Craven Community College (Craven CC) graduate Matt Bircher released his third self-published book, “The Way to Redemption,” on May 15. The release coincided with Craven CC’s drive-in graduation ceremony, during which Bircher received his associate in arts degree.
Bircher, who turns 20 next month, released all three of his novels while attending Craven CC: “A World Unknown,” in July 2020 and “As Far as the Eye Can See,” in November 2019. In his third book, readers follow the daily life of a modern-day high school basketball coach who has enjoyed many years of success coaching at his alma mater but is struggling to find his footing in the next step of an uncertain future.
“He’s always been the big man on campus,” Bircher explained. “He’s well known and loved there and throughout the community, and he’s always been very successful and has several state championships under his belt. But he gets to a point in his career where that success is not guaranteed the next season. He’s got a several of his players leaving and graduating, and most of them are going on to the next level.”
However, the coach’s success came at a price—he poured all his focus and heart into his career while unwittingly neglecting his role as a father and husband. The book examines the complexities of human emotions while analyzing the professional-personal life balance, as well as spotlighting the importance of youth sports coaches and the connection between coaches and players.
“I really wanted to focus on the relationship of a coach and the player and how both can learn from each other,” Bircher added. “That title of ‘coach’ has such a big weight, and oftentimes we really don’t humanize them enough. We forget that they’re real people too, and they have families of their own. And a lot of times our opinions are formed on them based on their successes or failures.”
Bircher was active on sports teams throughout his secondary school years, including tennis, cross country, basketball and football. Those experiences allowed him to explore the player perspective of the coach-player relationship, and he even used the last name of his former coach and assistant principal, Montrell Lee, in his book.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of great coaches over my life,” said Bircher. “He was a really great guy, and he actually focused more on the people he was coaching and really developing them as human beings before athletes.”
Additionally, he noted that his family has been an inspiration throughout his writing processes and the importance of strong family bonds has been a recurring theme in all three books. “The Way to Redemption” also examines the difficult decision of owning up to past mistakes and reconciling relationships with those who matter the most.
“The title says it,” he said. “People who go through that long journey, which can be a bumpy road—that’s something that’s always really fascinated me; how people can really turn their lives around and help others along the way, and that’s really seen in this book.”
Bircher plans to earn his real estate license and will attend Appalachian State University’s online communications program this fall, then hopes to get a career in sales. However, he plans to continue pursuing his writing hobby when time allows and has already started his fourth novel, and he is thankful that he was able to release three books during his time as a Craven CC student.
“I think sometimes you have people in the school setting that want you to fully focus on school, which is obviously an important part,” he said. “But I feel like a lot of people here want their students to be well-rounded individuals, and there’s a lot of great programs that allow people to be creative and to do things they’re passionate about. Writing and storytelling is something that I’m passionate about, and I think people here see that and they want to help me get the word out and really encouraged me. I’ve seen that a lot in the past two years here as a student and it’s really meant a lot to have that support.”
Bircher will have a book signing event at the Vanceboro Public Library this Thursday, June 3 at 6:30 p.m. All three books are available for purchase on Amazon, but he also makes an appearance at the New Bern Farmer’s Market each Saturday, where those interested can purchase his book and get it signed.