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Women’s basketball coach writes children’s book

Coach Gardner signing copies of her children's book '1,2,3 Team" at the Mercer vs. Citadel football game on September 1.
Coach Gardner signing copies of her children's book '1,2,3 Team" at the Mercer vs. Citadel football game on September 1.

“1, 2, 3 Team!” is the chant of many kids’ sports teams and the title of Mercer University Women's Basketball Coach Susie Gardner’s new children's book.

“[The book] is about a little girl named Zoe. She is the best [basketball player] and she knows it. . . she doesn't think she needs her team,” Gardner said.

However, Zoe later learns that she does need her team.

Gardner said, “My goal was to teach a life lesson.”

She said that she believes children's books have the capability of teaching valuable lessons to children as well as to adults. She even reads children's books to the Mercer Women’s team on occasion.

1, 2, 3 Team! marks Gardner's first book and the first children's book that Mercer University Press has ever published.

“I told them I was very passionate about children's books,” she said, “I was very humbly surprised.”

Gardner explained that she did a lot of research before writing this book by going to the Tarver Library on Mercer’s campus and the Washington Library in downtown Macon.

“Do I like this author's style or this book's illustrations?” Gardner said was one of the questions she would ask herself while researching.

It was a process, but Gardner said it was easy.

The book’s illustrator, Tina Mullen, is a friend of Gardner's. They met while Gardner was at the University of Florida.

One of the issues Mercer University Press had before agreeing to publish Gardner’s book was that they did not have an illustrator for it. Gardner was happy to recommend Mullen, and the publishers agreed to bring her onboard.

“To be a great book, it has to have good illustrations,” said Gardner with satisfaction for her book’s pictures.

Gardner said that she did not write this book for herself.

“I’m just trying to give back. I don't want this to be about me,” she said.

When asked about the level of support she has received, Gardner said that it is her past players that she coached who have been some of the best outlets of support.

Gardner said that her players who now have children have sent her pictures of their kids holding the book.

“That has touched my heart,” said Gardner.

She said that the lesson she wants to teach her readers is to learn how to be a team player at a young age.

She suggests that she wants them to walk away with a lifelong impression of what it is to be a teammate.

Gardner said in the few last moments on the sideline that “My wish would be for every child to have their own book, their favorite.”

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