Sociologist signs book about raising kids in a competitive culture

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 25, 2013


WEST BLOOMFIELD — Former West Bloomfield resident and sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman will be holding a book signing for her recent release 6-8 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Barnes & Noble on Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield.

“Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture” takes a look at elementary school-age children who are involved in competitive dance, youth travel soccer and scholastic chess, and how their competitive culture prepares them for future success.

Levey Friedman graduated from Marian High School in 1998 and has since continued her education at Harvard University, where she received her undergraduate degree in sociology, and Princeton University, where she earned a Ph.D. in sociology. She recently completed her post-doctoral fellowship studying youth sports injuries at Harvard.

Her recent book was eight years in the making, beginning with 16 months of research. University Press released the book in late August, and it has been called a “sociological gem” by William A. Corsarao, author of “The Sociology of Childhood.”

In her research, Levey Friedman explored 95 middleclass families and talked to parents, teachers, coaches and the kids themselves, looking at the history of their activities, why parents want their kids involved in a competitive culture and what the kids themselves think about the activities.

“Parents think — and there’s some evidence to this — that if you participate in these activities, you’ll get into certain schools. And if you get into one of the colleges or universities, you have these competitive skills that’ll stay with you and help you in your career, your studies and your professional activities,” Levey Friedman said.

Levey Friedman explained that it’s becoming frequently important to engage kids in the competitive activities because of the number of kids participating and attending college.

“If you’re competing with kids from other areas, it is quite important to participate in the activities to highlight yourself, depending on your area,” she said when discussing the difficulty of getting into college and how more students are applying to college.

Her book reveals a Competitive Kid Capital, which she identifies as the ability of children to bounce back from a loss to a win, adopting the importance of winning, learning to perform within time limits, learning how to succeed in high-stress situations and performing well when all are eyes on them.

While researching the importance of putting kids into competitive activities, Levey Friedman revealed that she didn’t have a lot of competitive extra-curricular activities growing up; however, she ended up in the same place as many of her former peers who had been competitively involved.

“A lot of these places are trying to create well-rounded classes, but not everyone is going to look the same,” she said.

Levey Friedman will also hold book signings at Barnes & Noble stores in Muskegon 6-8 p.m. Sept. 28, Shelby Township 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 28 and Ann Arbor 3-5 p.m. Sept. 29.

“It would be great to see the people from my hometown. I grew up going to the Barnes & Noble in West Bloomfield, so it’s great to be back as an author,” she said.