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Sports Life Lessons - Q&A with Lorna Shultz Nicholson

January 9th, 2013 by Kendra Martin

How did real-life teen jocks influence and inspire your writing? What did your learn from them, what can young readers learn from them, and how did they impact your storytelling and character development?

Lorna Schultz NicholsonLorna Shultz Nicholson: Podium Sports Academy has been so exciting for me to write because I was such a jock in high school. But I was that “jock of all trades.” In other words, I played every sport. I think many young athletes today make decisions at early ages to focus on one sport. And I love the intensity behind these athletes. So for me, talking to real life teen jocks gives me insight into how my characters react to situations, their emotions and feelings, their ups and downs, and it gives me locker room talk.

When I started Rookie my son had just started playing junior hockey and was with the Okanagan Hockey Academy. As a mother, I listened to the rookie party talk. I started googling rookie parties and was amazed and appalled at how out of control they can get. I thought this would make a good topic for a book, and I especially wanted a character who didn’t want to be involved. Fortunately, my son’s team never had a rookie party but Rookie went on to talk about a team that did and how there are consequences when things get out of hand.

Emily Brooks

In Vegas Tryout, I chose synchronized swimming, (I knew very little about the sport), because my daughter had a friend, Emily Brooks, who attended the National Sport School in Calgary and was extremely competitive. Over Thanksgiving dinner one October, Emily talked about not being the right body type and how she had fought that her entire career. I asked her question after question. I found out that there were eating disorders in many of the swimmers and I wanted to touch on this topic because, again, there is such intensity with teen athletes that some will do anything to make their dream come true. Carrie in Vegas Tryout is an intense character and has that all or nothing drive. Emily helped me so much and I admire her for her strength to stay true to herself. She is a coach now which I love as she is giving back to her sport.

Quinn Hamilton

One Cycle follows Nathan, a lacrosse player. I talked to Quinn Hamilton who played lacrosse at the Claremont Sports Institute (CSI) at ClaremontSecondary School in Victoria. He was a scrappy, fast player but bordered on being small for professional lacrosse. I looked at his challenges and his continual disappointment at being told he was too small and did a “what if?”

Forward Pass hasn’t been released yet but it follows the life of Parmita, a soccer goalie. With this book, I did another “what if?” The news has been full of sexual abuse in men’s hockey and I wanted to look at this from a female side. Because the book is about trying to make a Canadian National Team, I talked to some National Team hockey athletes. I specifically chose Jennifer Botterill who is married and Sarah Vaillencourt who is a lesbian. I wanted the balance these two women could offer. All the athletes I have chosen to talk to you have given me great ideas for character development and authenticity. Perhaps young readers will learn how to handle their own situations with integrity and that staying true to who you are is so important.


You and your husband, Bob Nicholson (President of Hockey Canada), billet various hockey players at your home. How did your relationships with real-life hockey heroes — such as hockey great Wayne Gretzky — as well as up-and-coming hockey stars influence your novel Rookie? How do these personal and professional relationships continue to impact the series?

Lorna Shultz Nicholson: Ah, yes, I am a billet mom. I loved billeting and I learned so much from my billet boys. I just let them talk at dinner and they gave me so much info for my books. They influenced Rookie for sure because there were moments when their talk allowed my mind to go inside the dressing room. I also learned a lot about other billet families so it helped me develop a different situation for every athlete. And I have had a lot of personal relationships with hockey players, like Wayne Gretzky and Steve Yzerman, men I really admire. For Rookie, I heard a story about Mike Babcock (who I also know personally), and it influenced my writingbecause as a captain of a junior team he flat out said no to a rookie party. This made me believe that there were many athletes who didn’t believe in the ritual. Thus the story was hatched.


How does Podium Sports Academy represent a mix of actual Sports Schools and Academies from around the world?

Lorna Shultz Nicholson: Podium Sports Academy is a composite of many sports schools and, of course, my imagination. (It is fictional.)  For research, though, I looked at the OkanaganHockeySchool in Penticton, BC for their billeting component and team sports, and the NationalSportSchool in Calgary for their academics and individual sports, and to the EdgeSchool in Calgary for their brand new facility. I also researched many other schools from all over the world. There is an amazing sports complex in Vierumaki, Finland and there are many sports schools in the United States and others in Canada that helped me create Podium.  I love the school so much and if I was young again I would love to attend such a wonderful high school. Oh yeah, it is fictional!

Podium Sports Academy – a new hi-lo sports series for teens! Super teen jocks who are special enough to earn a place at the top high school for teen athletes – but not special enough to avoid the problems of growing up. Read more about the series.




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