem to have lost their moral compass when it comes to kids in sports today.

Of course, the goal of kids just having fun is not easy to reach these days. Not with parental dreams of athletic scholarships, pro contracts, and the like seemingly right on the horizon. Too much emphasis is put on the rewards at the end, not during the years of development.

Intellectually, we all know that it’s too easy to become caught up with the dream of hoping that our child will be that magical one who will become the next LeBron James or Mia Hamm.  Let’s face it – parents are emotional beings, and Stanley makes his case that we absolutely need to maintain our perspective as best we can. Along the way, Stanley provides insights into coping with tryouts, provides coaching tips, how we can instill in our kids a sense of doing the right thing, and much more. Indeed, this is one of those sports parenting books that really covers all the bases.

If you’d like to find out more about V.J. Stanley, or how to order a copy of his excellent book, go to his website

BOOK REVIEW: Coach Dan on Sportsmanship

I have often said on the air that sportsmanship is one of those essential elements of youth sports that actually has to be consciously taught by parents and coaches to their kids. You can’t just assume that kids know about sportsmanship.

And to that end, as your kids progress in sports and start to get a taste of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, it’s key that Moms and Dads take a few moments to actively teach their kids how to behave — both when they win and when they lose.

To that end, I want to heartily recommend Dan Venezia’s short but powerful book on teaching sportsmanship. Aimed at youngsters under the age of 8, COACH DAN ON SPORTSMANSHIP is the kind of book you can, and should, read to your son or daughter at night, before they go to bed.

Dan’s lessons are solid, to the point, and delivered in an easy manner to digest. It’s the perfect lesson book for kids just starting out in sports. For more information about Dan Venezia and how you can purchase his book, check out his website at