Pabao Little League, Willemstad, Curacao

A scrappy, undersize group of kids from a small Caribbean island who have ascended to Little League baseball’s most illustrious stage: the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. For six of the past eight years, in a tournament where merely qualifying two consecutive years ranks as a remarkable achievement, Curacao has reached the semifinals …

Septien Entertainment Group, Dallas, Texas

KIPP-Heartwood School, San Jose, California

Spartak Tennis Club, Moscow, Russia

A rundown tennis club (and that’s putting it politely) in a freezing climate which, with one indoor court, has in recent years produced more top-20 women players than the entire United States. (Yes, you read that correctly.)  My 2006 visit to Spartak—the original article is here—helped inspire the book.
Inside the Hothouse: Audio Slideshow
This movie requires …

OPUS 118 Harlem School of Music, Harlem, New York

A public-school classical music program founded on the idea that anybody—that means anybody—can learn to play top-level classical music. Opus 118 students have played Carnegie Hall, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and inspired a documentary (“Small Wonders”) as well as the Hollywood treatment, “Music of the Heart,”  and have helped launch many similar efforts.
A Tiny, Powerful …

Brazilian Soccer Schools, Leeds, England

HOTBED: Brazilian Soccer Schools, Leeds, England
A project, begun in 1998 by an elementary schoolteacher named Simon Clifford, that has transformed a former soccer backwater into a veritable factory of talented players. Its main tool: a Brazilian game called futbol de salao (“soccer in the room”), an indoor five-a-side version of the sport.  The ball is smaller and heavier—creating …

Meadowmount School of Music, Westport, New York

The Z-Boys Skateboarders, Los Angeles, California