A lifelong athlete and coach, Solon resident Len Spacek knows that lessons learned through sports can help one handle life’s adversities.
It is that knowledge that he relays in the pages of “Game On!,” a series of nine sports short stories he wrote over the past five years that has been recently released and now available on Amazon. This is Mr. Spacek’s second book aimed at young adults ages 12-18, with his first titled “Final Play,” released in 2015.
“I thought of how important the role of sports played in my life,” Mr. Spacek, 48, said of planning for this book. “It taught me perseverance and teamwork, and I wanted to write a book that reflected those ideas.”
From practicing and being a part of a team to getting ready for competition, all of those tools translate into being able to navigate one’s life, Mr. Spacek said.
He wrote “Game On!” as a way to reflect on those lessons and how they play out in life. The nine short stories cover a variety of sports including wrestling, soccer, basketball, surfing and more.
From the soccer story “Suah’s Way,” Mr. Spacek writes, “the repetition of kicking that ball over and over again was my best therapy.
“I would just kick the ball, and run through the things in my life,” he wrote. “The repetition of kicking the ball and the repetition of going through the pain that I experienced in the war helped me get through it. My counselor told me not to go around the pain. Go through it. I face it and go through it every day.
“It allows me to heal.”
While mostly fictional stories, some are rooted in his own experiences.
“It’s thematically reflective of some of the experiences I had,” he said. Some of the book’s heavier content delves into issues like loss of a loved one, depression, anxiety and alcoholism.
“I’m very cognizant of my audience.”
An English teacher for the past 21 years who is currently a part-time physical education teacher in the Aurora Schools, Mr. Spacek also works with athletes at the Spire Institute in Geneva helping them with mental skills training and goal setting visualization as owner of Champion Performance and Counseling.
He played football and basketball and ran track while a student at Hawken School, where he graduated in 1990, and was on his college football team at University of Dayton. A Solon native who earned a masterof fine arts degree in creative writing from Cleveland State University, Mr. Spacek moved back to the city 10 years ago. He is married to Gretchen and they have two sons, Ryan, 11, and Will, 7, who attend University School.
Mr. Spacek has coached recreational basketball in Solon as well as through the Upward basketball program at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Solon, which teaches positive life skills to young people.
He said he enjoys the creative aspect of writing. “Strangely enough, I enjoy the re-writing of it,” he said of the passages he attempted to get across.
“Those evolve over time,” he said. “Most exciting is creating and structuring the book in a way that the stories are meaningful and also entertaining at the same time.”
Each story also has literary questions at the end, delving into things like point of view or definitions of symbolism, for example. Readers can also explore the literary aspect, he noted, a lesson he gives as a teacher.
“The biggest overarching lesson is what we learn in sports about handling adversity,” Mr. Spacek said of the book’s purpose. “It basically helps us navigate through our lives.”