Topeka & Shawnee Co. Public Library discussion

Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen
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Literature with Lunch > A community read for Kansas: Our Boys

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Lissa (lissastaley) | 44 comments Mod
The Literature with Lunch discussion of Our Boys REALLY brought more depth to the book for the participants. The group, primarily women, criticized the lack of women and girls in the story, particularly the lack of role for women in the football program. People in the group from small towns were MUCH more attuned to the feelings of the Smith Center folks who were NOT involved in the football program. The author's conclusion that everyone could be involved in the football program in some way didn't ring true for the people who had personally felt like outsiders in small towns.

The idea that people in the Midwest are a certain way was debated -- and Midwestern values versus farm-work-ethic were debated as well. The absense of immigrant workers on the farms was noted. Big city versus small town was discussed at length, including what we liked about each scenario, particularly as it related to parenting and children.
The huge amount of financial resources donated by a wealthy person to support the football program in an otherwise poor town surprised some people. The violence inherent in football, and the impact of the injuries, and the feelings of the boys who were injured and missing out on their senior year of football were discussed.

The sport psychology, the motivational power of the coach, the teamwork, identifying the strengths of each player - these were all parts of the book that were of interest and had broader application than just in a football setting. Those broader messages were not explicit though - some readers enjoyed that this book really is just a story about one fall with one team.

The members who had been to the program where Joe Drape spoke at the library were much more open to being impressed by the ways that being a part of Smith Center, and being friends with the people there, had changed his life. I think many participants will be coming to hear Coach Barta and his son speak at the library next month!

Have you read Our Boys yet? Did you take note of any of the things that were discussed in Literature with Lunch? What did you find to be the most discussable things from the book?


message 2: by Melanie (last edited Apr 30, 2012 06:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melanie | 212 comments I think Barta is a good coach - very inspiring. Everyone knows what they are getting into because he doesn't change his practice. I think he is trying his best to turn these boys into decent and responsible young men.

I've never been to Smith Center, but I don't think they are as welcoming as Joe Drape made them sound. I've moved to a small Kansas town and was an outsider for 3.5 years - until I was ready to move away for college. I also had a friend go to Smith Center for his 1st veterinarian job. He left after 5 years - and he was from an even smaller town and had played 8 man football. Drape put the HEART in this town in the middle of America.

The lack of women didn't bother me, because the focus was on football and the football program. I'm just disappointed that it seems like football is king and everything else including education takes 2nd place. But then what else is there to do in a small town out in the middle of nowhere, but to support the sports program? I also hope that if they do lose a few games that the community continues to stand behind them.


Nathan | 13 comments Mod
Hi Melanie,

I'm glad you enjoyed reading the book! I will tell you that the town continues to support their team even though the past couple of years haven't been as successful as those portrayed in the book. We have someone who works here at the library who played for Coach Barta, and whose son currently plays for him, so he keeps us updated, which is nice.

The thing that Coach Barta does, which I find to be inspiring is the molding of young people into adults. I love the fact that he teaches them about living life, loving their families, loving one another, working hard to achieve goals, and focusing on the important things in life. As he says, "None of this is really about football." And while we can rest assured that some of it is about football, I can tell you that after meeting Coach Barta, and talking with people who have known him for a long time this really rings true. Although Coach Barta loves football, he is a teacher at heart, and loves working with and helping kids.

I can also say, as a man, that I never had a teacher, coach, or mentor in high school say some of the things to me that Coach Barta says to his boys about telling your parents you love them every day, and loving your teammates. Those kind of things aren't often spoken about in groups of teenage boys, and the fact that he breaks that barrier with the kids in his program is inspiring, and something that I think should be done more.


Melanie | 212 comments I have a friend in Katy, Texas and she went to all the games her son played in. He has since graduated but she and a friend of her's husband go to all he games. I think it is great when you support local high school activities. I got to many of the plays put on by local high schools.

I agree we need more inspirational teachers / coaches / adults for youth. Our junior high football coach was my history teacher and a guidence counseler. He had to leave for a good part of the year during Desert Storm. I have located him and he is now working with those suffering from PTSD.

If it wasn't for Coach Barta's teachings in the book I probably wouldn't have liked it quite as much. What he said was good for everyone to take to heart.


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