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IOWA CITY — Summer reading is not restricted to school, but is key to team building for Iowa football’s offseason.
There’s a reason for every book choice, but most have to do with personal growth and teamwork. Choices tend to vary by the offseason, but most players make their way to reading all of them, and add choices of their own.
“I mean, if you look at it in a perspective of: ‘They're making me read that, you're not going to get as much out of it,’” Iowa junior linebacker Jack Campbell said. “It’s in the summer, so you don't really have that many classes to do, and it’s not reading like 500 pages a day, it’s a chapter a week. To want to read that and like take lessons away from it is very important to this program.”
For Campbell, that extra book for him was “A Purpose Driven Life,” by Rick Warren, which he said resonated with him because of his faith as a Christian. He said it gave him an appreciation for the simple things in life, but for others, like junior quarterback Spencer Petras, they’ll seek out leadership books rooted in ancient Greek philosphy.
Here’s the list of the assigned and one unassigned readings of the Iowa football team.
The Stoic Trilogy by Ryan Holiday: “The Obstacle is the Way,” “Ego Is the Enemy,” “Stillness is Key” (Spencer Petras’ picks)
The Stoic Trilogy took the NFL by storm when it was published in 2014. In fact, both the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks read the book following the 2015 Super Bowl and both coaches adopted stoicism into their coaching philosophies. Nick Saban, mentioned in one of the books, is also considered a “stoic.”
Stoicism, practiced by notable ancient Greek and Roman philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, as interpreted by author Holiday “asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness and judgment be based on behavior, rather than words. That we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses.”
Petras has read the first of the trilogy and is currently in the midst of “Ego Is the Enemy.”
“It's about life and life's really about what you control, you can't control the things that happen to you, you control how you react to it,” Petras said. “One of the most prominent figures in stoicism is Marcus Aurelius and I got a chance to read meditations which is his diary from when he was the emperor of Rome. He was the most important man in the world at that point in time and you're getting this guy's private thoughts that weren't meant for anyone but himself. It’s interesting.”
“The Program” by Eric Kapitulik and Jake MacDonald (leadership council’s book)
Read by members of the 16-player leadership council, “The Program,” takes a military-style approach to team building. The book was written by the founder of a team-building company called The Program which started in 2008 and is now used by over 200 professional and collegiate teams across the nation.
“’The Program’ was a suggestion by one of our coaches,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Actually, a couple of them had read it and thought it would be good. If you read it, it's what we do. Although, nobody's lives are at stake.”
Kapitulik, founder of The Program, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the marine corps. After a helicopter crash killed several of his teammates, he started a scholarship fund to benefit their children. After receiving a master’s in business, he founded The Program and competes in Ironman triathlons and ultra-marathons. MacDonald, one of the instructors at The Program, was a four-year varsity football player at Tufts University and also a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, earning a Purple Heart for his service.
The leadership council book changes every year, according to the players and they will give presentations about what they learned from them to the team. This was junior center Tyler Linderbaum’s favorite of the summer.
“Something from that book is that consistency builds trust,” Linderbaum said. “Just how you are every day: are you a guy who makes his body weight every time he comes in and puts in extra work or are you a guy that isn’t? That’s what separates the good teams from the bad.”
“Never Enough” by Mike Hayes (team book)
This is an autobiography where Hayes takes his personal experiences as a former U.S. Navy Seal commanding officer in Afghanistan and White House Director of Defense Policy and Strategy and recounts what lessons he learned to his readers.
His mantra is that he always strives to be better and his book “offers battle- and boardroom-tested advice that will motivate readers to do work of value, live lives of purpose, and stretch themselves to reach their highest potential.”
He came and spoke to the team this summer, and members of the team shared his book title across their social media. Ferentz met Hayes at an event two summers ago where Hayes expressed interest in speaking to the team. He joined the team on a Zoom call last summer, then was able to visit the team in person this summer.
“You never know who you're talking with when you talk with people and what their lives are about,” Ferentz said. “I've always thought of Dan Gable that way, too. You might underestimate if you saw him on the street, not knowing about his accomplishments. He's not going to tell you, but neither will Mike.”
The book was one of the more widely read this summer, according to Petras. Iowa junior tight end Sam LaPorta is currently reading it, while senior cornerback Riley Moss said his copy just came in from Amazon.
“That dude is legit,” LaPorta said. "He had an aura around him. He stood up in front of our team and he had the eyes and ears of everybody in the room, everybody was laser locked in.“
“The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson (freshman book)
Every player that enters the Iowa football program reads this book their freshman year, then will give presentations on what they have learned to the team.
The book emphasizes incremental ways to achieve happiness and success through your daily life by “using the tools that are already within you.”
According to Jeff Olson’s LinkedIn, he is the founder of The People’s Network, a company that specializes in personal development training and has built several multi-million dollar sales and marketing organizations while also producing more than 900 TV programs on personal development. He’s currently the CEO of a company called Neora that sells anti-aging products.
“The Slight Edge,” is widely credited as the foundation of the Iowa football program and applies to any player, whether they play every down or not at all. Iowa football director of player development Jason Manson credited the book in July as how he viewed his collegiate career.
“Not everything is going to be easy,” Manson said. “It gives those simple fundamental things that you do to have success, maybe not immediately, but down the line. And that's something that I think nowadays people struggle with because everything is instant with social media. I think that's something that the program does a good job of teaching.”
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