It has been almost twenty years since Chris Crowe published More Than a Game: Sports Literature for Young Adults – to our knowledge the only book-length study on Young Adult (YA) Sports Literature so far - at a time when “[y]oung adult sports literature, doubly damned by its juvenile and sports roots, ha[d] only recently begun to receive its due from critics, librarians, and teachers” (2004, p.2), despite sports already dominating large parts of popular culture and consumerism. Sports novels’ popularity is attributed to their engagement of reluctant and avid readers alike and discussing themes many young people are exposed to in their own lives. Crowe argued that “[m]any young adult sports novelists write about sports not simply because the subject appeals to teenagers, but because sports add depth and complexity to their stories. … The best young adult sports novels offer the same benefits, challenges, and intellectual stimulation as any other well-written novel” (pp.8-9). In reference to the künstlerroman, Crowe coined the term sportlerroman to collate coming-of-age narratives centred on athletes, yet has since questioned whether the term is still applicable as in recent YA novels featuring athletes, sports are often no longer the central topic (Suico, 2020, p.96). Instead, sports fiction has always “use[d] athletics to address many issues that concern youths, such as peer and family relationships, racism, winning and losing, social pressures, sportsmanship, and violence” (Tixier y Vigil and Edwards, 2002, p.53). While there still exist sports novels focusing on “athletic activities that involve face-to-face competition … between athletes and … the success of that competition depend[ing] primarily on the competitors’ athletic and physical skills” (Crowe, 2004, p.xv), i.e., aligning with Crowe’s definition of the sportlerroman, aspects of engaging with sport and sports culture also frequently occur in YA literature without taking centre stage. 

The absence of and barriers to sporting activities are also noteworthy. While the US passed the Equal Pay for Team USA Act in 2022, ensuring that athletes receive equal pay and compensation for their work regardless of gender, female athletes still earn far less than their male counterparts in many other countries, providing a dire outlook on a professional sports career. If women can play sports professionally, they are often subject to a dress code supporting the male gaze (see, for example, the discussion surrounding Serena Williams’ catsuit) or required by an oppressive regime (see, for instance, the case of Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi who competed internationally without wearing a hijab). Therefore, it may not be surprising that girls have been reported as dropping out of organised sports around the time they enter adolescence/secondary school, citing reasons such as sports becoming too competitive and them “no longer [being] able to take part just for fun” (Women in Sports, 2022, p.8) as well as feeling judged by others and not confident, good enough, or even safe when exercising outdoors. Transgender athletes also face increasingly hostile environments, with many sports being divided into female and male categories in the first place, and the World Athletics Council recently banning transgender women from participating in elite sports competitions if they have undergone male puberty. On the other hand, other barriers to sports are increasingly being removed, such as activewear companies now tailoring to a wider demographic by being more size-inclusive or stocking adaptive clothing and shoes or swim hijabs. 

Therefore, we see a reason to focus on aspects of inclusion and diversity in international YA sports literature, engaging not only with examples of the sportlerroman that centre on gameplay but also with aspects of intersectional identities that might hinder engagement with or enjoyment of sports as well as regional or niche sports that are not as widely celebrated or followed within popular culture. Although some special issues of English-language journals looked at sports within children’s literature in the last decade (The English Journal, Vol. 104 No. 1 (2014); The ALAN Review, Vol. 46 No. 2 (2019); Study and Scrutiny Vol. 4 No. 2 (2020)), these studies were primarily US-centred and/or focused on using sports literature in English classrooms (see also Carter, 1998; Brown & Rodesiler, 2016; Minchew, 2002; Rodesiler, 2017; Tixier y Vigil & Edwards, 2002). Where aspects of diversity and inclusion were considered, foci have largely been on race / racism and gender / sexism towards girls; aspects such as disability, religion, or non-binary gender identities have not seen much attention concerning YA sports literature, despite oftentimes providing barriers for young people to engage with or enjoy sports and being addressed in YA sports literature. At the same time, less inclusive, stereotypical sports narratives and representations of the athlete are still published and invite critical discussion.

