Petri comments on “R is for Rugby”

Men's Eagles scrum half Mike Petri released his first children's book, "R is for Rugby: An Alphabet Book," earlier this year. Featuring illustrations by Max Thompson, the book was written by Petri on numerous trips to and from work as a teacher at Xavier High School and inspired by the birth of his first-born. USA Rugby caught up with Petri on the process of releasing a book, the importance of rugby in a children's book, and future plans off of the rugby pitch.

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USA Rugby: Was the idea of creating a children's book on your mind prior to the news of your first child?

Mike: Children's books weren't really on my radar before my daughter came into the picture. Once my wife was pregnant, though, browsing the children's book section became a regular occurrence. We looked through so many different books searching for ones that we wanted to read to our daughter. We wanted books that were fun, would teach her valuable life lessons, and also ones that we could use to share aspects of our own life with her. I wanted to share the game of rugby with her and this idea is what sparked a fun project that transformed into something bigger - a physical, hardcover, fully-illustrated, rhyming picture book!

USAR: Are you hoping to see "R is for Rugby" on the bestseller list or is it enough to have it released to the public?

Mike: The goal was never to release a best seller but rather to give parents and guardians a chance to share an incredible game with someone they love and to introduce children to an amazing sport. It's inspiring to know that rugby is growing for both boys and girls and the next generation of ruggers are going to have so many more opportunities in this sport - everything from Olympics to college scholarships. Of course, a best-seller would be the icing on the cake and certainly help rugby reach a broader audience!

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USAR: How have your students at Xavier High School responded to the book? How about your fellow rugby players?

Mike: The students at school were an integral part of it all. They were some of the first to see the storyboards and rough drafts! So, overall, they have been incredibly supportive! Some of the players I coach also attended my first public reading and then came to the gym to play games and throw a rugby ball around with the kids. It's clear they love the game and were so excited to have an opportunity to give back to the sport. They all agreed that they wished they knew about rugby when they were so young!

My friends and teammates are probably the most excited of anyone! Many of us are at the age now where we're all getting married and having kids or at least know someone else who is. A lot of the first books sold were to teammates from years ago and also current teammates for their children. Many of them have thanked me for offering a lifetime baby shower gift idea!

USAR: What was the process of getting a book published like, especially with family, work, and rugby commitments?

Mike: A lot of hard work from many different people went into self publishing this book. When Daniel Glantz at AIG first offered to help get this off the ground I was so excited and I knew that it would give me an opportunity to make it as professional as possible. It took months of writing rhymes on the subway, creating storyboards, selecting fonts, draft revisions, sampling and selecting a USA printing company, and so much more. With Daniel's help and the hard work and creative input of my wife, Augusto and Louise Kellerman, Danny Gearity (graphic designer as well as former Xavier High School teammate and Syracuse University rugger), and, of course, the illustrator, Max Thompson, I was able to make my imagination become a reality.

On that note, I would be neglectful if I didn't give a very special acknowledgement to Max, who nailed the style I was after and was able to bring to life my rhymes and ideas for each image.

USAR: Is it surreal to you to see a book with your name on it?

Mike: It's certainly incredible to have the book be a reality. But what amazes me even more is when people send me thank you messages and pictures of their kids reading the book. That is what makes this whole thing so incredibly special, worthwhile, and definitely surreal.

USAR: Do you have any aspirations to add to your portfolio?

Mike: When I first began writing ideas for the book, I wrote down anything and everything that came to mind. There was so much about rugby I wanted to share that the ideas morphed into two distinct children's books. I decided than an alphabet book was better to launch first to help educate people about our great sport. My goal is to have the second one, which is a fun, rhyming, story about rugby, released by the end of the year!