Learning to Win

Sports, Education, and Social Change in Twentieth-Century North Carolina

By Pamela Grundy

392 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 53 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4934-7
    Published: May 2001
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6020-5
    Published: April 2003
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7218-0
    Published: April 2003

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Awards & distinctions

2002 Herbert Feis Award, American Historical Association

A 2001 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

2001 North American Society for Sport History Book Award

Over the past century, high school and college athletics have grown into one of America's most beloved--and most controversial--institutions, inspiring great loyalty while sparking fierce disputes.

In this richly detailed book, Pamela Grundy examines the many meanings that school sports took on in North Carolina, linking athletic programs at state universities, public high schools, women's colleges, and African American educational institutions to social and economic shifts that include the expansion of industry, the advent of woman suffrage, and the rise and fall of Jim Crow. Drawing heavily on oral history interviews, Grundy charts the many pleasures of athletics, from the simple joy of backyard basketball to the exhilaration of a state championship run. She also explores conflicts provoked by sports within the state--clashes over the growth of college athletics, the propriety of women's competition, and the connection between sports and racial integration, for example. Within this chronicle, familiar athletic narratives take on new meanings, moving beyond timeless stories of courage, fortitude, or failure to illuminate questions about race, manhood and womanhood, the purpose of education, the meaning of competition, and the structure of American society.

About the Author

Pamela Grundy is a historian who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she pursues a variety of writing, teaching, and museum projects.
For more information about Pamela Grundy, visit the Author Page.


"[This book] provides a fascinating window onto race, gender, class and mainstream culture."--New York Times

"In the richness of its detail and the quality of its analysis, Learning to Win is a most satisfying book. . . . An intelligent and sophisticated book. Not only does nearly every page contain perceptive observations, but Grundy has been remarkably successful in weaving together into a smooth narrative the complex meanings of North Carolina's recent sporting history."--Journal of American History

"Outstanding. . . . This superbly researched book, heavily based on oral history, with over 50 photographs, is highly recommended to general readers and upper-division undergraduates through faculty and researchers/professionals."--Choice

"An exhaustive and engaging account that shows how critical sports studies can provide meaningful connections between athletics and the larger culture."--American Studies

"Displaying her keen sense of how material culture as well as oral history can inform the study of identity and community, Grundy deftly situates sports into the ways both men and women fashioned a sense of themselves as individuals and as members of larger polities during the transformation of North Carolina from an agricultural to an increasingly urban and industrial society."--Journal of Southern History

"Learning to Win is by far the best book on the relationship between sports and education in southern history. By studying sports among high school and college males and females, black and white, Pamela Grundy brings new insights to the often slow movement toward today's big-time, big-money spectator sports. Her use of oral histories and countless college publications helps show the human side of sports for players, fans, boosters, and school administrators."--Ted Ownby, University of Mississippi