LITTLE WINNERS: Inside the World of the Child Sports Star by Emily Greenspan

LITTLE WINNERS: Inside the World of the Child Sports Star

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Mixing interview material with even-tempered, unsurprising generalizations, Greenspan stretches out a solid magazine-article idea--the phenomenon of kiddie sports-stars--into a repetitious, bland, weakly written subject-survey. The book begins fairly promisingly, with close-ups of cheerful marathon-runner Jennifer Amyx and figure-skater Lisa-Marie Allen--who barely missed superstardom, thanks to bad luck and a ""freewheeling attitude"" that alienated the sport's obsessive ""inner sanctum."" Subsequently, however, the featured interview-subjects become less interesting, as Greenspan devotes individual chapters to various aspects of the child-sports-star life. There's a chapter on family-relationships--heavy on over-simplifications (the marriage of skating-star Linda Fratianne's parents was ""ruptured by her skating career"") and pallid recitations of obvious psychological angles: ""Another potential family trouble spot is sibling rivalry, in which the crucial factor rests with the personalities of the siblings and the extent to which each is naturally empathetic."" Then comes a somewhat livelier discussion of coach/star relationships--with the focus on Tracy Austin's possibly ""power-hungry"" tennis coach, a computer-wise gymnastics coach, and skating coach Carlo Fassi, ""an old master."" Plus chapters on: the conflict between school and sports, with lots about the new specialized sports academies (including a virtual advertisement for the Stratton Mountain skiing school); the money and personal politics involved in Olympics training and the US Ski Team (disappointingly sketchy); pediatric sports medicine (""Parents should be on the lookout for signs of nutritional faddism and drug abuse""); psychological pressures--with heavy plugs for Greenspan's favorite ""sports psychologist""; the pros and cons of turning pro, with a close-up of Para Shriver on tour, comments about retirement, and some words of warning about over-marketing and the too-much-too-soon syndrome. (""If ghetto children grow up believing that the NBA is the only way, at age twenty they may find themselves with glorious memories of yesterday but no opportunities for tomorrow."") Fans of individual sports may want to browse here, picking out material of special interest. But Greenspan's flatly journalistic approach, though conscientiously balanced between muckraking and boosterism, makes this an only spottily intriguing overview--primarily for parents wondering how to handle athletically gifted children.

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1983
Publisher: Little, Brown