Welcome to SPORTY GIRL BOOKS. At SPORTY GIRL, we want to give all girls the chance to love, watch, play, read, and write about any sport that interests them. We look forward to the day when the words, "You play like a girl," is the biggest compliment anyone can receive.

Monday, February 29, 2016

#IMWAYR Sporty Girl Books

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jenn of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. At Sporty Girl Books, we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share some of our favorite Sporty Girl Picture Book reads that a teacher could share with a class of kids.

My Mama Had a Dancing Heart is an incredibly lyrical book about a girl who learned to love dance because of her mother. The language in this book is perfect to share in school for a poetry unit. I love to read it to encourage students to write into the silence at the start of the school year.

Swan is another beautiful book about dance. It is perfect for a poetry or biography unit. We interviewed Swan's author, Laurel Snyder a few months ago. You can see that interview here.

What's not to love about The Three Ninja Pigs if you are in a fractured fairy tale unit. In this twist on The Three Little Pigs is one that all kids will love.

Do you have any Sporty Girl Books that you love to share with your class or children? Share them below.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sporty Girl Interview with Rowing Coach Holly Fling Austin

A great big Sporty Girl Books welcome to Holly Fling Austin who is the founder and coach at Ready Set Row Summer Development Camp. Holly and I (Anna) met at a coaches training program at the US Rowing Association's Annual Conference, and I was so glad we did. She and I share a similar philosophy that prioritizes process over outcome. Our Sporty Girl Books audience is diverse. Readers may be interested in athletic opportunities for themselves or their children, and writers might appreciate Holly's coach's voice and an inside view of an elite training program. Enjoy!

In the world of junior sports, prioritizing process over outcome can be contentious. I've had parents push to get a kid racing before an athlete was ready and complain about a lack of competitive opportunities. How has your Ready Set Row (RSR) philosophy been embraced by parents?

I explain to all of my athletes and their parents my coaching philosophy:  Build young leaders who Seek challenge, Embrace work and Expect discomfort. It’s our RSR Lifestyle Framework: “SEE Life Clearly.” We build safe environments for our athletes where we redefine failure and push them to risk again and again, each time getting stronger and more confident in practice not just in competitions. 

Our framework is such a critical and immediately apparent life-skill that parents see the big picture and stop focusing on micro-details. We ask our athletes “Why do you row?” “To win races.” “Why do you want to win races?” “I want the medal and I want to beat people.” “Why do you want to beat people?” Ultimately they realize that they train and compete in this challenging sport because it allows them to push, fail and try again and test their limits on a daily basis. It’s not really whether you win a medal – after all, the medal is just a function of who showed up to race day. You can have a gold medal, but know that you did not race your best race. And you can finish a race last in your heat and feel confident you gave it your all.

The sense of accomplishment everyone desires, is when you know in your heart that you prepared, trained for and executed your race to the best of your ability – the hardware is secondary. You are so proud of your performance and all the work that you did leading up to that performance that you want to shake the hand of anyone who beats you, because you know how hard she had to have worked to go that fast. That is my goal.

In addition, I think it’s a disservice to think that the “competition” only comes on race day. We are training our athletes to fight and compete every day so that when the real race comes, they have already seen their limits and they know what they are capable of. If you are living this philosophy day-to-day, then competitive scenarios are your requirement and racing is just the icing on the cake.  

Coach Holly rowing with the Radcliffe Varsity 2000.

As a writer, I love that the athletes in your RSR program keep journals. Tell me more about the purpose and benefits of journaling while you train.

Our athletes will use their journal every day to record metrics such as sleep, fuel, hydration as well as their physical performances. This allows them to take more ownership and be accountable. It’s important that they start to take care of their bodies and start to look for performance trends. What was the workout and how did you feel? Does this food make me sleepy after I eat it? How is my performance if I sleep 45 more minutes each night? All of this is important; we are asking a lot of their bodies and most junior athletes do not think about what they put in their mouth as the fuel for the machine and they do not correlate rest and recovery with performance and risk of injury. RSR Coaches will be looking at these journals regularly to ensure athletes are recording the information and learning how to increase boat speed through personal care and nutrition.