This special section of The International Journal of Young Adult Literature invites proposals for original, unpublished papers that focus on (a lack of) diversity and inclusion in the realm of children and adolescents playing/performing, both competitively and recreationally, as well as watching sports within and beyond the school context within international YA literature. 

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, discussions of sports and

  • gender (e.g., patriarchal sports environments, gender (in)equity, jock culture, sport and menstruation, transgender athletes’ access to/participation in sports)
  • sexuality (e.g., homophobia, queer athletes, coming out in sports, romance)
  • religion (e.g., barriers to engaging in certain sports, discrimination, sport and fasting)
  • ethnicity and nationality (e.g., racism and racist stereotypes of athletes, sports heroes/heroines of local or national sports communities, national and cultural sports (traditions), ethnic/national conflict)
  • disability (e.g., parasports, physical mobility and accessibility, inclusive/mixed ability sports (teams), neurodivergent athletes)
  • social class and economic background (e.g., depictions of working-class athletes/culture, economic barriers to participation in sports, sport as work, financial rewards, exploitation, fundraising, corporate sponsorship)
  • physical health (e.g., sports injuries, illness, nutrition, physical pressure, doping and substance abuse)
  • mental health and emotional wellbeing (e.g., performance and emotional pressure, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, body image/shaming)
  • violence (e.g., engagement in violent sports, sexual violence, bullying, hazing, physical assault)
  • interpersonal contact (e.g., friendship, team spirit, peer pressure, competitiveness, inclusion/exclusion)
  • famous sportspersons authoring or inspiring young adult literature (e.g., non-fiction, memoirs, biographies)

The editors especially encourage proposals beyond Anglo-American young adult literature and male-centred ball sports, as well as short proposals for interviews with authors or sportspeople within the CfP’s context and suggestions for reviews of scholarship on sports literature. They seek to feature a diverse range of authors and reflect the diversity of the scholars(hip) in the peer-review process.

Research articles should make a substantial contribution to knowledge and understanding of young adult literature and should be supported by a relevant methodological framework and an understanding of existing scholarship in this field. Articles must be written in English, be between 7,000-12,000 words in length, and describe the outcomes and application of unpublished original research. Submissions should be made in a word-processed format (ideally .doc or .docx), double-spaced and in a size 12 font. Published articles will be reformatted, so other formatting or design choices are not likely to be retained. If you wish to include any images with your paper, also send these as separate files (.gif or .jpg is preferable). For references and bibliography, use MLA 8th edition. All research articles are submitted for double-blind peer review, so please ensure that there are no identifying marks within the document.


20th February 2024: Send your name, institution (if applicable), a 300-word abstract, five keywords, and a short biographical note to Dr Sarah Layzell Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein. and Dr Carla Plieth Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein. and Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein.. Response by editors around early March.

15th July 2024: Submit full articles via IJYAL’s online portal to the “Special Section: Diversity and Inclusion in International Young Adult Sports Fiction”. Full details of IJYAL’s requirements and submission policy are available at


Queries about the content of the special section and your manuscript should be directed to Dr Sarah Layzell and Dr Carla Plieth at Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein. and Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein..

Queries about the submission process should be directed to the Editorial Team at Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein..


Boehm, Shelby, et al. ‘Athlete as Agitator, Assaulter, and Armor: Sports, Identity, and Sexual Assault in Young Adult Literature’. Study and Scrutiny: Research in Young Adult Literature, vol. 4, no. 2, 2020, pp. 31–56.

Brown, Alan, et al. ‘Writing the Unwritten Rules of High School Sports with Young Adult Literature’. The ALAN Review, vol. 46, no. 2, 2019, pp. 18–26.

Brown, Alan, and Dani Parker Moore. ‘Lizzie, Mamie, & Mo’ne: Exploring Issues of Racism, Classism, and Sexism in Baseball’. Study and Scrutiny: Research in Young Adult Literature, vol. 4, no. 2, 2020, pp. 57–78.

