Coach: 25 Writers Reflect on People Who Made a Difference

Coach: 25 Writers Reflect on People Who Made a Difference

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by Andrew Blauner, Bill Bradley
Twenty-five celebrated writers share the inspiring words and timeless wisdom of the athletic coaches who changed and influenced their lives and pass on the sage advice they received. Now features a new preface by David Duchovny.


Twenty-five celebrated writers share the inspiring words and timeless wisdom of the athletic coaches who changed and influenced their lives and pass on the sage advice they received. Now features a new preface by David Duchovny.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
These often entertaining reminiscences about the impact that athletic coaches can have on their players are a mixed bag. The very disparate nature of the essays sometimes creates a loss of overall focus, but the wide range of sports covered--baseball, football, basketball, track, tennis, golf and fencing--is a plus. Only four of the 25 pieces are written by women, but they offer interesting contrasts. Novelist Francine Prose describes the 1950s gym teacher from hell, while Christine Brennan fondly remembers her beloved 1970s high school coach who, before Title IX, battled against the lack of funds and equipment for girl's teams. Journalists George Vecsey and Frank Deford present historical recollections of, respectively, baseball's legendary Casey Stengel and Al McGuire, the high-profile basketball coach at Marquette University, but most of the other pieces touch on personal coaching experiences. Of particular interest is CNN correspondent Tour 's evocation of a 1970s tennis club in Dorchester, Mass., started by Mister Smith, who dreamed of turning African-American ghetto kids into professional tennis players. While moving, Jane Leavy's description of being a dying coach for a friend with AIDS feels out of place in a collection that otherwise deals with sports. (Oct. 27) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An often stellar anthology examining the impact of coaches, with contributors Francine Prose, John Irving and John McPhee, among others. Sportswriter Frank Deford profiles Marquette basketball coach Al Maguire, a man of extraordinary color and velocity who works a grand con of madman/fool to get the most out of his squad. Irving honors the wrestling coach who counseled him to become a student of the sport to compensate for his shortcomings. "Talent is overrated," he told Irving. "[T]hat you're not very talented needn't be the end of it." Charles McGrath, former editor of the New York Times Book Review, writes that Aunt Gert was his best golfing coach. On the green, she kicked his butt with short drives while teaching him that calm and humility go a long way, even if he was too testosterone-laden to listen. (He listens now, and Aunt Gert still hits the ball square.) McPhee offers a cool, elegant portrait of Princeton's Willem van Breda Kolff, who felt "that mere winning is far less important than winning with style." And it is not surprising that Buzz Bissinger was asked to weigh in on the subject, with the recent success of his book-turned-movie Friday Night Lights, though here it is a tribute to his baseball coach, and a backhanded one at that: "I remember him in the way that memory is most useful, through my own psychological needs, which is also to say that much of what I do remember may not even be accurate." Novelist Prose, in a superb, subversive entry about the gym coach she couldn't stand, reminds us that not all coaches are heroes. "Most of my early teachers were helpful," she concludes, "but Miss G. was not." Other contributors-John Edgar Wideman, George Plimpton, RobertLipsyte-share equally memorable stories. A solid, entertaining collection recognizing great coaches, and a Beelzebub or two.
Sports Illustrated
What happens when twenty-five wonderful writers meet twenty-five unforgettable coaches? The twenty-five life lessons you are holding in your hands.—Gary Smith
Los Angeles Times
Compelling … rich … an all-star squad of scribblers. You don’t have to be an ex-jock with a trophy case to find someone you can relate to here.
The Boston Globe
Instead of boondoggles and bromides, what we have here are essays about real sports and the characters who left lifelong marks in their attempts to make something of these writers.
Coach and Athletic Director Magazine
If you [coaches] ever had any reservations about what you do for a living, Andrew Blauner and 25 of the best writers in America have dispelled them. Blauner has assembled an incredible cast, including novelists, sportswriters, broadcasters, and commentators, who look back at their lives and identify coaches who’ve influenced their lives.
USA Today
Perfect ... refreshing ... makes a true connection with the reader ... Sweet and often funny vulnerability, revealing the part of the writer that is willing to be coached. The collection has perfect ‘pitch.’ Writers pay tribute to coaches in the purest sense, showing their lasting influences.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
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Read an Excerpt


By Andrew Blauner

Warner Books

Copyright © 2005 Andrew Blauner
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-57745-6


By Bill Bradley

LEADERSHIP MEANS GETTING PEOPLE TO THINK, believe, see, and do what they might not have without you. It means possessing the vision to set the right goal and the decisiveness to pursue it single-mindedly. It means being aware of the fears and anxieties felt by those you lead even as you urge them to overcome those fears. A great coach embodies these qualities and transforms them into a force that can effect powerful changes in those they lead.