Our athletes will also be doing daily RSR Self-Reflections. We will be asking the athletes challenging questions both about them as athletes but also as young women who will be growing into themselves and leadership positions. We will be pushing them and asking them “What do you want? And what are you willing to do to get there.” We will help them explore what type of athlete they are and what that means. We will help them answer the question “Do you really want to row in college? Because if you do, this is what that really looks like.” Athletes may have written assignments to do on their own to turn in for review or we will all write together. Athletes will work on their public speaking as they are asked to present some of their RSR Self Reflections and they will be pushed out of their comfort zone.

There is often a story line we see in books about sporty girls that pits one female athlete against another. I've experienced the mean girl more than once. How do you use mentoring in your program to develop supportive communities for athletes to reach their goals?

First, the coaches have to create the right environment and I personally work with every athlete I coach. I tell parents that my coaching style is 60% Dictator, 20% Partner and 20% Goof Ball. I will be very clear about the standards we hold our athletes to, but I will also need the athlete to work with me to constantly improve. Finally, you have to have fun in this sport. It’s too hard not to.

Once I create our environment through that type of leadership, I believe a great coach does coach athletes differently. You never compromise your standards, but you are constantly watching each athlete to identify triggers and develop specific and unique motivational techniques. Once each athlete realizes that she is a valued and unique member of the team it allows her to focus on herself and her own performance.

We are clear with our athletes that judging a peer is unacceptable and can actually be detrimental to team chemistry – that’s my job. It is however, the job of each athlete to go as fast as she can go every stroke of every day and to use her teammates to get faster. We create a competitive environment where the athletes understand that to be the best you can be, you have to test your limits every day. And the only way you can do that is if someone else is pushing you.

We cultivate that type of competition among our athletes with the understanding that to race your teammate is the best thing you can do for her since you are preparing her for battle. This competitive environment can become charged and emotional, but we are clear to our athletes that one’s physical performance has nothing to do with an athlete’s character or value as a human being. It is an indication of where she can improve. This is a critical component of a fast team that trusts each member is doing everything she can possibly do to put her bow out in front. 

Holly was the Harvard/Radcliffe Assistant Coach for the 2003 NCAA Division I Champions and Eastern Sprints Champions. 
This is eating disorders awareness week (Feb 21-27). In rowing, weight can be an issue-- making weight for lightweight boat classes and the desire for smaller coxswains. How do you stress the "heart of a fighter" over body type?

I am a perfect example – 5’6 and rowed in the Varsity Heavyweight 8+ for three years at Harvard. It doesn’t happen often, but what I stress to my athletes is that the drive, the fire, the kill switch inside an athlete is the most critical component. And it cannot be taught. If someone doesn’t want to race, I can’t teach her how to do that. If you give me a fighter I will teach her the technique, the training, the strength building exercises that are needed to make her the fastest rower she can be. And that’s all you can ask of someone. Obviously the taller you are the more leverage you have, but I know plenty of tall women who are not racers. I will always take a racer in my boat any day – no matter her size.

Holly in seven seat (second rower from left) in 2001 at NCAA, the stroke (rower farthest left) is Caryn Davies. Caryn Davies was the stroke of the USW8+ that won gold at the 2012 and 2008 Olympics and rowed in the 2004 USW8+ that won silver in Athens. 
So much of what I've learned from sports and rowing specifically-- is leadership. Talk more about your phrase "training the brain."

The brain is a muscle. You have to train it to make it stronger. And if you stop training it, it atrophies just like any other muscle.

Additionally, rowing is an offensive sport- there is no defense. You blast off the line and have your best race you can have. You cannot actively slow another boat down. The same is true for mental toughness and grit. The more you train your brain to be on offense, the less your brain has to be on defense. And any rower can tell you, if you start thinking about “I can’t do it, I can’t go on, It’s over,” it IS over.

You have to develop your positive truths and your mantras that you know in your heart are true. You will then use these truths in a race plan when you are going to ask your body to do the seemingly impossible. In my experience, negative thoughts during a race or a maximum effort piece creep into your head when there is a void. If you let your brain start to think about what your body feels and you have not developed a positive image or phrase to focus on, you will usually go slower.

I work with each athlete to develop her Truths – the qualities about herself that she knows are true so that we can call upon those strengths when we put our bodies to the test.

