Monday, December 28, 2009

Outcasts United - Warren St. John

While I do not have a huge interest in the game of soccer, I definitely have an interest in kids, and any story about using sports to teach a lesson or two. Outcasts United is the true story of a wealthy young woman from Jordan, Luma, who has come to America to make a difference - in her own life, and in the life of those around her. She learns about a small town in Georgia where many refugees from Africa and the Middle East have moved. They play unorganized pick-up soccer games on unlighted fields and on blacktop. Inspired by their passion for the game, Luma dedicates her time to coaching them on the field, and tutoring them off. In time, Luma learns their stories. She befriends their often single mothers, and becomes much more than a soccer coach. With her rules oriented harsh coaching style, she turns her motley crew of kids into teams that can challenge even the wealthiest club teams. At times, Luma's approach seemed a bit too harsh - when kids with particularly difficult backgrounds found it hard to follow her rules, missed practice, or talked back - she seemed quick to write them off without explanation. But, the truth is that she worked with dozens and dozens of kids, and knowing that she could not help them all, she weighed her options and helped those that she could. There were multiple moments in the book that brought tears to my eyes - big wins or touching moments between Luma and her players. St. John writes about the various war-torn countries that these children come from - some with parents still in prison or otherwise in danger back home. It made for difficult reading at times, but also so inspiring in terms of the huge difference one person can make in their community. I believe the film rights have been bought, and I definitely look forward to what is certain to be a very inspirational movie.

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