I’ve been athletic all my life, but sometimes with very little success, so I’ve seen both sides, particularly in youth sports. I was in Little League, where the competition for a team hat (never mind a uniform) was so fierce I rarely got one. People in my hometown were such rabid fans other local communities wouldn’t play us. I once met an executive from May and Co. whose daughter was a promising gymnast, but she dropped out because she wanted a normal life. And so it goes.
That’s why a new book about a different approach to youth sports caught my attention. Norwich, Vermont’s three thousand residents have produced more Olympic athletes per capita than any other town in the country. And their approach is the opposite of conventional wisdom. They’re not super-competitive — no child is cut from a team. They don’t specialize in a single sport, because they’ve realized athletes compete with their entire bodies and lessons from one sport can be transferred to others. The parental priority is their children’s enjoyment, with sports success being merely a part of a well-rounded life. Rivals are cheered for and effort is celebrated as much as success.
That’s why the book about this unique culture is entitled Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town’s Secret to Happiness and Excellence. It’s written by Karen Crouse, a New York Times reporter who did her research in the community. It’s being released this week.