Best Sports Psychology Books 2021

It’s so easy to overlook the mental side of things. It’s so easy to fixate on the physical. To focus on the physical training part of things. For MMA; you have to train boxing, you have to train Muay Thai, BJJ, wrestling. You have to be able to put it all together but you also have to do cardio, and strength training and be a complete athlete. You have to put the right food in your body and supplement. People assume that if they just do all of that, then they can step into a cage against another human and have their hands raised shortly after.

Don’t consider sports psychology and mindset as an edge or an advantage. It’s absolutely mandatory.

Best Sports Psychology Books Reviewed

A Champion’s Mind – Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras is one of the best tennis players of all time. Every sport is ultra-competitive and tennis is no different. To rise to the top of tennis takes an incredibly gifted and hard-working individual, but like every sport, it’s not enough to just have the physical side of things taken care of.

Peter Sampras goes deep into his life and deep into what made him as good as he was. He dispenses on the lessons he’s learned and how to control his own mind. It details how he dealt with the immense pressure that almost crushed him as he fought to be the best in the world.

It’s insights like that that really show you what champions are made of, not just how they worked out or what their daily routine was. This book is a window into the mind of a true champion.

The Fighter’s Mind – Sam Sheridan

For the competitive MMA/BJJ athlete, this book should be mandatory reading. Anyone who’s competed before, whether on the mats, in the ring or in the cage, they will remember the crushing nerves felt before a bout. Where your legs feel like your jelly and your stomachs on edge, close to vomiting. Where your team and trainers are talking to you and giving you advice but you’re not really there, not mentally. You might as well be a thousand miles away.

If any of this is even slightly familiar, then you have to read this book. It will help you deal with the nerves, the anxiety before a bout and even how to deal with a loss, when it feels like the end of the world.

This is a great book for any MMA, BJJ, combat sports fan. It’s a fascinating, engaging page-turner.

The Art of Learning – Josh Waitzkin

We’re never really taught how to learn. As soon as we’re old enough, we’re chucked into school and we are taught. Information is basically thrown at us and it’s up to us to make sense of it and then make use of it. It’s up to us to make sure that any of it even sticks long. But we’re never really told how to optimally take information and turn into personal knowledge that we can understand and relate to.

Josh Waitzkin, a chess prodigy and BJJ black belt under Marcelo Garcia, teaches us how to learn and how to reach the top of our game, no matter what that game may be. The fact that Josh happens to be a BJJ black belt is just a massive bonus, the cherry on top.

Josh also describes how to control your emotions and turn them into fuel, rather than those emotions burning you inside like acid and ruining your performance.

The Chimp Paradox – Dr. Steve Peters

Most peoples minds are a mess. Most people would claim that they were logical and rational individuals but that’s just not true. We are incredibly emotional and only rationality after the fact, after our emotions have made up our minds for us. And worst of all, most of this is completely unconscious and we never even realise it.

Dr. Steve Peters guides you through this book with actionable advice and tips and tricks you can use to clean up your mind and put your logical self back in charge, rather than your emotional self.

This book can help you in every avenue of your life, including achieving your potential in the MMA/BJJ world.

The Inner Game of Tennis – W. Timothy Gallwey

If you want a book that is solely dedicated to eradicating your nerves, anxiety and fear in training and competition then this is it.

This book may focus on tennis and competing in tennis but all the advice can be easily transferred to fighting in MMA or boxing or competing in BJJ.

This book will help you get into that coveted flow state where everything outside of that one activity disappears and time seems to both stop and speeds up at the same time. You can us Mr. Gallwey’s tips build your skills in what he refers to as smart practice so that you can effortlessly put your skills together in actual competition.

It’s absolutely filled with actionable advice and tips and tricks that actually work. No fluff or messing about. This is another book that is absolutely mandatory for anyone that competes or anyone that just simply wants to improve.


Any one of these books can help you improve in any area of your life. The mental exercises and tricks that are either laid out bluntly in some books, or hidden between the lines in the others, can help you achieve far more than you ever thought capable.

But of course, there’s far more to it than that. The physical side is mandatory. You have to train hard. In all disciplines, and make sure you’re at peak fitness. I’m not saying that there’s any getting around hard, hard work. But is it enough? No. It isn’t.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of MMA fighters who are incredibly talented and incredibly hard-working and on paper, they do everything that is required of them, and more. And it still isn’t good enough. Because the mindset isn’t there. The right mentality and psychological elements aren’t there and all of their physical preparations fall apart as soon as the cage door closes.

In every other sport, older sports, the idea of sports psychology and having your mental side fine-tuned is readily accepted and encouraged. It’s widely known in other sports that you need to have your head screwed on properly if you hope to compete at the highest level. It’s no different for MMA but MMA is a young sport and they haven’t really caught up to how things are meant to be done.


About the author

Richard Presley

A purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Richard is the owner and primary writer of Attack The back. Check out my About Me Page to learn more!

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