GRAPEVINE, Texas – Faith’s Spirit Store recently welcomed two significant new items to its shelves: books written by a Faith coach and Faith student. Sixth grader Ben Sherman wrote a children’s story about orphans in Cambodia, while men’s varsity basketball coach Matt Sayman’s work focuses on how he got to Baylor and his time playing basketball there.
At church, Sherman heard about orphans who were enslaved or mistreated in Cambodia. “I couldn’t sleep that night, so I stayed up and wrote a book about it,” he said. Sherman was only eight at the time and finished writing Gregory’s Paper Airplane that night. “The biggest challenge for me was having patience through the publishing process. It took a year to get it published,” he said. The book was released in 2010.
While Sherman wrote his book in a single night, few books are such quick projects. Coach Sayman wrote his over the course of five years. After reading a book about a walk-on basketball player at Wake Forest, he decided to write himself. “I could really relate so I started looking at my story a little bit on how I got to Baylor,” he said. “I didn’t have natural God-given athletic ability. I had to work really hard to get what I wanted and achieve my dreams.”
Coach Sayman chose to center his book around his senior year, saying, “There were a lot of events that year that I had just kind of blocked out of my mind and didn’t even want to think about.” As a senior, one of Coach Sayman’s teammates killed a fellow player, and a scandal forced the resignation of the entire coaching staff. The few players who chose to stay on for that season gave rise to the book’s title: The Leftovers.
Writing a book about his time in college proved therapeutic for Coach Sayman. “I really got to look back and see a lot of the negative things and bad habits I had started in my life that had kind of originated from that time,” he said. Referencing scrapbooks that his mom had made using news clippings and photos from his college career and reviewing tapes of his games, Coach Sayman got to work on his story. “Her scrapbook really helped me catalog and get in order all of those events,” he said. There were actually two scrapbooks, and the second one, covering just his senior year, is actually larger than the one covering his first three years.
“I never felt like a writer,” he said. He would often have to step away from writing for a month or two, yet at times he would sit down, “just get feelings down on paper,” and knock out up to 100 pages at once. He had help from 10 editors, and his book was finally released in April of 2012.
The Leftovers focuses on three main topics. First, Coach Sayman wanted to provide a “blueprint” for athletes with dreams of playing collegiate sports. “Second, I wanted to give people a look behind-the-scenes of college sports,” he said. The book looks at the business of athletics programs and the challenges that student-athletes face. The largest part of the book focuses on his senior year and the scandal that “ripped apart” the Baylor program, and how the group of players that remained overcame adversity and had success.
Both authors mentioned the benefits of writing, but they also faced challenges. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done besides getting a Division I scholarship,” Coach Sayman said. “I’m very comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people, but as far as writing, I never dreamed I’d do something like that.” He said he realized he had to be completely transparent or there really would not be much point to the book. “I can really go back to a few moments and wish that I had done something different.”
Meanwhile, Sherman was challenged to stay humble while he was asked to do interviews on television, including some internationally broadcast interviews. However, he also go to do great things with his book. He did book signings and a fundraiser with Jason Castro. “Most importantly, I was able to share and create awareness about the children in Cambodia who are being enslaved and mistreated,” Sherman said. “We use the proceeds of the book to support organizations that are working to free them and give them hope and a future.”
Coach Sayman worked through some difficult stuff, but said writing a book was very helpful. He encourages others to write “even if no one reads it [because] it’s a good way to get feelings down. It’s what the story’s about,” Coach Sayman said, “not writing. Because I’m one and done with writing.”
To see this article as it was originally published in the Grapevine Faith RAWR, click here.