Debut author Roth, a former high school coach and sports administrator with decades of experience, offers amusing and enlightening remembrances, a brief history of high school athletics in the United States, and tips for coaches, parents, officials, and players.
Over the course of this work, the author, who coached a few different sports in Westchester, New York, comes across as tough but caring. He preaches discipline for athletes throughout, for example, but he also shows a clear distaste for coaches who curse out their players and embarrass them in public. Roth writes that he believes that players should be well-rounded individuals; for instance, he tells of how he once instituted a mandatory study hall for his players before practices, both to allow a girls’ team early access to the gym and to make sure his athletes were on track academically. He also effectively addresses broader issues in a clear, impartial manner. Not all schools have academic requirements for their athletes, but Roth places a high value on education, often stating that coaches should be teachers first and take interest in their students’ everyday lives. On the other hand, he points out that sometimes players don’t excel in academics, and playing a sport provides their main means of socialization. At one point, he asks parents to resist the temptation to send coaches abusive emails when they don’t think their kid is getting enough playing time; at another, he reminds players they owe their coach a commitment to the rules. Another general rule of Roth’s is that winning is important, especially at the varsity level, but it’s not the only important goal. Overall, the author is mostly successful at combining memoir, history, and self-help, finding an effective balance while often speaking of his own personal experiences. That said, however, readers with only a casual interest in high school sports may find themselves drifting in parts. Also, some of the stories here are more instructive than entertaining, such as one about a coach getting ejected from a game for swearing at an official.
A wide-ranging, personal book that addresses may different aspects of high school sports.