The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls)


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Doctors had done a scan of his brain and found no swelling after the first concussion, despite his complaints to coaches and his parents about recurring headaches. But PCS is a crisis of molecular scale, a firestorm of ions leaking in and out of neurons to wreak havoc on their tiny connections. The only way to detect it is through a thorough examination by a concussion-savvy doctor or neurologist. Nathan went to his family physician, who after further testing and confirming he was headache-free cleared him to play less than a month after the concussion.

In his final game, he was playing well on both sides of the ball when he suddenly stumbled off, holding his head. On the sideline, Nathan swooned and was deeply unconscious before the trainer reached him. Hours later, he was brain-dead in an ICU, where his devastated parents were saying goodbye and signing forms to donate his bone and tissue.

Nathan had another thing in common with Eric Pelly. When McKee stained sections of his brain with a chemical marker, she found small but significant clumps of poisoned tau, the primary culprit in CTE. Tau is a structural protein in axons, those long-armed fibers that link nerve cells together, carrying messages and nutrients up the line. Anchored like a disc drum around the brainstem, the brain swivels hard in one direction, then snaps back hard in the other, stressing the membranes of its axons.

Tiny holes appear in them, leaking potassium out and letting calcium in. No drug exists now that can fix this mess or halt the neural meltdown once it has begun. Happily, the brain can rewire itself if given proper time and rest. Axons seal up again after swabbing themselves clean, switched-off neurons power back online and the rungs of tau reattach themselves to carry the chemical mail to other cells.

He orders his patients to switch the television, laptop and Xbox off till their cluster of symptoms has cleared. But failure to let the nervous system mend sets up patients, first, for PCS and, second, for future concussions. Once toxified, tau rots out the cells that house them, then slowly spreads to neighboring cells, killing them from the inside out.

Now, a high school safety will feel none of this happening, nor will a year-old lineman. Stage one of the disease is either asymptomatic or marked by mild attention lapses. Short-term recall begins to fail, as do judgment, planning and coordination. Stage three sufferers, often men in their fifties, see their brains shrink as the major centers — the amygdala keeper of emotion and the hippocampus memory — continue to erode.

After his sixth concussion, Chris Nowinski was home in bed, climbing the walls in the middle of the night. Not out of boredom or captive angst; he was actually asleep but standing bolt-upright, trying to scale the wall above his pillow. Nowinski, six-five and at the time, a Harvard lineman-turned-wrestler on the brink of big stardom on the World Wrestling Entertainment tour, proved a hard man to reason with that night. And even after I landed, I was still asleep. That was what it took to scare me straight.

Nowinski was 24 and a cash-cow prospect, the first Ivy grad to grace the mat of a Vince McMahon production. There were millions to be made before he turned 30, then the inevitable pivot to action movies or some other self-branding pot of gold. But Nowinski up and quit then, in , afraid for his life and in constant pain. That was when the beer handled them. Medications proved useless or made things worse, wreaking havoc on his sleep cycle.

Every guy I ever played with had those. Though slowed by his migraines and sleepwalking follies chasing rabbits in his bedsheets, accosting imaginary intruders at his front door , Nowinski resolved to warn other athletes of the catastrophic risks they were courting. Over the next year, he talked the family of Andre Waters into donating for study the brain of the ex-Eagles safety after he shot himself to death at 44; talked the mother of Justin Strzelczyk into doing likewise after her son died in a wrong-way, high-speed chase at the age of 36; talked Teddy Johnson, the Patriots linebacker, into going public about his post-concussion syndrome; and persuaded the family of Chris Benoit to donate the brain of the superstar wrestler after he killed his wife, young son and himself.

Each of the dead athletes tested positive for CTE, the most floridly afflicted being Benoit; all of 40 at his death, he presented the brain of an year-old, punch-drunk boxer. Having emphatically made his point, in a series of page-one bombshells, about the price being paid in collision sports, Nowinski could have honorably quit the scene for a lucrative job in biotech. He was working part-time as a management consultant.

Instead, he went all in on head trauma, co-founding, with his friend and mentor Cantu, the Boston-based Sports Legacy Institute SLI , a high-profile firm committed to ending the concussion epidemic and finding a cure for the related illnesses. Beginning in , he single-handedly built a brain bank, cold-calling the families of hundreds of dead athletes and persuading many of them to donate tissue. That gift, among others, grew the scope of their inquiry: What the researchers have learned from their investigations these last couple of years has stunned everyone, including themselves.

