Soccerhead: An Accidental Journey into the Heart of the American Game by Jim Haner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Haner's story is his own of a dad pressed into service as a youth league soccer coach. The team turns out to have serious talent, so he has to step up his own game as a coach in order to keep up with the players, and in learning about the game, he uncovers the United States' rich, forgotten, and unappreciated history of soccer.
He skillfully interweaves his son's story of success on the field with the story of soccer's rise and fall in the US, with a lot of focus on the Washington, DC area where he lives and coaches. As someone who grew up while a lot of what he relates was happening, I found the story interesting until that point-- and then I read with wide eyes as he named some of the grownups of my youth. I did not know they were threads in the fabric of the game; they were my best friend's father and her league president, who fought successfully for girls to have parity with boys in the youth leagues.
Haner's writing is compelling. He's an excellent storyteller, and you'll be able to see these kids on the field as well as the players from decades ago. Soccer has well over 100 years of history in our country, almost all of it buried, much of it now in a warehouse near where I live. I'm doing my part to help it gain ground again. If you care about the beautiful game or have a child who plays, read this to learn more about why soccer matters.
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