Monday, November 13, 2006

Harriers: The Making of a Championship Cross Country Team

A few months ago I was contacted by a publishing company to read and review a book. I was a bit nervous about doing this because I did not know if this offer and/or person was legit and I am not sure my writing skills are really good enough to merit a book review. But, I figured the review was only going to be on my blog and being that it is my blog, I can pretty much review the book any way I want.

The book is called Harriers: The Making of a Championship Cross Country Team and was written by Joseph P. Shivers and Paul Shivers. Cousins, not brothers. The journey follows Salem High School’s boys cross country team from a respectable team to a state championship team. Each team member is profiled along with the coaches and displays the emotions of being part of a highly competitive team.

There were a few things I did not like about this book. First of all, I thought it was way over detailed. While communicating with the publisher, I was informed that this book was most appealing to high school runners and former high school runners. There were two different places in the book that describe how to score a race, but it was very detailed and was more information that I thought the audience needed. If this book truly is geared toward people who run or have run cross country, I do not think this level of detail is needed. That category of people should already know how to score a race. Only a high-level breakdown would have sufficed.

Another thing I thought was a bit weird in this book was that the two writers of the book, who were members of this team, referred to themselves in third person. I think I would have preferred if they had told the story from their point of view. I would classify this book as non-fiction and I think it would have been better as a memoir. It needed to be more personal.

But the book was personal, which makes for the third thing I did not like about this book. For a book about winning a state championship (twice!), I thought the overall tone of the book was pretty negative. Even when the team won the championship, it still seemed that the teammates had negative things to say about their individual performances. Winning a state championship is a huge deal. Can they not be happy with that?

There were some interesting coincidences, though. Salem High School is in Ohio and is in the same division as the high school where I coach. The state championship where Salem wins their first championship was in 2003, and I was at the state meet that year. I remember the scoring glitches that were talked about in the book. Another six degrees twist to this book was that Salem’s biggest competition is/was Walsh Jesuit High School. A close friend of mine, his brother and sister are the coaches at Walsh. Weird!

The book was not bad, especially considering it was written by two high school students. I just thought it could have been better. I appreciate the opportunity to read it and write about it. And maybe, you will check it out for yourself.

1 comment:

Val said...

I think you did just fine at critiquing =) Thanks for the Cliff Notes!