That dovetailed with the data from brand-new studies on boys during football season; it showed permanent damage in seemingly healthy teens who had never had a recognized concussion. Thanks for your suggestion, Adam! Gosh there are so many good books out there that my boys missed out on. I love hearing about the ones you guys read and loved! Thanks for starting a nice conversation with these.

I have to say that the caption as it gets shared online came off as less subjective and more authoritative, which makes me want to challenge these. But the important thing is that you and your kids read and do it together Saying that, probably a bit more diversity could be a good thing. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your list. My daughter 9 also liked it and did a book review for school on it. We have that book, Rachael!

My son got it for Christmas. So glad to hear you loved it. Any recommendations for younger boys? We have not ventured into fantasy and suck like you say your boys really enjoyed other than The Magic Tree House books. My son is 5. Of course there are plenty more of those to read but looking for other ideas too.

We have read some of the Flat Stanley ones too which he also liked. And started a series about a young boy with shark in it some how which was pretty funny and had a hidden word puzzle on each page which he really liked. Though any ideas of any classic books he might be able to read himself would be awesome too. He is a beginning reader and I want engaging things to draw him in to reading for himself also. We have not ventured into Star Wars, partially because I liked the original movies but never was a Star Wars junkie like some are.

Barbara Brooks Wallace is a wonderful writer who my 12 year old son just loves. Sparrows in the Scullery is perhaps his favorite, but he has read ten or so of her books and devoured them all. Mostly mystery stories, although the Claudia series about a girl called Claudia my son also loved. Another fabulous author is Morris Gleitzman.


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Bumface is hilarious, and the Once, Now, Then, After series is insightful and gripping. My 9 year old daughter likes many of these books, especially Diary of a Wimpy kid. My son read it when he was 10 and loved it so much that I decided to read it too. It was fantastic, I laughed, I cried. Every single kid needs to read that book! Also Fablehaven, I read that to my daughters last summer and we adored it. If your child loves magic and fairies, this series will be devoured!

Lastly, someone recommended Ready Player One by Ernest Cline for my reluctant reader that loves video games. I started reading it and could not put it down. I would say this one is more appropriate for Middle or High School age. He hated reading until he read this one! I am wondering, are the age ranges you have recommended based in reading level or content? I am wondering, are the age ranges you have recommended based on reading level or content? An amazing read for even adults! Both on the damaging effects of bullying. So great for boys, all boys. Everything a young boy needs to know to become a great man.

Thank you for such a fantastic list! We read aloud every day. He reads, I listen. Thank you again! I have been looking for a list like this! I was amazed to see that apparently you did not include any sports books in your list. As a boy growing up, when the library would have book reading contests during the summers, I would always load up on lots of sports books that were available. At age 75 I have to admit that those books back then might be considered very juvenile today when you look at the content of books these days.

I would have been around My 9 year- old has the whole collection of Wimpy Kid and Nate books, that he read last year. That he should be reading Harry Potter or something else, but the one that he likes are totally inappropriate. He has a 11 year old, advanced reader, super smart boy. Made me feel like a bad mother. I am a teacher and read Ummer of the Monkeys to my students every spring and they love it! Thank you for creating this list! I have two little boys and want to continue encourage their love of reading!

We listened to all of these on audiobook in the car as we drove around town. Sometimes a great book is just a great book, whether you are a boy or a girl. Absolutely, Jennifer! If I could go back, I would choose even more novels with strong female leading characters. Thank you so much for compiling this list! I am always on the hunt for books that my son can enjoy. I would have to say the age group for these are years old and they are definitely more tailored to little boys! These books are not scary at all and the monsters in the tales do all the gross, funny, and lovable things you would expect a sock-eating monster to do!

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The books also teach really great lessons and I have been recommending them to all of my friends. I hope Mr. Cosmo will make it on a future list of yours. Thanks for the list… that is great…There is a great surf fiction that appeals to all ages but several schools here have recently put it on their study plan for 14 plus boys and girls. My 9 year old has all the Roald Dahl books and is currently crazy about Wimpy Kid books too. But thanks for all the ideas of other books to try.

Lots of our favorites are there and a few new ones too! The only part that made me sad is that you said you stopped reading out loud to your kids! I know… it breaks my heart too, Christy. On the upside, my 14 year old studied Lord Of The Flies this year in Grade 9 English, and yep… I read it to him — about an hour or so every night because it really is a rather difficult read.

It actually has me looking forward to Shakespeare egads!!


