We use sports to shape our lives as individuals, as families, and as communities. Whether a runner completing a marathon for charity, a high school hopeful’s quest for a scholarship, or a pro team clinching a title (or falling short), the highs and lows of an athletic journey, when combined with literary devices, insightful reflection, and occasionally just the right amount of indulgence, make for stories that teach and inspire. Even those of us who are true amateur athletes or exclusively spectators tap into the emotions that sports evoke. Additionally, sports provide a crucial platform for social, political, and cultural issues via circumstances both on and off the court, field, or track.
Over the course of the semester, students in our workshop will compose a personal essay from the perspective of an athlete or fan, a reported piece on an athlete, team, or sporting event, and a short story that centers around athletics. For their final project, students will complete a longer piece in one of these modes, along with a revision of an earlier draft. As students work on their own sports stories, we will read the work of great sports storytellers like Grantland Rice, Claire Smith, Roger Angell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Bill Simmons, and Penn’s own Buzz Bissinger. We will also look to professional athletes whose words and gestures have made impact, from fan favorites like Yogi Berra, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Kelce, to athlete activists like Kathrine Switzer, John Carlos, and Colin Kaepernick.