By Nancy Edwards
A wide-eyed, innocent college freshman with strong moral convictions is suddenly thrust into another world where she enters hazing and witnesses the effects of unplanned pregnancies, eating disorders, STDs, playing sports while hung over and improper student-coach relationships. Perhaps typical of life as an undergrad, this novel is based on the reality of NCAA Division 1 student athletes.
Jennifer Gabou, 30, a Fishers resident and former Division I student-athlete, wrote the fictional novel, “Division 1,” using inspiration from real life.
“You never hear about (a Division 1 athlete) from a woman’s perspective,” Gabou said. “I decided to create a narrative from a freshman’s (point of view). There’s a lot of back story the cameras never capture. This is essentially still a man’s world of sports.”
Gabou’s characters are teammates training to be professional tennis players. Along the way, the women confront challenges in which they are treated differently from men, including the price women pay for an unplanned pregnancy. For example, for male student-athletes, it is not uncommon for them to arrive on campus having a couple of kids, even bringing them to class.
For female athletes who are pregnant as students, “if they choose not to keep the child, they get two weeks off (practice) for an ‘injury,’” Gabou said of the hand-written note by a doctor that female student-athletes show their coaches. “If they choose to have the baby, they leave school for a while.”
“These decisions haunt people for the rest of their lives,” she added.
Gabou, a professional tennis player who also served as a head coach, shows the pressure women face to lose weight. In her book, the characters work out so hard that they can barely climb the stairs and decide how they need to lose their weight, whether the method is bulimia or halving their food intake while doubling their workouts.
Throughout the book, however, some characters gone wayward are invited to church by the main character and begin to see paths they may not have considered otherwise.
Division I is available at 100 stores locally and throughout the nation, at Indy Reads, Half-Price Books, Book Mamas and online at amazon.com.