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Littlefield is a young adult adventure novel written especially for teen boys. However people of all ages have enjoyed this great read. Nebulous is available now on Amazon. The above list is really good. I have read some of these books to find out the best books for my must read book list for kids. I have published a new list and included the must read books by grade and age. Greatest list EVER! Speaking as a almost 14 yo boy himself who has already read half of the books on it.

My kids boy and girl, 8 and 11 years old really loved it.

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They posted a comment on Amazon and the author relied, which gave them a special thrill! Yes, it really was cool. My mom gave my daughter the series of Anne of Green Gables. She loved them. I cannot remember who the author is but she really loved all of the books!!! I actually remember the series being on TV a couple of times. Great books!!! This list is great! Did we get to the nub of what boys like to read?

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Did we get to the heart of what draws them into a book in the first place? There is a vast array of genres awaiting boys out there — but which one to choose? I have been with the Australian Scouts for more than 40 years and found pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults all want books they can relate to. Books that seem real through good writing yet, they know they are fiction. I wrote three adventure fiction books directly aimed at boys in an effort to encourage them to enjoy the great outdoors. In Only The Brave Dare, my character Scott Morrow must escape from a convict jail with a lighthouse built on top here he and his friends have been interred after a group of drug-smuggling Russians locked them up.

He then turns the lighthouse into a weapon against the Russians. In Canyon, Scott and his friends prepare extensively to go canyoning in the Australian wilds. When rescuers are sent in to rescue Scott and his friends, fate deals a double hand as to who must be rescued. In book three, A Rite Of Passage, two motorcycle gangs vie to take over a Sydney nightclub strip and take protection money from shop owners. The bikers, Venturer Explorer Scouts, and Girl Guides come face to face with the bikers when the two groups of motorcycle gangs have shoot-out at a remote beach. The girls become trapped in a burning building and its up to Scott and his Venturers to try and save them.

A hero rises, once again. My books are grandma-proof ie, no bad language or descriptions — just pure fun and adventure, with a hidden set of safety measures. I loved a series of Alfred Hitchcock mysteries. I forget the name! It was about a group of boys with a secret clubhouse. My all time favorite when I was a kid was The Call of the Wild, and I just shared it with my sixth grade students. I see you listed Zoobreak by Gordon Korman but I would also recommend another by him.

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I would say kids 8 and up. Thank you for the wonderful boys reading list! Your comment just made my day, Rae. I hope they enjoy their new books! We used to camp every summer when my guys were younger. We always took a stack of books along too! Have a great time! My son, who was 7 at the time we read it, loved Raccoon Rampage, and we simply had to get the second book, by Ian Whybrow, I personally loved it too.

Your email address will not be published. Recipe Rating. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Jackie Currie. Comments Love hearing from more experienced moms what books their kids enjoyed!

Have a look at the Zac Power books. These really influenced my son to read. Susan,thank you so much for your detailed reply! I will definitely check out Dean Hughes! My 9 year old loves the series about cats warriors, seekers, survivors by Erin Hunter. Hope that gives people more ideas on what to read! Thanks so much for weighing in, Tadd!

Hi Kara, Here you can find some book list for girls. Were the Red vern grows? My side of the mountaun ect? And no Huckleberry Finn?!?! No Tom Sawyer?!?!?! You forgot The Time Travelers. Great book of traveling in time and wanting to get home!

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Tsk tsk tsk. That is gorgeous! A bit of both, Suzanne, but I think I leaned more towards content. I enjoy seeing what other reader like! That should saw Wilson Rawls! Oops sorry! Should have edited! I know these are not classics but my son now 19 loved, the Halo and Star Wars series.

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My son has read a lot of the books, but there are some great new finds too. Thanks for your feedback, Connor, and keep up the reading! Jackie, Great website, keep up the good work! Te'o skips the funeral, saying Kekua had insisted that he not miss a game Los Angeles Times. Her casket is closed at 9 a. Pacific time, according to Te'o. That night, Notre Dame beats Michigan, , to go to , the school's best start in a decade. Te'o intercepts two passes. After the game, he says of Lennay: "All she wanted was some white roses.

So I sent her roses and sent her two picks along with that. It was around this time that Te'o's Heisman campaign began in earnest, aided in part by the South Bend Tribune. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated 's Oct. And it was around this time that Manti and his father began filling in details about the linebacker's relationship with Lennay. Brian Te'o told multiple reporters that the family had never met Kekua; the Te'os were supposed to spend time with her when they visited South Bend, Ind. The elder Te'o told the South Bend Tribune in October, "[W]e came to the realization that she could be our daughter-in-law.

