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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Game Day: Meet the People Who Make It Happen

I am not a sports fanatic, not by any measure. But there's one sports statistic I know by heart:

Less than one percent of high school athletes go pro.

I don't mean to be a buzz kill, nor do I mean to discourage participation in sports. My own daughters are avid athletes in several sports, and you can't argue with the physical, emotional, and social benefits of organized recreation.

But what hope is there for the 99% of those students who love sports, continue to play them through high school and even college, but don't make the cut for the pros? And what of those students who have an interest in sports, but never had the talent or opportunity or desire to play?

Those questions are answered compellingly in Game Day: Meet the People Who Make It Happen, by Kevin Sylvester. This Annick Press title spotlights twenty sports related careers by profiling professionals in the fields of auto mechanics, journalism, music, medicine, choreography, and more.

Scott Lowell, for example, is a doping control officer for the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). To state his role more clearly, Scott keeps sports clean by watching by watching athletes pee. In his own words:

I have a list of athletes who live or train near my house. I get a note via our secure website saying, "You have two days to test a particular athlete," and I have to track them down and get them to provide a sample for me...

It can be tough for them. Sometimes I knock at their door at five in the morning and they have to give a sample for me. Sometimes I show up at their training site and they have just been working out for two hours. It's not easy to pee when you're dehydrated and exhausted.

Patrick Reynolds was a stock car racer until his passion for engines and performance took him from behind the wheel to under the hood of some of the fastest cars in America. When his money ran out and his own driving career was put on hold, Patrick decided to take his experience and knowledge of engines and find work as a race car mechanic. But he soon discovered it wasn't easy:

I knocked on every garage door, resume in hand. It helped that I had been a driver, and they could tell that I knew what I was talking about, but there was a lot of competition. This was the big time...

I had common sense and experience, but I really could have used a better understanding of geometry. So many of the newer crew members have a degree in engineering or computers, and that's how they are finding their way into the modern NASCAR world. It gets the doors opened for them ahead of guys like me.

Game Day blends narratives, interview segments, photos, and informational text boxes to create a reading experience that is equal parts instructional and entertaining. You can get a sense of its format from this sample page about horse trainer Ian Black.

I can see this chapter book being used in a number of ways:
  • As pure pleasure reading, for students who are interested in exploring the wide range of sports occupations;
  • As a read-aloud, for teachers to incorporate career awareness into reading, math, social studies, and science classes;
  • As a nonfiction classroom text, for vocational students whose reading interests may lean more toward fact than fantasy;
  • As a transitional text, for students who tend to skim rather than read in depth (skimming leads to more careful reading when the topic interests the reader); and
  • As a an entertaining, inspiring, and informative pick-me-up-and-just-read-me-now title.
Do the twenty people profiled in Game Day earn the same six- or seven-figure salaries as the athletes they work with? No. But there's more reward than money, as pointed out by journalist Mary Ormsby:

I have often thought about quitting sports reporting altogether, but then I'll see a young person shooting for the moon, trying to achieve something. In our world it's amazing to see young people with hope and excitement for life. I get a little teary-eyed sometimes. Then I know it's a privilege to do what I do.

Athletes aren't the only ones with a passion for the game.


Annette said...

Thanks for these comments. I purchased this book for my library because I thought it looked good and that some teens would enjoy it. I haven't had a chance to read it though, so I appreciated the thoughts.

Keith Schoch said...

This is the type of book that once students have a profile read to them, or are asked to read a profile, they'll naturally get hooked and want to read others.

I also know that a student's personal interests (say, photography) might cause me to hand them the book with a page bookmarked, and say, "You might want to check this out. This person turned their hobby into a career."

Thanks for checking in, Annette!

Keith Schoch said...

For those of you who doubt the validity of my one sports statistic:

Cozy in Texas said...

This a great post. In interviews of athletes (or others) who have "made" it the common thread is that they didn't give up. Dreams change but if you're working toward a goal you're going in the right direction.

Keith Schoch said...

Well put. I would NOT discourage a person who had dreams of making it big, but at the same time it's wise to help them see that there are vocations related to the sports (and other interests) they love.

Julie said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog - this sounds like a great book for kids who are interesting in sports as well as those looking for a little inspiration!

DJL said...

Wow, what a great book to get students to read! It's tough to make it in any field as a professional, and athletics are definitely up at the top of the Tough-To-Make list. But what really matters is the enjoyment that one gets out of doing what they love. Even if it's playing basketball for your high school or doing martial arts with your siblings, doing it because you have a love and a drive is what really matters. Thanks for stopping by my blog and also following. I'll do the same here and hopefully get some ideas for our Teen Librarian. :D

Yvonne said...

Great post! Sounds like a really good book.

curlypow said...

Hi Keith, I thought I'd hop back to you (from the Papertback Princesses) and see what you are about and I have just spent the last 40 min checking out your blogs. Very interesting and informative. I'm a librarian, not a teacher, but I'm sure your work will be relevant. Thanks,

Keith Schoch said...

That's okay, some of my best friends are librarians! Hope you find some good stuff here to use for yourself, and share with the teachers with whom you work.

Dana Alma said...

Hey Keith, just stopping by on the hop and follow.
Thanx for stopping by. Happy Reading!!!
See ya!
Readaholics Anonymous

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