For research on my YA novel CRACKBACK I returned to my high school in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and asked my former economics teacher who was now an assistant coach if I could observe football practice. He said he thought so, but he'd check with the head coach.
The head coach said I could watch practice, attend film sessions, talk with players, stand on the field at games, anything I needed. He put in one request: "Just don't get hurt."
I learned so much from these players and coaches about how much high school football had changed since I had played and also about what was the same. I had not spent time around high school football in decades, but being on the sidelines with these players made me want to be back on the field smashing into someone. I felt what Miles Manning, the main character of CRACKBACK, was feeling and concentrated on sounds and smells and dialogue.
And then one Friday night standing on the sideline at an away, an unexpected gift arose. Players were invited out on the field at the end of the game to pray with the opponents. These were two public high schools and we'd never done such a thing when I played. I watched as all but three players went out to join the prayers. I wondered what was going through the minds of those players to break with their teammates. I wondered why they were taking such a stand.
As I drove home, I kept thinking about it and decided I needed to write about it. That scene became the basis for my next YA novel BOX OUT.
Sometimes research doesn't provide the answers we expect. Sometimes it provides much more.