When Stacey and Adam Armijo’s son was two years old he was in love with sports balls. Each night before bed they would read to their son, Ryder. They searched and searched for children’s books that were about sports that included the “basics” of each sport. After failing to find what they were looking for they set out to write their own series – Sprout Sports! The Sprout Sports! series are practical, but fun, books that teach kids (and parents who never played a sport) the basic drills, rules, and terms so they are familiar with the basics when its time to actually play on a “team”. They also incorporate a lesson into each book, such as the importance of practicing, and not giving up if you fail. The goal was to make books easy for kids (as young as 4 or 5) to understand basic concepts, and start learning about the important lessons that are taught through sports.
We caught up with Stacey and Adam Armijo to learn more about their children book series.
Can you tell us about both of your backgrounds in sports? Are your children involved in sports?
Adam and I both grew up playing sports. I started playing soccer at the age of 5 and was hooked ever since. I’ve always been a competitor, even voted “most athletic” in high school and went on to play field hockey at UNC-Chapel Hill, claiming 3 National Championships. I have since been running and recently became more involved in the sport of Triathlon. Adam and I both completed our first (and only) full IRONMAN in 2014 in Chattanooga, TN. Adam has always been an active person, playing team sports as a kid, then focusing more on road and mountain biking, and triathlon. His outdoorsy nature led him to the sport of Adventure Racing where he has competed in several 24-hour and multi-day events.
What inspired the two of you to start writing books? Did you always want to be writers?
I couldn’t believe how much our son, Ryder, who was 2 years old at the time, loved any sports ball he found. He had to sleep with a soccer ball, football, tennis ball, basketball… you name it… in his bed every night. When we did our research to try to find a book to read about the “basics” of each sport, we couldn’t find anything that we were looking for. At this day and age, we thought, why not have a practical, but fun, book that teaches kids (and parents who never played a sport) the basic drills, rules, and terms so they are familiar with the basics when its time to actually play on a “team”. We also incorporate a lesson into the book, such as the importance of practicing, and not giving up if you fail. The goal was to make this easy for kids as young as 4 or 5 to understand basic concepts, and start learning about the important lessons that are taught through sports. To accomplish this, we thought it would be great to create a set of twin characters, a brother and sister, who learn new skills while teaching a life lesson along the way. The characters Ali and Aiden were created, Sprout Sports Press was born, and our journey began. Over the course of a year, we had a babysitter every Wednesday from 5:30-7:30pm so we could work on our script and bring our vision to life.
What do you find most challenging about writing together? How do you actually do it?
PATIENCE :). It was a great learning experience in many ways. First, it felt great that Adam believed in my idea and was totally supportive and wanted to do this together. However, once we wrote our first script, we realized that there was much more to this than we expected, and needed some direction. We consulted with a Children’s Book author in Sacramento area, and she gave us more constructive feedback than we knew what to do with. That is when the real fun began! She loved the concept and found there was truly nothing like it out there. We applied what we had learned, and after months of rewording multiple edits, she thought we had a fantastic story, and a winning formula for creating this series. Finally, the challenge of bringing the story to life through illustration was another learning experience. Translating the images in our minds eye, and merging our ideas into one vision led to multiple revisions and lots of intense conversation. Ultimately, with the help of a brilliant, and super patient illustrator, we successfully aligned our vision and came up with a product that we are both proud of.
What was your inspiration for your children’s book series on sports?
At first, the idea was to write a singe book about soccer because we wanted to create something for our son to learn the rules. Once we got further in the process, we began to realize that this concept could translate to many sports, and thought it would be fun to create a series of experiences and lessons for kids to help inspire them to get out and play. Today, many children immediately reach for their iPads or phones, and diabetes and overweight young children continue to be an issue. While there are many causes of this, it is possible that these young children simply don’t have the resources to learn and get excited about sports. We figured a book to target 2-5 year olds would be a great resource to help them, along with the many novice parents out there, learn more about the basics of each sport and hopefully encourage them to play. Ok, I admit it… we did fantasize about Ali and Aiden as the two new added to the Disney team of characters after our book was written, but soon realized this is truly a HUGE dream. We totally thought Disney could revolutionize and add a few more characters, “Ali and Aiden the Athletes” to their cast! Dreaming? You never know unless you try 🙂
We chose soccer mainly because that is what our son was interested in at the time we came up with the idea. There was also an influx of youth soccer in our community, so the timing worked out well. After sharing our book, people thought this would be very helpful and encourage them to get their child involved. I felt more comfortable starting with soccer, but realized swimming is also a common sport for little ones, yet many parents can use guidance on how to encourage their child to start to swim. Swimming is in the final phase of editing and will be out soon!
What should we be looking forward to next from you and Adam?
We realize the challenges in finding a publisher and it takes time! We have written many query letters to publishers, but have realized there are many restrictions and agents are often required. We are currently self-published and have an e-book through Barnes & Nobel; however, the ultimate goal is to produce them in hard copy. With both of us working full time, we will continue to get these out there, slowly but surely. So while we continue to look for publishers, we’ll continue to move forward documenting our ideas, writing our stories, and continue to release the series as e-books. The next sport on the list is also on of the most popular children’s sports… T-ball!
Sprout Sports! books are written by Stacey and Adam Armijo and illustrated by Randy Jennings.
Shop for Sprout Sports! here.