Current Ready Set Row athletes learning the back squat.
Your Ready Set Row summer camp program takes place at St. Andrews, the school where the movie Dead Poet's Society was filmed. This is a book blog so I have to ask... is poetry or other literature part of your training program?

Actually, we have a suggested reading list for our athletes and one of their On-Site Reflections during the camp is Racing Poetry. And as I said before, athletes and coaches will all be asked to write autobiographical stories and share them amongst the team.

St. Andrew's School Middletown, DE
What are some of the books on your bedside table right now?
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol Dwek
Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court – Wooden and Jamison
Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More than Grades, Trophies or “Fat Envelopes” – Madeline Levine  (I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old too!)

Okay. Speed round:
Pizza or sushi? Pizza.
Bike or run? Depends how long – I love a good long road ride.
Ebook or paper copy? Paper definitely.
Dance to loud music or talk with friends? Depends. I learn things everyday from the people I surround myself with and lucky for me they are some great dancers!
If you could be any animal what would it be and why? Wombat. Lovable, furry, intelligent, resilient, compassionate but ferociously defends her family. Do you know how? The way a Mama Wombat protects her nest is awesome. Wombats live in their burrows so if a Tasmanian devil or another predator comes down into her burrow to eat the babies, the Mama keeps her head towards the babies and her rump towards the predator. If the predator tries to get around her, she will crouch down to allow the predator to put his head on top of her rump and then she will stand up and crush the predator’s skull against the roof of the tunnel. You don’t want to mess with that mama. Totally awesome.

I did not know that! Well if anyone is a sporty girl not to be messed with it's Holly Fling Austin. Thanks for the interview!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials + Review: FIRST LADIES OF RUNNING

Did you get a chance to watch the U.S. Olympic marathon trials this past Saturday? I was glued to the TV coverage and also followed the action on Facebook and Twitter. What a treat to watch the savvy race strategy unfold, like Desiree Linden holding back until it counted and at mile 26 motored by pre-race favorite Shalane Flanagan to finish second. Kara Goucher showed guts fighting to the finish despite knowing she would likely take the unenviable fourth place. Yes, I teared up watching eventual champion Amy Cragg urge her struggling teammate Flanagan to dig deep and keep moving during those final miles. Flanagan collapsed into her arms after crossing the line to earn the last spot for Team USA.

Girls who watched on TV, online, or along the Los Angeles streets most likely were unaware of the battles fought to allow women to compete in long distance events or the efforts made to get the first women’s Olympic marathon in 1984. Honoring the women who paved the way for athletes like Amy, Desi, Shalane, and Kara is the subject of FIRST LADIES OF RUNNING (Rodale Press, April 2016) by noted Runner’s World editor-at-large and accomplished runner, Amby Burfoot. I received a review copy this weekend, aha, perfect timing for the trials and this Olympic year.

Readers may be familiar with Kathrine Switzer’s 1967 Boston Marathon where the race director tried to remove her from the street during the race or Joan Benoit’s historic Olympic marathon victory in 1984, but equally important are the 20 additional women profiled. Each trailblazer and role model forged the path for the thousands of girls and women who participate today not only in their school programs, but road races across the country.

Just like many girls who run today, most of the women in these captivating essays recount their first foray into the sport during their teenage years. During the 50s, 60s, and 70s and even into the 80s these women encountered numerous obstacles such as girls and women not being allowed to enter races, no girl’s track or cross country teams, and a paucity of financial support. Can you imagine wanting to run a race but having to start on the sidewalk or hide behind a bush before jumping in with all the men on the street?

Olympians Mary Decker Slaney, Francie Larrieu Smith, and Grete Waitz are recognizable and significant contributors in the sport. Equally important are the women breaking down barriers who might be less known, like Julia Chase (first official female road racer, 1961); Merry Lepper (first woman to run a marathon, 1963); Nina Kuscsik (first official women’s winner of the Boston Marathon, 1972); and Marilyn Bevans (first national-class black female marathoner). Fans of Shalane Flanagan will want to turn to the essay on Cheryl Bridges (hint: like mother, like daughter). Hard core elites might sniff at seeing Oprah Winfrey featured, but without a doubt, her 1994 Marine Corps Marathon (4:29:20) propelled a movement in sports unlike any other. She inspired girls and women who are not elites or even top age groupers, but willing to put in the effort and deserving of the rewards that come with personal accomplishments like finishing a marathon.

