Sport psychology is a well-established field, full of insightful research and expertise into the sportsperson’s mind. This growing knowledge can be useful when applied, helping athletes to train harder and more effectively, and in a way that’s not detrimental to mental health.
A key concept is the idea that the mental is just as important as the physical when it comes to pushing yourself. Athletes can train their bodies to the extreme, but forgetting to improve mental dexterity may be the reason why other athletes can outperform them.
Sports psychology books help to gain valuable insight into the minds of athletes, helping you to learn the lessons that they’ve spent years of training on. The way that the psychological and physical can work cohesively is an important skill, and one that serious sportspeople must inevitably discover.
Read on for our top picks of the best sport psychology books, ready to elevate, motivate, and inspire.
Best sports psychology books to buy in 2023
Mind Games by Annie Vernon
World champion rower and Olympic silver medallist Annie Vernon draws on her experience of extensive, rigorous training to discover why athletes push themselves to the limit. The former competitive athlete interviews some of the most prominent coaches, athletes and psychologists to unpack the minds of the elite.
While training is often seen as a highly physical activity, Mind Games focuses on the mental dexterity that’s required, which can be just as important when pushing past your limits. Like the name of the book suggests, Vernon’s investigation reveals the mind games that athletes must enact to stay at the top of their game.
Endure by Alex Hutchinson
Developed from a fascination for the extremes of human endurance, Endure reveals the ways in which our limits are determined by our minds as much as our bodies.
Alex Hutchinson argues the view that a main element of endurance comes down to how our brain responds to distress signals. These signals can be triggered by fatigue, pain, adverse weather conditions and much more – and Hutchinson claims that improving our brain’s responses to these triggers is an effective way to endurance train.
Hutchinson dives into various experiments, brain imagery and sport psychology research, as well as his own experience as an elite distance runner, to substantiate his claims and build a more detailed view of the athlete’s mind.
Read our full review of Endure here.
Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg & Steve Magness
Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness unpack the stories of top performers from a range of fields, from sports to academia to art, to create a more universal understanding of how the brain drives performance.
The lessons learned can be applied in various aspects of life, but notes on the cognitive and neuropsychological functions of the mind can be particularly useful for athletes. Peak Performance can work as a guide to improve your approach, with practical applications of the techniques discussed.
The Champion’s Mind by Jim Afremow
What separates certain athletes from others? Why can some outperform others, even in elite competitions? The Champion’s Mind explains that the key difference is often the mental game that athletes have internalised to sustain long-term excellence.
Along with insightful explanations, Jim Afremow provides a useful, detailed guide to achieving your best, with sections on ‘how to get in the zone’ and ‘how to progress in a sport,’ among many others.
Endurance Performance in Sport by Carla Meijen
In Endurance Performance in Sport, Carla Meijen collates research and expertise from across the globe to provide a comprehensive overview of the psychology of endurance performance. It’s a book that dives into the theoretical understanding of sport psychology, as well as going into detail about various techniques and interventions that can improve athletes’ mental endurance.
The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn
Ultra running is one of the truest endurance tests, exceeding the lengths of marathons to push your body even further.
The Rise of the Ultra Runners tells the story of Adharanand Finn’s journey as he attempts to become an ultra runner himself – an endeavour that took him to far places like Oman’s deserts and the peaks of the Rockies.
Finn delivers inspirational insight into what can be found at the most extreme boundaries of human performance, considering the psychological and social drivers that compel athletes to keep pushing.
High Performance by Jack Humphrey & Damian Hughes
In the podcast of the same name, sports presenter Jake Humphrey and psychologist Damian Hughes speak to the highly successful about their experience of excelling in life.
High Performance covers nine ‘hidden’ rules to success, utilising their unique insight from the wide range of high performers that they’ve interviewed, from leading sportspeople to entrepreneurs.
Peak by Marc Bubbs
Health, nutrition, recovery, mindset. Dr Marc Bubbs thinks of these as the four pillars to depend on when reaching your peak performance, from his experience as a performance nutrition consultant for professional and Olympic athletes.
Peak emphasises the importance of your mindset and emotional intelligence when aiming for the best.
Sport Psychology: A Complete Introduction by John Perry
Focusing more closely on the subject itself, Sport Psychology is an introduction to the field’s academic research. For those who are studying it, teaching it, or even practicing it as an athlete, the book can provide detailed, research-led information on the world of sport psychology.