Professional soccer player, new parent, and now a published author. Inspired by the birth of his daughter, Remy, Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella went from being an athletic kid who wasn’t interested in reading to the author of four children’s picture books.
It started when Remy, now nine months old, was just three or four months. Says Attinella, “I’m a big sports fan and I realized there was just nothing out there that told the stories of different sporting events for kids in a fun way that makes it engaging for the kids and the parents that love sports.”
While Attinella—who joined the team this season after four seasons with Real Salt Lake—always preferred writing over other subjects in school, he never thought it would lead to children’s literature.
Now, he occupies downtime during the team’s travels by concocting new nursery rhymes for his books. He says it takes two or three road trips to complete one story.
So far, Attinella has written about the Chicago Cubs’ historic World Series win in 2016, LeBron James's NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Tom Brady’s path to success. He’s also published a kid’s book on the space race.
“It’s been fun because, to write a book about a specific team or city, you have to really understand what’s important to that fan base and important to that city,” says the 28-year-old.
All of his books have been released through It Had to Be Told, a publishing company founded by Attinella and his family last winter after the goalie shared some lines he’d saved with his father-in-law. His wife, Kendall, who has a journalism degree, helps Attinella edit his writing and covers the day-to-day responsibilities. Her parents, Wayne and Rosemary Curtiss—the latter is a retired newspaper publisher—also help out.
Attinella says he’s received a lot of positive feedback from indie book reviewers, friends, and Patriots fans that received copies of Greatest Ever, his book about Tom Brady, during NFL training camp in July.
But, for Attinella, one of the most exciting outcomes of creating these children’s books is seeing the stories connect with “reluctant readers,” children who are usually more excited about sports than books, which is how Attinella describes his childhood self.
“[My books are] kind of reaching out and branching out to those kids and engaging them in reading, which has been awesome, because it’s obviously…important for young minds to open up a book,” Attinella says. “I wish I got into the reading game earlier because there are so many good children’s books."
Attinella says Louis Sachar’s Holes and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books were some of the first to make him realize the joy of reading. But his amped-up love for books is easy to explain: “Having a daughter really makes you realize what’s important and puts some things into perspective for you.”