7-1 | Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture

Book Review

Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture

Hilary Levey Friedman
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013. Preface, appendix, notes, works cited, index. 228 pp. $29.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780520276765

by Peter Gray

First Paragraph:

“Are these parents crazy? Have they lost their grip? No. Their children face very real gates and gatekeepers through which they need to pass if they are going to achieve in ways similar to their parents” (p. 12). With this statement in the introduction to Playing to Win, Hilary Levey Friedman expresses her understanding of the behavior of the parents she interviewed in order to write Playing to Win. The book derives from Friedman’s doctoral dissertation based on her sixteen-month-long field study of families in or near an unnamed large city in the Northeast United States. Each family had at least one child of elementary school age involved in organized, competitive chess, dance, or soccer. Friedman spent time at chess tournaments, dance studios, and soccer fields, met parents there, and, through word of mouth, met other parents with children competing in these activities. She conducted open-ended interviews with parents from ninety-five different families and, in some cases, also interviewed children, teachers, and coaches to understand their perspectives.