Review by Nancy Evans, Nebraska Library Commission
When the University of Nebraska became the first, non-West Coast team to win a national championship in women’s volleyball in 1995, a reporter asked coach Terry Pettit a predictable question. How does it feel? Pettit gave an unpredictable answer, quoting a poet to describe the sweetness of victory. So what kind of book can you expect from such a literate and successful person? One that spans the horizon of literary styles, from essays and journalistic-style commentaries, to columns about trust, love, and coyotes in the backyard, to poems about time-outs and loss.
“They consider my voice
An inappropriate companion
To the pounding of the blood,
Hot with fatigue and disappointment.”
That is the beginning of a poem titled “After the Loss.” Pettit’s 151-page book, Talent and the Secret Life of Teams, is part biographical, providing an inner glimpse at the magical 1995 run to a national title and the extraordinary women on that team.
It is part analytical, discussing international themes of team- building, leadership development, and nurturing talent. It is part instructional, providing real-life experiences for coaches and other mentors and managers of people, even those in business.
It is also part whimsical. One chapter, “Coyote Coach,” is observations of a coyote family living near a creek below the Pettit home in Fort Collins, Colo. Another, “Snakes, Recruits, and Serendipity,” describes a huge snake discovered by a friend on a Rocky Mountain road that slithered off at an incredible speed. Somehow, Pettit turns that tale into a commentary on coaching, luck, and the possibility that a talented foreigner— like that 300-pound snake might accidentally show up on your campus.
Pettit, now an author, speaker and mentor on leadership, is a wise observer of life, and “Talent” enlists you as a shipmate on a very entertaining voyage. — Nancy Evans