Marc Rasmussen
South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2011

I am a football fan. Some call me a fanatic. And I love learning more about the game. So when I saw this available for review on LibraryThing, I knew I had to try for it. Going into the read, I had never even heard of six-man football. I thought you could only play eleven-man -- the variety I watch avidly every fall weekend. To say Six opened my eyes to a whole new world would be an understatement.

Functioning primarily as a biography of Coach Bill Welsh, Six also offers an in-depth look at life in rural South Dakota 'back in the day' when times were tough, and people were tougher. This was a time when sports meant everything to a town (although prior to Welsh's arrival, the primary sport in Claremont was baseball). Growing up in a similar environment, and working hard to earn - and play - his way through high school and college, Welsh was able to relate to his players on a personal level. He'd been there. He knew what they were going through, and he had a plan. Thanks to the positive influence of his own former coaches and teachers, Welsh understood the importance of investing in students as young men and not just players. This was the underlying theme of his entire coaching career - and it resulted in strong teams, and winning records. Respect and leadership are wonderful partners to enthusiasm on the playing field, and the Honkers had those factors plus talent.

Six is a biography of a man that is also the chronicle of a team. Under Welsh's leadership, the Honkers (Claremont High School's mascot) went on to earn an unprecedented, national record. Football fanatic that I am, I was mesmerized by the numbers put up by the teams who competed during the amazing run from 1947 to1954. The idea of six-man football is as foreign to me as it must have been to the town of Claremont back in the day, but man - what a show! I'm thinking we need to bring six-man football back, it sounds like an amazing spectacle. Back to the book: Rasmussun, whose father was one of Welsh's players, does a great job of explaining the concepts and weaving the story of the football and other athletic teams into the biography of Welsh. Including photos and mementos that he found in family collections, Rasmussen gives visual depth to the story he tells. Perhaps not something most people would just pick up on a whim, it was definitely an informative and enjoyable read from a sportsy-perspective.

Book provided by publisher for review.

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