Coach Your Brains Out The Book

Billy Allen, John Mayer Publish Coach Your Brains Out Book

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From a hotel room in Hamburg, Germany, John Mayer laughed when recalling the final shift of his identity, from a fan’s perspective, in his beach volleyball career as a player. Throughout his career, he had been known, of course, as a player. As he should have. He won his first tournament in 2009, was named Most Improved Player by season’s end. In 2015, he was voted Best Defensive Player and MVP of the AVP Tour.

And yet as his playing days began to, in his own mind, be numbered, fans approached him less for his feats and talents on the court than the ones online, cultivated and made public to the world from his garage.

In the same year that Mayer enjoyed the finest season of his playing career, he founded a podcast alongside Billy Allen, Nils Nielsen and Andrew Fuller. They called it Coach Your Brains Out. They had no idea what they were doing though, for the record, nobody in the history of podcasting has ever had any idea what they were doing. They winged it, recording episodes via Skype or from Mayer’s garage, the first episode airing on May 9 of 2015, just two weeks before Mayer would finish third at AVP New Orleans with Ryan Doherty.  

By Mayer’s final season on Tour, in 2018, “when I was playing,” he said, “I had more fans come up to me and say ‘Hey, I love your podcast!’ instead of ‘Hey I love watching you play!’”

Now, it’s possible that more fans will approach him and Allen, whom Mayer now coaches, and tell them that they love their book, which was published on June 19 and is an eponym of the podcast: Coach Your Brains Out: Lessons on the Art and Science of Coaching Volleyball.  

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“It’s weird to think we could sell a book off the brand name of a podcast that we started in John’s garage,” Allen said. “Just how rinky dink it felt at first, just how it’s grown and developed an audience and people asking for this information in this book. We have our diehard fans that buy right away. It’s really cool for us to have that. It makes it worthwhile.”

It’s a volleyball book but it’s not, in the same way that Head’s Up Baseball and The Inner Game of Tennis – sports psychology Bibles both Mayer and Allen recommended, self-deprecatingly, that you read before you pick of their own book – are not baseball or tennis books. Anyone in sport, be it a coach or player or parent, can get value out of the book, for the lessons in it have come from a menagerie of guests both in and outside of volleyball. They’ve had everyone from skateboarders, such as Paul Rodriguez, to doctors to James Kerr, the author of Legacy, a book detailing the legendary and unprecedented rise of the All-Blacks, the dominant New Zealand rugby team.

“The number one demographic would be our podcast listeners,” Mayer said. “Number two would be volleyball coaches, and I think it would be a variety of levels, but it would have to be a coach who is open to learning. I think any coach could use it. There’s a feedback chapter, growth mindset, stuff teachers and parents can apply.”

There are also personal stories from Mayer and Allen themselves, a recommendation from Tom Black, a well-known coach and a guest on the show. It helped “make it more personal,” Allen said.

The chapters of the book are not broken down by guest, but by concept – motor learning, for example – with quotes and ideas from guests on the show, such as Karch Kiraly and Hugh McCutcheon.   

“As proud as I am of the podcast, I’m way more proud of this book than I am of any one episode,” Allen said. “We put a lot of work into it, and if this is what I have to show from all the years of podcasts then I’m pretty happy with it.”

And he’d be happy, too, if you see him at an AVP event and recognize him not as a player, not as a podcaster, but now as a two-time beach volleyball playing author.

“If it helps one person,” Mayer said, “then mission accomplished.”

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