Tag Archives: sports

An engaging story about kids, playgrounds, and one hugely successful social entrepreneur

A review of KaBoom! How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, by Darrell Hammond

@@@@@ (5 out of 5)

A little more than two years ago I found myself immersed up to my eyeballs in a new venture dedicated to fostering the spirit of play among disadvantaged children. That venture — a mission-driven, for-profit company — was the One World Futbol Project, just then founded by the husband and wife team of Tim Jahnigen and Lisa Tarver. Tim had invented an extraordinary new soccer ball that never goes flat, needs no pump or needle, and goes on playing even if it’s punctured. The Project opened for business shortly afterward during the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg. Our goal was to distribute one million One World Futbols within three years to children and young people in refugee camps, war zones, impoverished villages, and low-income urban neighborhoods around the world.

What had drawn me to the One World Futbol Project when Tim and Lisa showed me a prototype ball late in 2009 was not the opportunity to give poor kids what would probably be their first ball to play with. For me, the Project wasn’t about play, or sports. I was drawn in by the way so many UN agencies, schools, and NGOs were using soccer as a teaching tool, offering games that helped children acquire insights and skills in conflict resolution, self-confidence, teamwork, gender equity, and HIV/AIDs awareness.

In other words, as I saw it, the One World Futbol could speed community development efforts where poor people lived. That, to me, was a no-brainer, since I’ve been concerned throughout my life with the challenges of global poverty. (Now I’m even writing a book on that topic.) As the business began organizing in the spring of 2010, I became one of four partners. Both Tim and Lisa have continued ever since to emphasize the importance of play in child development, and I even attended a presentation by Dr. Stuart Brown, one of the world’s leading authorities on play. Still, I didn’t get it.

Then I read Darell Hammond’s surprisingly powerful little book, KaBoom! I think I get it now: if kids are deprived of opportunities to play — not twiddling thumbs on video games but creating their own games and rough-housing out-of-doors — the ill effects are evident and provable in their later lives.

Less than 20 years ago, Darell co-founded KaBoom!, a nonprofit organization that builds playgrounds in disadvantaged neighborhoods in North American towns and cities. Darell himself grew up in difficult circumstances (though he didn’t see it that way), and he never finished college, but he proved himself to be a brilliant leader — enough so that he’s now Dr. Hammond, having received an honorary Doctorate from the college he briefly attended.

Since the mid-1990s, KaBoom! has built more than 2,000 playgrounds throughout North America, and it’s estimated that its training, advisory services, and online tools have enabled others to build 10 times that many over the same period. KaBoom! has become a model of social entrepreneurship and a superb example of how nonprofit leaders can equal the very best managers to be found in the private sector. These are all truly remarkable accomplishments.

KaBoom! (the book) is really three books in one. It’s Darell’s story, and the organization’s — an important story, told with charm and unflagging honesty. It’s an essay on the importance of play and the implications for public policy. And it’s a how-to manual for communities to build playgrounds themselves.

If you’re a social entrepreneur or just want to learn more about social entrepreneurship, you owe it to yourself to read at least the first half of this book.

Oh, and by the way: that goal of the One World Futbol Project to distribute one million balls in our first three years? With a generous boost from Chevrolet, we’re on track to meet it!

1 Comment

Filed under Business, Nonfiction

Looking for an unconventional thriller? Read this book

A review of The Prophet, by Michael Koryta

@@@@ (4 out of 5)

I grew up in a gritty Ohio industrial town before industry fled and the rust set in. But Lima, Ohio, in the 1950s seemed a lot more like Buzz Bissinger’s Odessa, Texas, in Friday Night Lights than nearby Chambers, Ohio, of The Prophet by Michael Koryta. Even nearly 60 years ago, the racial tensions, the gangs, and the class conflicts were clearly in evidence in my home town, just as they were in Odessa decades later. Those overarching facts of life in the Rust Belt were hard to find in Chambers.

Instead, the story Koryta tells is a tale of two brothers whose lives are dominated by football and by the senseless murder of their sister 22 years ago. Adam Austin, the elder brother, now 40 and a bail bondsman, led Chambers High School to the team’s last state championship as a bruising running back who cleared the field for one touchdown after another. His younger brother, Keith, is the winning football coach with an unbeaten team that could go all the way again this year. Keith, a devoutly religious man who is as much minister to the team as coach, is married and has two young children. Adam lives with the the love of his life, his high school sweetheart, now married to a man in state prison. With the murder of his sister still vivid in his mind on a daily basis, he spends most of his time either chasing criminals or bailing them out.

Adam and Keith are suddenly shocked out of their routines when a 17-year-old woman, the girlfriend of Keith’s all-state running back, is brutally murdered the night the Chambers football team wins a place in the state finals. Rachel Bond’s death so clearly parallels their sister’s so many years ago that both brothers are drawn deeply into the unfolding investigation and the violence that follows.

The fictional town of Chambers figures in this story in its obsession with football, its economic troubles, and its location in Northeastern Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie, where rain and snow and cold penetrate every nook and cranny of life.┬áHad Koryta delved more deeply into the underlying fissures of the town’s society, The Prophet might have achieved literary distinction. However, as a novel of suspense that holds the reader’s attention until the last mystery is solved, this book is superb.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime Novels, Mysteries & Thrillers