[Norwich, Vermont] has produced 11 Olympians, all but one since 1984. Such an achievement takes on renewed interest with the Winter Olympics kicking off next week, and it’s at the center of Norwich, Karen Crouse’s splendid portrait of the town and its Olympian performance ... Ms. Crouse says that sports success is a byproduct of how Norwich 'collectively rears its children, helping them succeed without causing burnout or compromising their future happiness' ... [Crouse] is also a gifted storyteller and willing to do the legwork that is needed to collect material. To capture the mystique of Norwich, she didn’t drop in occasionally — she lived there for five months. As a result, her account is imbued with local color and detail ... But Ms. Crouse’s message applies beyond a particular town or state: Rather than micromanage their children, parents should 'act as their guides to charity, well-roundedness, curiosity, perspective, and a healthy life anchored by physical activity.'
The secrets of that kind of athletic achievement are the subject of Karen Crouse’s book Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town’s Secret to Happiness and Excellence. Crouse, a Times sportswriter disillusioned by drug-enhanced results and joyless competitions, stumbled on Norwich in the midst of her travels with more or less the same stunned enthusiasm with which Ronald Colman, in the movie Lost Horizon, stumbles on Shangri-La ... What we don’t get to see, in Crouse’s account, is the little town nearby, where, as must be the case, everyone coöperates and yet no one is a champion ... In any case, one has the sense that what Crouse has found is not a 'secret' but a well-known effect: unusual excellence emerges within tightly structured local traditions.
New York Times journalist Karen Crouse finds the roots of Norwich’s Olympic success in a simple paradox: Its young athletes are taught that there are more important things than winning ... In Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town’s Secret to Happiness and Excellence, Crouse describes a local parenting culture that focuses on children’s personal development rather than success ... The lessons of Norwich are inspiring and compelling, but the book also includes occasional instances of truly awful writing. Most often, Crouse’s style is competent and workmanlike. But she is enamored of clichés and sometimes remakes them in cringe-inducing ways ... Another problem: Crouse seems so besotted with the town that it makes one automatically distrust her. Can any town be so perfect? One can’t help but feel Crouse lacks perspective ... She should consider the reality that racially and economically homogeneous small towns increasingly belong to our nation’s past and not its future.