Norwich, Vermont, population circa 3,000, has sent contestants to the Olympics almost every year since 1984, cheering on three gold medalists in the Winter Olympics in the same span of years that the entire country of Spain has produced two. When New York Times writer Karen Crouse discovered this gem of a New England town, she had to ask: How do they do it?
In Norwich, Crouse captures the soul of a town with a 110-year-old general store that pretty well lives up to its motto: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” She talks to Olympians like moguls champion Hannah Kearney, middle-distance runner Andrew Wheating and snowboarder Kevin Pearce, but surprisingly few of the conversations are about winning or losing; they’re always about the people who made a difference in these Olympians lives.
In the straightforward style of the sportswriter she is, Crouse weaves town history and sports statistics together with heartfelt conversations with the parents and coaches who support all of the community’s children, not just the best of the best. Readers might expect to hear about highly competitive “tiger” moms and dads with money to burn, but that’s not what Crouse finds. Instead, she uncovers a much more laid-back philosophy: Let kids try a bunch of stuff, celebrate with them when they find activities they enjoy, and love them no matter the outcome. Because “you’re never going to make biscuits out of them kittens,” as one old-timer says. Parents in Norwich are not set on molding their children into what they want them to be, but letting them be everything they can be.
By the time readers finish Crouse’s account, they may shift from wondering how Norwich does it to asking why everybody doesn’t do it this way.