Some folks at UW-Platteville told Mike Murphy he should put his writing skills to good use and put together a book. But he wasn’t sure he had the subject matter to tackle such a project.
Then, through his training of young basketball players, he found that more and more students and their parents were turning to him for advice.
And so Murphy killed two birds with one stone.
Earlier this month, his book was released. “Down and Back: Adversity in Amateur Athletics and Life” is currently available on Amazon.com.
“I’d get questions from parents … or kids themselves on what they could do to get more playing time or build more strength or getting kids through a tough time,” said Murphy, a 2014 Janesville Craig High graduate. “It sort of hit me: writing and then actually having something (to write about).”
Murphy tackles those subjects in two parts. The first chronicles his basketball career—from his travel-team days in middle school through his days at UW-Platteville. The second explains how he’s used the experiences in Part 1 to develop a philosophy and perspective in how to tackle athletics and life, and the adversity that might come with them.
Murphy believes the subject matter is something that can be useful to young athletes as well as their parents and coaches.
Local readers will certainly relate to Murphy’s book, particularly the first part as he tells of growing up playing basketball in Janesville.
He writes of dreaming of one day playing for legendary Craig boys basketball coach Bob Suter. Suter contributed a foreward to Murphy’s book.
“People might be quick to judge his credibility because of his age, but Mike being so youthful is the best thing about the book,” Suter wrote. “Wisdom tends to be measured by experiences and Mike Murphy has lived those experiences in order to tell such a touching story.”
Murphy includes in that story the lows and the highs.
He made Craig’s JV team as a freshman but wound up with little to no playing time and was asked at the end of the season to play with a freshmen team.
But by his junior year, Murphy became a focal point of the Cougars’ varsity team. He might be most-remembered for hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer his junior year against crosstown rival Parker, and he recalls that story in one of his chapters.
“People looked at me my junior and senior years when the success finally started coming along, and that’s all people saw,” Murphy said. “They didn’t see the struggles early in my high school career.”
Murphy eventually went to play Division III basketball at Platteville but saw his basketball career quickly come to an end due to a shoulder injury his freshman year and an Achilles injury his sophomore year.
He also experienced adversity in college through his brother going through an open-heart surgery and his parents going through a divorce.
“It was really tough that first year of college,” Murphy said. “You don’t really expect things to keep happening, or you expect to catch a break.
“I just think it’s really important for kids to know if you want to have success in a sport, you have to understand adversity … and the importance of failing.
“I had never faced anything wildly challenging outside of basketball until those college years. And if it wasn’t for those late nights in the driveway trying to figure out how to get better or those early mornings in the weight room, I don’t know how I would’ve handled what I went through that first year of college.”
And so Murphy tackles all of that in his book.
He learned about the Amazon self-publishing process through an author he met during his studies in Platteville. He had some folks close to him read over his manuscript, and he mostly edited it himself.
Down and Back is available in paperback for $14.99 or on Kindle.
“I want it to reach as many people as possible,” Murphy said. “I think that it can apply to any kid in any sport in any state across the country. It applies to middle school kids entering high school. It can be applied to high school kids that aren’t having any success and those that are having a ton of success.
“Some people, I think, overlook the things you can take away from playing sports,” Murphy added. “The lifelong lessons I got from it might have saved my entire college career academically or might have even saved my life in college, just because of what I went through in sports.”
Eric Schmoldt is the sports editor of The Gazette.