My high school coach, the only man who would ever be "the coach" to me, was like a monk, withdrawn personally and unsociable in town circles; unreachable by the power of the company, the church, the bank, or the mayor; rigid with discipline and sparse with compliments; inspiring to boys like me, cruel to those unprepared or unwilling. Never did he confuse his roles. He was not the college counselor, family adviser, tutor, athletic businessman, or budding politician. He aspired only to be the coach. It was a calling. If in my years as a New York Knick there would be thousands of words written about passing and teamwork and hitting the open man, it would not be new. It would be the "coach's" game, which by age seventeen was second nature to me. The really great coaches engage their players in a quest to be the best. Some bark their orders; others are more like machines, with a clipboard full of practice drills. In the right player-coach relationship, a quiet "well done" can go a long way. By talking candidly about the problems of adolescence or the vagaries of the parent-child relationship some high school coaches extend their reach to life off the court. Their players may never become pros, but because they learned the values of the game they are better prepared for life. Many people in all walks of life will tell you that their lives were turned around by a coach who took an interest in their total well-being. But, no matter your relationship with that person who will always be "the coach" for you, you will hear their words like a record every time you meet challenges or set out to accomplish goals. It is only then that you fully realize how they shaped you and how their vision still drives you.

In this book you will find powerful stories about the ways in which a coach changed the direction of someone's life and coaxed that person into taking a harder, more rewarding path. There are also a few recollections of coaches who had a negative effect on an individual's life. As you read the words of each writer, you will see that the story of a "coach" and their "player" serves as an allegory that illustrates the most basic, but most important aspects of human interaction. These individual stories taken together form a narrative of value that shows us the powerful reward of vision, hard work and the belief that together we can be something bigger and better than if we never listened to, learned from or engaged with the people we encounter in our lives.

BILL BRADLEY has been a three-time basketball All-America at Princeton, an Olympic gold medalist, a Rhodes scholar, and a professional player for ten years with the New York Knicks during which time they won two NBA championships. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 1997, and in 2000 he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. He is the author of several books, including Life on the Run and Values of the Game.


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What People are saying about this

Roy Blount Jr.
"What coach wouldn't love to have this team?"--(Roy Blount Jr.)
Rick Telander
"Coaches—after parents, offspring, siblings, religious leaders, teachers, and rulers—are the most important beings on earth. Good ones can change your world. Bad ones, too. From E. M. Swift’s crusty, old Frank Ward to Christine Brennan’s protective Miss O.—the whistle-tooters in Coach prove the point again and again: coaches really matter."--(Rick Telander, author of Heaven Is a Playground)
Robert Coles
"Here is a book for all of us who teach to consider—the way students learn through those who help them learn how to use their bodies (and minds) while doing athletic work. Coaches offer so much to athletes—addressing their minds, hearts, and souls—as this extraordinary anthology lets us know so very well."--(Robert Coles, author of Children of Crisis)
Bill Littlefield
"This intriguing collection of essays will remind anyone who’s ever been coached that it can be a powerful experience. Coaches come in all sorts of flavors. The gruff and kind appear here, as do the wise and the foolish, the encouraging and the destructive, and some in whom lots of these qualities and inclinations are curiously mixed. What the coaches share, at least in this remarkable collection of writers chronicling coaching, is that they are unforgettable.”--(Bill Littlefield, host of NPR’s Only a Game)
Alec Wilkinson
"Coach is a collection of wise, funny, and humane writing on a subject that’s poignant and elusive and usually sentimentalized into something unrecognizable. The intimacy of these accounts—some defiant, some celebratory, some subversively resentful—is what I enjoyed most."--(Alec Wilkinson, author of My Mentor: A Young Man’s Friendship with William Maxwell)
Madeleine Blais
"Coach! One measly monosyllable, yet the word can evoke the entire range of human emotion, as it does in this masterful and touching anthology, which promises endless pleasure for anyone who has experience coaching on either side."--(Madeleine Blais, Pulitzer Prize–winner and author of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle)

Meet the Author

Andrew Blauner is the founder of Blauner Books
Literary Agency. He is the editor of Coach: 25 Writers Reflect on People Who
Made a Difference
; Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry; and Central
An Anthology. He is also coeditor of Anatomy of Baseball. A graduate of Brown University and
Columbia Business School, he is a member of PEN and the National Book Critic

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