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25 Writers Reflect on People Who Made A Difference

Edited by Andrew Blauner

      Every person has someone that made a difference at an early point in their life. Many times, those important people are coaches. Andrew Blauner has put together a collection of essays focusing on those coaches who have touched writers in a profound way. Coach - 25 Writers Reflect On People Who Made A Difference is an engaging and entertaining read.

One of the strengths of the book is that a variety of sports are touched on rather than focusing on coaches in just one sport. Basketball, tennis and baseball are covered but so are physical education and kung fu. It's easy to see that a coach is a coach, regardless of the activity.

Bill Bradley contributes a thoughtful foreword and many of the sports world's best writers are represented. Award-winning sportswriters Ira Berkow, Buzz Bissinger, Christine Brennan, Bud Collins, Frank Deford, Robert Lipsyte, George Plimpton, E.M. Swift, George Vecsey and Bob Wolff all reminisce about the coach who made an impact on their lives. Deford's piece on Al McGuire, the late legendary coach at Marquette, is probably the best in the book, benefiting from both a captivating character like McGuire and Deford's unique style of blending athletics with life.

But the other writers - Jonathan Ames, Thomas Beller, Benjamin Cheever, Pat Conroy, John Irving, Jane Leavy, David Maraniss, Charles McGrath, John McPhee, Francine Prose, Lauren Slater, Andrew Solomon, Darin Strauss, Toure and John Edgar Wideman - bring their considerable story telling skills to the table to share memories about coaches who affected them. Leavy's essay - about serving as a de-facto coach for a dying friend - is the most touching and poignant in the compilation.

The only disappointment is that, of the 25 essays, only four are written by women. In an age when more opportunities are presenting themselves for young women in sports - both at the amateur and the professional level - it would have been nice to see a few more stories that might have demonstrated the possibilities a coach could have on a young female athlete.

That one minor flaw aside, Coach is a very enjoyable book for not just sports fans, but all readers, because rather than concentrating on the sports, it zeroes in on the relationships. Highly recommended.

The Book

Warner Books
October, 2005
Non-Fiction / Essays / Sports
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The Reviewer

Jeff Shelby
Reviewed 2005
NOTE:Reviewer Jeff Shelby is the author of Killer Swell.
© 2005