My family gets excited when the Olympics come around every two years. We pile onto the couch to watch the opening ceremonies, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the amazing displays of pageantry and patriotism. There’s always a spirited debate about which country has the best team uniform (“Too flashy!” “Too boring!” “Too many sequins!”). When the Games themselves start, our attention turns to the incredible feats of strength and speed; we marvel at the agility and grace of the human form.
Ultimately, though, what captivate us are the athletes’ personal stories. Where are they from? Who are their families? How did they become so accomplished in their sports? What obstacles did they face along the way? I like to use these stories as a way to engage my own kids in conversations about resilience and persistence, and also about the trade-offs that such a single-minded focus often demands.
One inspiring Olympian has a story that’s not as widely known as it should be, and we’re working to correct that. Alice Coachman was the first African American woman to win an Olympic goldmedal—in the high jump at the 1948 Olympics in London. As an editor, I’m proud to say that we’ve just published a beautiful picture book appreciation of Alice Coachman called Queen of the Track, written by Heather Lang and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Ms. Coachman’s personal and professional journey, from poverty in rural Georgia to the top of the winner’s podium in London, should motivate young readers and young athletes anywhere, as will the athlete’s own words:
“When the going gets tough and you feel like throwing your hands in the air, listen to that voice that tells you, ‘Keep going. Hang in there.’ Guts and determination will pull you through.”
Now that’s a quote that can foster great conversation with your children—no matter what their interests. Meantime, pass the popcorn. The next event is about to start!