Private lessons. Hours of training. Professional coaches. Specialized camps. Today's children are pushed to their limits to achieve excellence, but at what cost? New York Times bestselling author Doug Brunt's third novel, Trophy Son, tells the story of a tennis prodigy, following his journey from young childhood to the finals of the US Open, Wimbledon, and other major successes. Growing up, Anton Stratis was becoming groomed to be the number one tennis player in the world. He was trained relentlessly by his obsessive father, who was once a former athlete. Anton is stuck because he wants to be successful but resents the costs of it, such as its all-consuming demands. After being removed from school and socialization to focus on tennis, Anton explodes from nowhere onto the professional scene, reaching his goal and becoming one of the top tennis players in the world. After reaching stardom, Anton realized it wasn't everything he wanted when he struggles to find a balance between family, and tennis. He begins to make compromises with himself, his health, and the rules of tennis, which may destroy everything he has worked for. This novel will grip you from the very first page, giving you an inside look at the dangers of the extraordinary pressures we put on our children to achieve, through the eyes of a young man defying his parents' ambitions as he seeks a life of his own.
Brunt discusses the drastic change in the intensity of youth culture activities, including sports. In particular, tennis is at the extreme of the youth athletics culture change. "As crazy as travel sports teams are for soccer and lacrosse, you still finish high school and go to college. If you're great at tennis, you're pulled out of mainstream education at age 14 and go into training. I wanted to explore this shift in our culture that is beyond just sports around how youth are being raised and the expectations on our youth and early single specialization in any discipline," Brunt explains. He also talks with Helen about how busy youth is these days, that their grandparents feel like they never see them anymore!
To research such a specific and interesting topic, Brunt spent time with professional tennis players like James Blake and John Isner. He found that there is often, particularly in tennis, very overbearing parents. Brunt uses the examples of the Williams sisters with their father Richard Williams as a classic example. "It's important to me to have this father son relationship in the novel", the author explained. "So many of today's parents have this overbearing attitude toward their child and child development, it really comes from a benign place. We all want the best for our kids, but it can really cross into a wrongheaded place where we inhibit the kid's emotional growth and that's what happens in Trophy Son."
Trophy Son takes a fascinating look at what sporting professionals sacrifice in order to succeed and the uncomfortable truths behind the domineering parents, grueling schedules, physical suffering, emotional pain, and moral compromises. The novel takes a deep dive into our achievement-obsessed society and make you really think about the toll it takes on emotions. You'll be intrigued until the very last page!