Sports 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—or falling short of—a title, 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, exclusively spectators, or even sports skeptics can tap into the emotions that sports evoke. And as we have seen recently, as well as throughout history, 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 develop their own sports stories, we will be joined by in-class guests and we will read the work of impactful storytellers like Grantland Rice, Toni Cade Bambara, Roger Angell, John McPhee, Leslie Jamison, Hanif Abdurraqib, Bill Simmons, and Penn’s own Buzz Bissinger, Sam and Max Apple, and Dan McQuade. We will also look to professional athletes whose words and gestures have made an impact like Kathrine Switzer, Mary Cain, Serena Williams, Kevin Love, and Colin Kaepernick. And, of course, we’ll watch Rocky.