Five Sports Memoirs Every Athlete Needs to Dig into

During Lockdown

Written by

Dawn Broadbent


During lockdown it’s been a huge relief to still have access to various sports and activities, given all the restrictions the global pandemic has put on our lives. Sport is one thing many of us have turned to as a way of getting through this incredibly strange and uncertain time. But if there’s still a hole in your heart from not being able to watch sport on the television and bond with friends over all the drama that comes with it, then getting your teeth into a gripping sports memoir is the next best thing! From Yvon Chouinard’s ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ to Phil Knight’s ‘Shoe Dog’, here’s a few of our favourite sports memoirs for you to dig into during lockdown.

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

In this incredibly profound memoir, legendary climber, businessman, environmentalist, and founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, shares the persistence and courage that goes into being the head of one of the most respected and environmentally responsible companies on Earth. From his youth as the son of a French Canadian handyman to the thrilling, ambitious climbing expeditions that inspired his innovative designs for the sport's equipment, Let My People Go Surfing is the story of a man who brought doing good and having grand adventures into the heart of his business life. This is a book that will deeply affect entrepreneurs and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

The author and owner of Patagonia provides a blueprint of how all businesses should develop and run. Chouinard started by making and selling a niche climbing product out of the back of his car to maintain a low impact climbing and surfing type lifestyle and slowly grew a world wide business on the basis of total integrity to product quality and giving great care to the environmental impact at every stage of manufacture, and concern for his employees and those of his suppliers. After reading this book I gained an incredible new found respect for Patagonia and can't recommend this book to sports and outdoors enthusiasts enough!

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog is the memoir of the creator of Nike, Phil Knight. This book provides an unvarnished story of how Phil Knight started the now global company that today is worth over £30 million. In 1962, fresh out of business school, Knight borrowed $50 from his father and created a company with a simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost athletic shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the boot of his car in Plymouth, Knight grossed $8000 in his first year. The swoosh has now become a revolutionary, globe-spanning icon; one of the most ubiquitous and recognisable symbols in the world today. Together, harnessing the transcendent power of a shared mission, and a deep belief in the spirit of sport, Phil Knight and his team built a brand that changed everything in the world of sport. And it's incredible to read about how it all happened and what shaped his success. 

His memoir is rich with insight, humour and hard-won wisdom. Knight's tenacity shines through on every page and will give readers a deeper appreciation of Nike's ethos as a business. It details lessons about building something from scratch, overcoming adversity, and ultimately leaving your mark on the world. A gripping read - highly recommend! 

Gold In The Water by P. H. Mullen

Gold In The Water chronicles the journey of a team of talented young men to the 2000 Olympic Games and presents one of the most powerful and moving sports books. Based in California, these men begin pursuing the most elusive dream in sports, the Olympic Games. The pressure steadily increases as two best friends (a mentor and his protégé) reach the top of the world rankings and unexpectedly find themselves direct competitors. Their teammates include an emerging star methodically plotting to retrace his father's path to Olympic glory, as well as a super-extraordinary athlete desperate to walk away from it all. Led by one of the most passionate coaches in sports, a brilliant and explosive strategist on a personal quest for redemption, this team of dark horses and Olympic favourites work through escalating rivalries, joyous triumphs, and heartbreaking setbacks.

Boldly sweeping in literary power and pace, this startling book will permanently change how you view the Olympic athlete. It is a fascinating world of suspense and emotion where human desire for excellence rules over all, and where there are no second chances for glory. But above all, Gold In The Water is a triumph of the human spirit. An emotional read but definitely worth getting your teeth into if you're a swimmer! You'll relate to so many of the emotions expressed and adventures explored within this book. An emotional but phenomenal read!

When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson

Long before perma-tanned football agents and television mega-rights ushered in the age of the multimillionaire player, footballers wages were capped. Even the game's biggest names earned barely more than a plumber or electrician. Footballing legends such as Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews shared a bond of borderline penury with the huge crowds they entertained on Saturday afternoons, on pitches that were a world away from the pristine lawns of the game's modern era. Instead of the gleaming sports cars driven by today's top players, these sports stars travelled to matches on public transport and returned to homes every bit as modest as those of their supporters. Players and fans would even sometimes be next-door neighbours in a street of working-class terraced houses.

Based on the first-hand accounts of players from a fast-disappearing generation, When Footballers Were Skint delves into the game's rich heritage and relates the fascinating story of a truly great sporting era. Not only is this a gripping read for those interested in football and its roots, but it also serves as a fascinating documentation of social history. 

Don't Stop Me Now by Vassos Alexander

Vassos Alexander's memoir 'Don't Stop Me Now' is a true celebration of running - and what lots of us think about when we run. Part escape, part self-discovery, part therapy, part fitness, part simple childlike joy of running when you could be walking. Alexander shares the highs and lows of falling in love with running, from his first paltry efforts to reach the end of his street to completing ultra marathons and triathlons in the same weekend.

Each of the 26.2 chapters also feature a fascinating insight into how others first started from Paula Radcliffe to Steve Cram, the Brownlee brothers to Jenson Button, Nicky Campbell to Nell McAndrew. I read this book at the time of its publish (2016) when I was an avid runner myself, and I remember how much I loved it. This is a humorous, uplifting and inspiring read that will capture the heart of any avid runner, or total novice! It will definitely make you want to put your running shoes on and get out the door for a good run! 

Hope you enjoying this compilation of incredibly moving sports memoirs! Let us know if you purchase any from our list and your thoughts on them. Or even better, if you have a suggestion you think we ought to know about, let us know in the comments below. We'd love to hear!

Written by

Dawn Broadbent