FIRST LADIES OF RUNNING includes an Afterward: Where They Are Now, an Appendix of additional women pioneers, and a Timeline of women’s running history from 1958-1994. This is an outstanding contribution to the world of sporty girl books and just in time for April, a revered month in the world of sports, when men and now thousands of women will run together in our country’s revered footrace: the Boston Marathon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: GAME CHANGER by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Last month while in the library I stumbled upon Margaret Peterson Haddix's middle grade novel GAME CHANGER. I'd enjoyed both her Shadow Children series and RUNNING OUT OF TIME, so I happily checked out a book with a softball player (my favorite!) for the main character. This book is a bit unusual for ones we typically review, because it has an alternate dimension or world and would be classified as science fiction.

From Goodreads:
Athletics are everything for eighth-grader KT Sutton. She’s a softball star, and she’s on track to get a college scholarship and achieve international fame. Then one day during a championship game—in the middle of an important play—she suddenly blacks out.

When she wakes up, she’s in a different world. One where school is class after class of athletic drills, and after-school sports are replaced by popular academic competitions. One where KT is despised for her talent, and where her parents are fixated on her brother’s future mathletics career rather than KT’s softball hopes.

KT is desperate to get back to reality as she knew it, but bits and pieces of disturbing memories and dreams make her wonder if something truly awful happened there. What if she’s lost something a lot more important than a softball game?

My take on GAME CHANGER:
The story was intriguing to read and put together how all the pieces came together. KT is an 8th grader already sneaking Ibuprofin to hide the pain and playing hard. She can pitch no-hitters and take on anyone who steps into the batter's box, but when she wakes up in a world where no one even knows what softball is and all the sports are academic (so she's in the sidelines watching her brother compete) it's a whole new world. People consider her a suck up for working out hard in class, running too fast or throwing too accurately. 

As she figures out which people are from her "real" world and works with them to "get back home" she learns many important lessons about what really matters. She's a different person, a different sister, and when she's back, she has a whole new set of issues to overcome (too spoilery to go into details!). I appreciated the read, but felt it a bit too didactic at times (especially the epilogue). Haddix definitely had a message she wanted to teach her readers, but at least it came with a pretty good story. 

This one is worth the read for upper elementary through middle school readers. 

About the Author:
Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from
Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. 
She has since written more than 30 books for kids and teens, including Running Out of TimeDon’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey; Leaving Fishers; Turnabout; Takeoffs and Landings; The Girl with 500 Middle Names; Because of Anya; Escape from Memory; Say What?; The House on the Gulf; Double Identity; Dexter the Tough; Uprising; Claim to Fame; The Always War; Game Changer; Full Ride; the Shadow Children series; the Missing series and The Palace Chronicles. She also wrote Into the Gauntlet, the tenth book in the 39 Clues series.  Her books have been honored with New York Times bestseller status, the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award; American Library Association Best Book and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers notations; and numerous state reader’s choice awards. They have also been translated into more than twenty different languages.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio, and they are the parents of two college-aged kids.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sporty Girl Books for Football Fans

Superbowl Sunday is coming up this weekend. In 2014, we had a post that shared books a girl who likes football might enjoy. You can find that post here. I intended to post today about all the new books that have come out since then about girls who play football -- but I only found one and it came out in 2010. Publishing companies, it's time for some more!

Cinderella in Cleats by Carly Syms
 It started just like any other Saturday: Whitney, her best friend, Jason, and their fathers tossed an old football around in the park. But when her dad dies of a heart attack, Whitney doesn't realize her passion for the sport and her friendship with Jason will never be the same. 

Two years later, Whitney's ready to begin the long journey of re-discovering her love for football, encountering a sexist coach, an unethical but irresistible opponent, a mustard yellow T-shirt, and Jason along the way.

How many boys, romance, and hits on the field can Whitney handle before it becomes too much and she's forced to throw in the towel on her dreams?

Is there a football book we've missed? Please help us out and tell us in the comments below.