Game Plan- Sapphire Lakes Series by Tim Conrad
Book Review by Dr. Greg Linville

If you are looking for a great book to give away to your youth league participants you’ve can’t go wrong with… 

Game Plan is a fast moving and well crafted novel based on the lives of young athletes who live in a fictional southern town of Sapphire Lakes. The plot and intrigue will resonate with any pre-adolescent who has ever experienced the crisis of being popular with peers, felt the pressure of whether or not they will make the team or be cut, relished the early awakenings of romance or the angst of divorcing parents. Conrad repeatedly hits the mark of connecting to the “echo boomer” generation in this first venture of the Sapphire Lakes stories. It is fiction. It is geared for children. It is highly recommended for the 10-14 aged crowd, but parents will also enjoy it, especially if they read a chapter or two each night to their pre-pubescent children. I’m betting the kids will beg: “please mommy/daddy, just one more chapter.” 
The real genius in this book is how well it paints a picture of how positive youth sports can be when the coach really understands the role and purpose of competition; how to make the most out of both teachable moments (life lessons) and impact moments (spiritual development lessons) and when the parents allow the youth sport experience to be just that, a youth experience. While at first blush this book will be seen as a positive model for how kids should compete and relate to one another, the subtle message of the book is really geared to adults! Conrad’s adult characters demonstrate how great things can be when adults act in mature and loving ways rather than living vicariously through their kids. 

New Concept Found in this Book
All Sport Sunday (chapter 24). A particular scene in the novel describes a church which designates one Sunday each year for everyone to wear the sporting gear of their favorite team and celebrate all who participate in sport – a great idea for an outreach Sunday Service. Anyone playing on a community based youth or adult athletic team would be able to invite their whole team to church for a special service, food and fellowship. 

Catch Phrases Worth Remembering

  • Game Plan – a constant theme throughout the book. Just as players must trust their coach has the right plan for their team, each person can trust God has a plan for their life. 

  • Five small rules (i.e.: being on time) & five big rules (i.e.: its only a game) communicate there is discipline to be learned from the small rules and huge life lessons from the big rules. 

Points of Contention
It is appropriate to write a novel for children that doesn’t delve too deeply into the real dark and ugly side of sin. It is important to refrain from scaring and scarring young minds and hearts and yet it is crucial to not create an unreal, fairy tale world. Conrad balances this well but as the children in his novels age, so can their understanding of the gravity of unwise and un-Godly choices. 

The issue of co-ed sports is never fully addressed. There are problems with this including gender confusion and modesty issues. It would be great if these issues were exposed in these novels. Co-ed competition may be accepted in our secular culture and the novel is certainly representative of society at large but it is hoped the problems associated with mixed gender competition would be brought out in future episodes. 

Recommendations for a Second Edition
Deepen the sophistication of each of the story’s primary characters 

Create even more sporting ethical dilemmas and demonstrate how a theology of sport and competition can bring “overwhelming victory” as juxtaposed with how Humanistically based approaches fail. 

Show how one of “coaches five big rules” (its only a game) realistically plays out when catastrophic injury or even death brings reality into perspective. 

Encourage the novel’s church leadership to embrace and implement a local church sports outreach ministry. 

How to use this book – It is recommended for each church to purchase enough copies to give out to each participant in your youth leagues rather than a trinket or trophy. It would also be a great giveaway for Vacation Bible Schools or year-end Sunday School gifts to children. This book will pay spiritual dividends in each home it is read. 

Thanks Tim for this ground-breaking work. You have created Youth Literature which really understands sport, and mission oriented sports outreach ministry. 

Where to find this book: Contact Tim Conrad

Uncharted Waters is a Preferred Partner of CSRM. In addition, my daughter served for a summer in Tim’s ministry of Uncharted Waters, I currently serve on the Uncharted Waters Board and Tim and I are collaborating on new projects, including writing projects.