Sadly, it won't happen now. Lennay Kekua's death resonated across the college football landscape—especially at Notre Dame, where the community immediately embraced her as a fallen sister. Charity funds were started, and donations poured into foundations dedicated to leukemia research.

Te'o's story moved beyond the world of sports. Babe, if anything happens to me, you promise that you'll stay there and you'll play and you'll honor me through the way you play. This week, we got in touch with a woman living in Torrance, Calif. We'll call her Reba, to protect her identity. She was initially confused, then horrified to find that she had become the face of a dead woman.

Manti Te'o and Lennay Kekua did not meet at Stanford in Here's the moment they first made contact. Their interactions, by and large, consisted of mild flirting. As for what Kekua was tweeting, we have only bits and pieces. Her Twitter was private during most of this time, though various Google caches reveal her ever-changing series of avatars and a handful of Twitpics. All of those photographs—with one important exception—came from the private Facebook and Instagram accounts of Reba, whom we found after an exhaustive related-images search of each of Lennay's images most of which had been modified in some way to prevent reverse image searching.

We sent her a number of photographs that had appeared on Lennay's Twitter account, which is now private but apparently still active see this retweet , for instance. One picture in particular brought Reba to a start. It had been used briefly as LoveMSMK's Twitter avatar and later in the background of the page we've blurred out the face, at Reba's request :.

That photo hadn't appeared on the internet—at least, not to Reba's knowledge. She had taken it in December and sent it directly to an old high school acquaintance. The two hadn't talked since graduation, but the classmate, whom Reba remembered fondly, contacted her on Facebook with a somewhat convoluted request: His cousin had been in a serious car accident, and he had seen her photos before and thought she was pretty.

Would she be so kind as to take a picture of herself holding up a sign reading "MSMK," to put in a slideshow to support the cousin's recovery? Baffled but trusting, Reba made the sign and sent along the photo. And now here it was on a dead girl's Twitter profile. After googling Lennay Kekua's name, Reba began to piece things together. She called up the classmate. He expressed alarm, Reba told us later, and "immediately began acting weird. Then, in a series of lengthy phone calls, Reba told us everything she knew about the classmate, a star high school quarterback turned religious musician named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo comes from a big football family. His father, Titus, played for USC in the late '80s and early '90s. One uncle, Navy, played for the L. Rams; another uncle, Mike, coaches the defensive line at Colorado. A cousin from an older generation, Manu, went to Seattle in the first round in ; another cousin, Marques, went to Oakland in the second round in He was Tuiasosopo, now 22, had once been something of a football prospect himself.

His coach said he was a "great kid" who did a fine job leading the older seniors. He was an honorable mention for the all-league team. But then he transferred out of town, to Franklin High in Stockton, where he spent his junior year living with an aunt and handing the ball off. His team featured two 1,yard rushers, and he completed only five passes all season. He transferred again: His senior year, he turned up at Paraclete High in Lancaster.

Titus, his father, had become an assistant coach there. That's where he encountered Reba. His team lost in the semifinals. A season recap article suggested that he might sign with Hawaii, but that evidently went nowhere. Once high school ended, in , Tuiasosopo threw himself into his father's church. He also has his own little YouTube music career. He sings secular songs, with a cousin Conan Amituanai, a former Arizona lineman whom the Vikings once signed , and religious songs, both solo and as part of an ensemble. It borrows its chorus from Katy Perry's catchy "Firework.

Te'o and Tuiasosopo definitely know each other. In May , Te'o was retweeting Tuiasosopo , who had mentioned going to Hawaii. Wrote Te'o, "sole"—"bro," in Samoan—"u gotta come down. How they know each other isn't clear. We spoke to a woman we'll call Frieda, who had suggested on Twitter back in December that there was something fishy about Lennay Kekua. She was Facebook friends with Titus Tuiasosopo, so we asked her if she knew anything about Ronaiah. USC was unable to confirm this, but a tweet from Tuiasosopo's since-deleted account suggests he and Te'o did see each other on that West Coast trip.

Heisman L," Ronaiah tweeted on Nov. And there was something else: Tuiasosopo had been in a car accident a month before Lennay's supposed accident.

The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls) The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls)
The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls) The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls)
The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls) The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls)
The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls) The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls)
The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls) The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls)
The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls) The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls)
The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls) The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls)
The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls) The Winning Touch: A story about football for teenage boys (and maybe a few girls)

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