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This Kansas City 9-year-old's book helps kids understand football

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A young girl wearing a blue sweater sits behind a microphone in a studio setting.
Carlos Moreno
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KCUR 89.3
Burkley Hoover, author of "Here Comes Football: A Kids Guide To The Game," appears on KCUR's Up To Date.

Burkley Hoover has published her first book at the age of nine. Tilted “Here Comes Football: A Kids Guide To The Game,” it covers the history and mechanics of the sport and includes interviews with several professional players.

Nine-year-old Burkley Hoover has been immersed in the sport of football for most of her life. Her father, Justin Hoover, is the head coach of the Shawnee Mission East high school football team and owner of Spin It Quarterback Academy.

That immersion has given her a knowledge of the game that many people her age might lack. She says that knowledge gap is what gave her the idea for what would become a 44-page book.

“I wanted me and my friends to learn more about football,” she said on KCUR’s Up To Date. “A lot of them I can talk with about things, like what game happened, but some don't know much.”

Justin said the idea started out with activities at their house to help Burkley's friends understand the game.

“It was really about kind of getting into, ‘Can we bring them over? Can we watch a film? Can we watch a game with my friends?’ What can we do to help them, to help educate them?” he said.

Soon, he said, Burkley began keeping notes on a document she used to help teach friends when they came over. The document was later seen by family friend Tim Grunhard, a former Kansas City Chiefs center and offensive line coach at the University of Kansas.

“He kind of said, ‘Hey, wait a second. I think you have something here,’” Justin said. “So he connected us with another local author and it just kind of inspired her to get going on it.”

Burkley spent several months researching the history of football, from the origins of the offensive “huddle,” to the evolution of helmets worn by players over the years.

She said this research was often the hardest part of the writing process, causing her to miss out on social opportunities with friends and family.

The writing did have some perks though. The finished book included several interviews with professional players, all of which were conducted by Burkley and her family, allowing her to meet some of the men who play her favorite sport at the highest level.

“Some of them I made a video and sent it to them. Some of them … I got to FaceTime them. Some of them we texted the questions to … but they were all really nice,” Burkley said. “I don’t think I have a favorite.”

Justin said the interviews and research Burkley gathered will have something to teach football fans of all ages.

“I learned a lot actually,” he said. “Taking things like coaches' terms and then breaking it down into a kind of kid's version I think was really interesting and helpful for me to teach the game.”

Burkley said she wants to write more books like this one about other sports such as volleyball or soccer. Her dad said he’s just proud to see her finish this one.

“I think it's inspiring when you think about a nine-year-old girl who says 'I'm going to do this' and then to actually go accomplish it,” he said. “That's probably the thing that I'm the most proud of.”

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
As an assistant producer on Up To Date, my goal is to amplify voices of people who serve as pioneers in their respective fields while shedding light on issues that affect underserved communities. I produce daily conversations to uplift and inspire the people of the Kansas City area to make the world a better place. You can reach me at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
Email me at zjperez@kcur.org
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