Brown, Alan, and Nicole Sieben. ‘YA Sports Literature through a Positive Psychology Framework’. Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Content Areas, edited by Paula Greathouse et al., Rowman & Littlefield, 2017, pp. 147–60.

Brown, Alan, and Luke Rodesiler, editors. Developing Contemporary Literacies through Sports: A Guide for the English Classroom. National Council of Teachers of English, 2016.

Carter, Linda Purdy. ‘Addressing the Needs of Reluctant Readers through Sports Literature’. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, vol. 71, no. 5, May 1998, pp. 309–11.

Crowe, Chris. More than a Game: Sports Literature for Young Adults. Scarecrow Press, 2004.

Domínguez, Michael, and Alice Domínguez. ‘Playing Past Racial Silence’. Study and Scrutiny: Research on Young Adult Literature, vol. 4, no. 2, Dec. 2020, pp. 1–30.

Fredricksen, James E., et al. ‘Censored Young Adult Sports Novels: Entry Points for Understanding Issues of Identities and Equity’. The ALAN Review, vol. 46, no. 2, 2019, pp. 58–64.

Glenn, Wendy J., and Danielle King-Watkins. ‘Fictional Girls Who Play with the Boys: Barriers to Access in the Transition to Male-Dominated Sports Teams’. Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 51, 2020, pp. 309–31.

Hardstaff [Layzell], Sarah. ‘Identity, Representation and Coming-of-Age in Football Fiction for Children’. The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 44, no. 2, 2020, pp. 181-190.

Heinecken, Dawn. ‘African American Girls in Children’s and YA Sports Fiction: Encouraging Participation?’ Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Culture: A Mosaic of Criticism, edited by Amie A. Doughty, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016, pp. 81–103.

---. ‘Empowering Girls Through Sport? Sports Advice Books for Young Female Readers’. Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 47, 2016, pp. 325–42.

---. ‘The Heart of the Game: Girls, Sports and the Limits of “Empowerment”’. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, vol. 45, no. 3, 2021, pp. 251–71.

Lewis, Mark, and Luke Rodesiler. ‘Youth Athletes’ Activism and Coaches. Representations in Sports-Related Young Adult Literature’. Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, vol. 4, no. 1, 2021, pp. 1–22.

Martin, Michelle H. ‘Black Kids Camp, Too...Don’t They?: Embracing’. The Horn Book, Accessed 23 Oct. 2023.

Minchew, Sue S. ‘Teaching Character through Sports Literature’. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, vol. 75, no. 3, Jan. 2002, pp. 137–41.

Riestra-Camacho, Rocío. ‘Analysis of Class-as-Race and Gender Ideology in the US Young Adult Sports Novel Racing Savannah (2013)’. International Journal of English Studies, vol. 20, no. 3, Dec. 2020, pp. 129–44.

Rodesiler, Luke. ‘Sports-Based Text Sets: Fostering Critical Literacy at the Intersections of Sport and Society’. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, vol. 90, no. 2, Mar. 2017, pp. 35–40.

Suico, Terri. ‘Predicting and Reflecting Changes in Culture: A Conversation on Young Adult Sports Literature with Chris Crowe’. Study and Scrutiny: Research in Young Adult Literature, vol. 4, no. 2, 2020, pp. 79–99.

Tixier y Vigil, Yvonne, and Sarah Edwards. ‘Using Sports Fiction in Physical Education’. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, vol. 73, no. 9, Nov. 2002, pp. 53–57.

Whitney, Sarah E. ‘Sharpening the Pointe: The Intersectional Feminism of Contemporary Young Adult Ballet Novels’. Beyond the Blockbusters: Themes and Trends in Contemporary Young Adult Literature, edited by Rebekah Fitzsimmons and Casey Wilson, University Press of Mississippi, 2020, pp. 203–18.

Women in Sport. Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls: Tackling Teenage Disengagement. Sport in England, 2022.

[Quelle: Pressemitteilung]