Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town’s Secret to Happiness and Excellence

Image of Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town's Secret to Happiness and Excellence
Release Date: 
January 22, 2018
Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by: 

Karen Crouse introduces us to the Norman Rockwellian town of Norwich, Vermont, and its denizens of hard work, modesty, social equity, and homespun support for its children. Lap this book like the elixir it is to the Trumpian era ignorance of community responsibility for all children, not just the landed gentry.

Firstly, though the size of this tome is small it packs a wallop of ideas which will remain like a dream when you finish. Crouse turns on its head the philosophy that children are driven to be winners by programmatic dictates and domineering parents, teachers, and coaches. Turns out the runway to success is much longer than we have been lead to believe, even for athletes.

In chapter two, Crouse illustrates the Norwichian philosophy, “It’s not about the survival of the fittest; It’s about the survival of us all.” Since talent is not distributed on the basis of family income, this tiny community of 1,500 people used resource pooling and local sponsors to support local athletes when national sponsorships were not available. In business parlance these are called angel investors. It is nearly impossible for a middle class, let alone low-income family to scrape together $50,000 per year for coaching.

Secondly, youth are allowed to develop organically, at their own pace, but the community works together to accommodate individual needs through public school and community-based programs. Training may include off season and unrelated activities for social reasons, not just competition.

Thirdly, the many examples of youth autonomy cited in Norwich-One Tiny Vermont Town’s Secret to Happiness and Excellence, illustrate children need experimentation and freedom to develop resiliency. One learns how to be successful through failures, not by winning all of the time.

Norwich is not all sunshine and roses though, as the path for Olympic athletes is arduous and studded with crashes, fears, and isolation. Hannah’s story of swallowing her fear by sacrificing bits of her humanness to perform like a machine is particularly compelling. Winning is great, but winning at all costs not so much. Valuing relationships and adventure trumps the victories in the long haul. The traumatic brain injury to Kevin, a world class snowboarder, and how he remade himself is much more compelling than most of those on the chicken-dinner-speakers-circuit. Google The Crash Reel if you are still ambivalent.

The Norwichian way trends against the hyper-controlled obsessed parenting of the day and encourages parents to let their children understand the toughness required in the real world. The book is rife with examples of children with learning challenges excelling in this philosophy, for want of a better expression, their weakness became a strength.

Crouse’s loving homage to sport and Norwich is replete with New York Times quality writing, such as the melodic phrase, “The Krasses viewed college as the connective span that would convey their daughter from the mountaintop to the vale of the mortals.” Hold this piece of carbon in your hands parents, as it shines like a diamond revealing the path to raise happy resilient children.