There is plenty of basketball talk in The Home Team, particularly about the Huskies' unbeaten championship season. But the heart of this book is family. In alternating first-person passages, mom and daughter expound upon life among the Lobos of Southwick, Mass. The 1995 female College Player of the Year and the one who galvanized national interest in women's hoops, Rebecca, now playing with the U.S. national team, comes across as a funny, down-to-earth girl next door—albeit a very tall, directed and competitive girl next door. RuthAnn, a middle school counselor, emerges as a loving, no-nonsense wife and mother with strong religious beliefs, whose battle with breast cancer (now in remission) is a central—and moving—part of the book. But for all its inspirational (and only occasionally hokey) messages, Home Team works best as simply a friendly visit with a couple of interesting women who clearly care very much for each other.
"Come down from there before you get hurt!" That familiar parental admonition is being transformed into public policy these days. Faced with stricter federal guidelines on safety, soaring insurance costs and new theories of how kids play, communities across the country are tearing out the old welded-steel climbing structures known as jungle gyms or monkey bars from their parks and replacing them with safer, if less challenging, "multifunctional" structures. Chicago clear-cut its last jungle gym in 1994; New York City is phasing out its units, which were designed in 1935 under legendary parks commissioner Robert Moses; and Tacoma, Wash., is down to four sets of monkey bars. Says Steve Schwarz, a safety officer for Tacoma's parks district, "They're really not made for small children."
Safety comes first, of course, and the innovations (and softer landing surfaces) have indeed reduced the number of playground injuries. But something will be lost. Just ask Mary Lou Retton, the 1984 Olympic all-around gymnastics champion who says she "was always climbing on the jungle gym" as a girl growing up in Fairmont, W.Va. "Those things built upper-body strength and coordination," she says. "But even more than that was the challenge. I still remember my sense of triumph when I first made it to the top."
At Dartmouth the memory of three-sport star Sarah Devens, who committed suicide last summer (SI, July 24), is still strong. Throughout the school year her former teammates tried to honor her by succeeding in the sports she loved to play.
Last fall the field hockey team, led by a strong senior contingent of which Devens would have been a part, won the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) championship for the first time and set a school record for wins (13). The ice hockey team went 20-9-3, also setting a school record for victories. And this spring the women's lacrosse team, which lost Devens and several others from last year's NCAA final four squad, finished the regular season at 9-6 and ranked 14th nationally.
"Her memory was an inspiration to us all the time," says senior Lauren Demski, co-captain of the field hockey team and a member of the lacrosse team. "When we needed to work harder we remembered her intensity and desire to win. And when we needed to relax and laugh, we remembered her off-the-wall antics."