LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- There are two stories surrounding University of Louisville men's soccer coach Ken Lolla's new children's book, "Finding Your Gifts," published early last month.
There's the story itself, one that Lolla used to tell his kids at bedtime. It's a story he made up, one of several, but one of their favorites, about a giraffe who overcomes being different to join in a soccer game with other jungle animals.
But there's also the story of the book coming into being, from bedtime tale to cover, pages and illustrations, which taught his children a lesson every bit as memorable as the one they learned in all those retellings of the story.
This particular tale began at bedtime in the Lolla house with children Tyler, Kristiana and Elijah.
"Our kids enjoyed stories about animals, I think the Lion King was going on around that time," Lolla said. "But whenever we put them to bed at night, we felt it was important that we told them stories with principles and messages. We wanted it to be something that impacted them. We also know that the mind is active in our sleep, and what it is marinating on more than anything is what we heard or saw or read last."
Lolla says he is a big believer in stories. He grew up in a family of storytellers, and was particularly influenced, he said, by his grandmother, who would tell stories, some of which were her own creations.
Even in his coaching, Lolla says utilizing stories to teach lessons is a powerful tool.
"What I've come to know in my life and growth and certainly as a coach, the greatest way to teach lessons is through stories, whether we're talking to our players at U of L or our kids or giving a speech, which I've done a fair bit of," he said. "Whether it's a keynote speech or a talk to your players, the stories you tell, if told well, will move you and move people in a way that it touches their lives and many times will foster change, or at least make them think differently. My wife Tina and I are huge believers not only in the power of books, but in the power of stories."
This children's book began on a list of goals for Ken and Tina Lolla. And they take those lists seriously. They also have a stake in the story. One of Lola's nephews is a special needs child and another, he said, has a health condition that "makes him special, and that gave us a special urge to put this out there now, to give this message that our differences make us special, and sometimes it's in our differences that we find our gift."
But a funny thing happened on the way to authorship. Lolla encountered the usual lulls and snags, but as the book got closer to publication, he noticed another effect it had on his children. Because the book was printed locally, Lolla took his family to the printers on a day it was on the presses.
"One of the best stories was on the way home," Lolla said. "I'm riding with my youngest son, Elijah, and the story is we used Tyler's name, my oldest son, because he was our first and we had always used it in the story. But on the way home, Elijah said, 'Dad would you help me write my story?' And I said, 'Absolutely, Elijah.' And he said, 'Do you think people will want to read it?' The power of seeing that book come to fruition for somebody like Elijah bred the belief in him that one, he could write his own story, and two that it would impact other people.
"For that reason alone, I would have written a book and published it to breed that kind of belief into our kids and to see anything like that is possible."
Of course, now that Lolla has named a lead character after his oldest kid, he figures he's on the hook to do two more. He says that's no problem. They have plenty of ideas.
As parents, it once again illustrates that our kids not only listen to the stories we tell them, but watch the stories we live out in front of them.
In Lola's case, it appears he's authored two winners with this one.