Inaugural Ballers: The True Story of the First U.S. Women's Olympic Basketball Team by Andrew Maraniss (Viking Children's Books 2022) chronicles the 1976 U.S. national women's basketball team's journey to the Montreal Olympics. Along the way, Maraniss provides an overview of the role of women in U.S. sports alongside the development of the women's rights movement in the United States.
To help you make the most of this title in the library and classroom, we're sharing these resources:
— Curriculum ideas and recommended book pairings below, with the accompanying lesson "American Women in Sports" (https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Content/LessonPlan/2295496)
— "Equal Rights Amendment," an activity from ABC-CLIO's American History database that explores—through primary and secondary sources—the history of the Equal Rights Amendment and why it has historically been difficult to ratify (https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Content/StudentActivity/2295786).
Curriculum Ideas & Book Pairings by High School Librarian Suzanne Libra
In Inaugural Ballers, Andrew Maraniss explores the world of women's basketball and the first women's Olympic basketball game. Maraniss deftly traces the history of basketball and women's participation, including the sexism and racism that players faced and continue to face. As with his book on the first Olympic men's basketball game, Games of Deception (Philomel Books 2019), this book makes a great anchor text for lessons with social studies teachers, health and physical education teachers, and English teachers. Students can look at the social impacts of women's sports, the way political and social issues are intertwined, and the ways that writers incorporate facts while telling engaging stories.
Inaugural Ballers is a great book to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day on February 1. With March Madness and Women's History Month just around the corner, celebrating the first women's Olympic teams can lead to greater reflection on the state of women's sports and the role of sports in our society. As in his previous books—Games of Deception, Singled Out (Philomel Books 2021), and Strong Inside (Viking Books for Young Readers 2017)—Maraniss takes an event in the history of sports and ties it to the social issues of the day.
In the library, this book could be part of a display of biographies of women athletes, posters and other sports books. The display can include tournament brackets for the 1976 Olympics and the current women's March Madness tournament, with notes on any connections to the 1976 team. It could also be part of a trivia game; put the names of the players and coaches in a fish bowl and give prizes to the students who can find out information about them. Part of the prize could be a bookmark with a quote about that person from the book.
This book could also be part of a cooperative lesson with health, math, social studies, or English classes. Maraniss covers the inequities in the 1970's of women's sports. In health or physical education classes, students could try playing the "girls" version of basketball games (half-court, etc.) and study how those rules change the game and the experience of playing it. To support discussion, teachers could also bring in research about gender differences in lung capacity, endurance, and strength. To go deeper into these issues, students can research if the inequities in coaching, equipment, press, and other elements persist and to what degree, using math to generate charts and graphs to show the progress or lack of progress.
A multidisciplinary lesson with English teachers focusing on the style and with social studies teachers focusing on the events and social implications would make for a rich unit. Social studies teachers can use the book to highlight current events. Imagine if Stephen Curry instead of Brittney Griner had been held in Russia. How would that have changed events and perceptions? Or look at the U.S. women's soccer team's equal pay case in the recent news—how does it compare to the events in the book? Within social studies, the book can also be part of a unit on equal rights, the turmoil of the 1970's, or intersectionality (how race and gender contribute to an issue). In language arts, English teachers can use the book in a unit on nonfiction and the role of style and the use of facts to make a compelling read. Maraniss weaves many true stories into Inaugural Ballers, providing a strong model for a student assignment where they have to weave facts into a story.
In addition to Maraniss' books mentioned above, The Nazi Olympics by Susan D. Bachrach (Little, Brown 2000), The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Puffin 2016), or autobiographies such as Ibtihaj Muhammad's Proud (Little, Brown 2018) can give students a view into other nonfiction styles and issues faced by athletes across the years.
Libra, Suzanne. "Inaugural Ballers Educator Guide." School Library Connection, January 2023, schoollibraryconnection.com/Content/LiteratureLesson/2295494.
View all citation styles
Entry ID: 2295494