Reading Beyond the Syllabus – Physical Education

I try to promote reading to my students every chance I get. On my school PE and Sport twitter feed this month I have been engaging with the English and History departments about what books would make their #bookadayuk list for September.



I could say I promote it because evidence suggests that children who read everyday not only perform better in reading tests that those that don’t, but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures. In reality I just take great pleasure from reading and I want my students to do so as well. With regards to A-Level PE students I encourage them to read beyond the syllabus not only for pleasure but also to strengthen and expand the students existing knowledge and also to add interest to the course.

These are currently the books I have on their ‘Beyond the Syllabus’ reading list:

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Born to run - Christopher McDougall


Christopher McDougall was a journalist for Esquire and Men’s Health. He is also a passionate runner, but kept getting injured. In this books he looks at the biomechanics of barefoot running, how trainers may be the reason behind so many running injuries and also tries to track down the elusive members of the Tarahumara tribe from Mexico who are the ultimate running endurance athletes. He tries to discover their secrets, along with other ultra endurance athletes and shares them with the reader.

Bounce by Matthew Syed



In this book Matthew Syed, a very successful International Table Tennis Champion turned journalist, tries to explain through his own experiences and through others how champions are made. A personal and insightful read about his belief that purposeful practice and not talent is the key ingredient to success in the world of sport.

Coming Back To Me by Marcus Trescothick

Coming back to me - Marcus Trescothick

A deeply personal and moving account of how England Cricket star Marcus Trescothick suffered, succumb to and the tried to deal with depression whilst playing sport at the highest of levels.

The Dirtiest Race in History by Richard Moore

DirtiesRaceInHistory - Richard Moore

Richard Moore is one of my favourite sports writers and this book just got the nod ahead of ‘Slaying the Badger’. This tells the story of possibly one of the most abiding sporting Images of my childhood, the 1986 Men’s 100 Olympic Finals. The book recounts the build up to the event with the background of Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis, the fall out after the race and then recent interviews with both of them. An amazing portrayal of sportsmanship, gamesmanship and doing whatever needed to be done to win.

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Fever Pitch - Nick Hornby

A fans view of football and Arsenal. This books shows how sport transcends entertainment and can get woven into the fabric of everyday life and how personal and emotive it can be.

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bassinger

Friday Night Lights


Whilst it is the film that everyone talks about, the book gives one of the clearest narrations of how high school sport is integral to a small town community in America. The High School Football Team of the Permian Panthers are treated like the Galatico’s of Real Madrid. It highlights all that is right with school sport in America and at the same time all that is wrong, with such a focus on elitism and no real system in place for mass particpation.

In your dreams and the Playground of the Gods by Ian Stafford

In your dreams playgrounds-of-the-gods

Ian Stafford is a sports journalist and a man I envy. Do you want to know what it would be like to play for Everton FC, Wigan Rugby Club or Leicester Tigers?  Perhaps you want to run against top Kenyan athletes, see if you can handle yourself in a ruck against the Spring Boks or play cricket against Australia? Ian managed through his job to do all of this and more. He describes his experiences, his many injuries and what it really takes to play elite sport with wit.

Legacy by James Kerr

Legacy - James Kerr

This is a new one to the list. James Kerr got to spend 5 weeks with the All Blacks training in the build up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup. This book is an extraordinary exploration of how a country with only 4 Million people has produced the best rugby team in the world for over 100 years.

Luck by Ed Smith



Ed Smith, ex England Cricketer and now journalist, takes a look at how success sometimes isn’t down to just hard work and application, but an element of luck comes into it too. Through an exploration of his own career, his hard work, his rise to the England Team and then never quite delivering on the promises of potential this is another view to the talent vs. practice debate.

The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds

The First 20 Minutes - Gretchen Reynolds

Think you know what a healthy and active lifestyle means? Sure you are up to date with cutting sports science about exercise? Gretchen Reynolds answers those questions in a very easy and accessible way. However don’t expect a definitive answer, as the jury is still out. A must for all PE Teachers as well as A-Level students.

The Meaning of Sport by Simon Barnes

The Meaning of Sport

Simon Barnes takes you on a whistle stop tour of the greatest sporting events in history and tries to describe why sport holds us all in such thrall, how it uplifts and crushes us – and can seem to matter more than life itself. The Sunday Times is a much poorer paper without him.

The Sport Gene – David Epstein

The Sports Gene - David Epstein

Book Stores are currently over saturated with books that look at the talent vs. practice debate.  However David Epstein book approaches this from a different viewpoint and that genetics, at least in sport, come into play as much as practice.

Tom Brown’s School Days – Thomas Hughes

Tom Brown's Schooldays

I’ve not got many students to read this one if I’m honest (more tend to read about Harry Flashman). As a book that describes sports place in the Public Schools of the 19th Century. Set in Rugby School in the 1830’s it gives a flavour about the importance and development of sport within this country as well as the ideals of muscular christianity.

What I talk about when I talk about running – Haruki Murakami

What I talk about when i talk about running


In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and on his writing. A philosophical review of running.

Winning! by Clive Woodward


Clive Woodward was an innovator and forward thinking rugby coach. He was one of the first coaches who embraced the modern professional era in Rugby Union, and this book explores his ideas and how he created a World Cup winning team. It gives you a real understanding of the support sports science can make to the success of a team or indvidual.


What books would make your ‘Beyond the Syllabus’ reading list?




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