Women’s basketball head coach, Susie Gardner, distributed her book, “1, 2, 3 Team!,” to Bibb County first graders on Friday, August 12, 2022.
The book, which was published in 2016, features a story of a basketball player named Zoey, who has to learn how to be a team player. Gardner said being able to give kids their own book and get them to enjoy reading was one of the biggest motivating factors behind this project.
After reading "Your Life Calling," a book by Jane Pauley about passions a person would pursue if money was no obligation, Gardner realized her urge to write a children's book.
“I’m sitting on the bus riding to a basketball game with my team, getting paid, and I thought to myself, ‘If I didn’t have to worry about getting paid, I’d write a children's book,’” Gardner said.
While giving the kids a book is rewarding in and of itself, the reaction from the children is Gardner’s favorite part.
“The joy of watching them get their book and walk out the door having their own book,” Gardner said.
Many of the kids are so excited that they run up and give her a hug before they go back to class.
Gardner decided to write about teamwork, a concept she instills in her college team, because she believes an important aspect of coming up with a championship program is getting her players to put aside differences and focus on a common goal: success. There are several personalities and skill types on the team, and learning to work together is the only way to be successful, she said.
Instilling this teamwork in players is easier said than done, but each year, Gardner lets the team decide what the culture is going to look like. They openly communicate about things that happen within the program, from their personal lives to national matters.
“It’s not just about coaching a sport; it’s about getting to know (the players),” Gardner said. Communication is just as necessary as teamwork when it comes to success, on or off the court.
Gardner will lead the team for her 12th season as they aim for another successful year.