New workbook helps teens ‘Play Up’


Since the release of the wildly popular book “Playing Up,” Vaughn McKoy and his wife, Marnie McKoy thought of ways in which they could make the lessons found in the book practical in ways that could drive behavior and complement academic learning.

In the follow up titled, “The Coaches’ Playbook,” the authors have created a tool that can be used to teach character education through literacy programs for grades six to 12.

“It [also] empowers young adults with the mindset and tools necessary to overcome obstacles and build meaningful relationships,” said Vaughn McKoy, whose life is the subject of the first book. “Playing Up: One Man’s Rise from Public Housing to Public Service Through Mentorship.”

McKoy, whose professional accomplishments include becoming a litigator, assistant United States attorney and the head of the criminal division for the New Jersey Attorney General, grew up in poverty and at 17 while a junior in high school, he became a father.

He was able to escape the many pitfalls that come with being a teen dad and living in the projects after meeting business mogul Arthur M. Goldberg, who mentored him.

His autobiography notes ways in which McKoy said others can overcome such adversity including finding a mentor and how time becomes more valuable than money when it comes to a mentorship.

“Overall, ‘Playing Up’ has been well received among diverse readers as a truly inspirational story of triumph over challenges through hard work, education and mentorship,” McKoy said, noting that his wife and co-author Marnie McKoy is a Baltimore native who also attended Rutgers University in New Jersey, where McKoy graduated.

“’Playing Up’ has been incorporated into a high school English course, a middle school course, academic enrichment and summer reading programs for traditional and public charter schools, as well as juvenile justice programming,” he said.

In connection with the launch of “The Coaches’ Playbook,” McKoy donated .

McKoy is also facilitating a book study with young adults who are residents of juvenile justice programs.

Discussions with other school districts and education officials – including locally – are ongoing and they are developing an assessment tool to determine the impact of the book and curriculum on students’ academic achievement and social-emotional development, he said.

The authors notes that “The Coaches’ Playbook” is an effective resource because it is interdisciplinary, prompts critical thinking and problem solving and includes mini-writing lessons to help students improve their writing skills while reading the book.

It can also be scaffolded to meet varying skill levels and contains diverse question types, including true/false, multiple choice and short answer, said McKoy, who is also working to complete another new book, “Rookie,” a sports-themed allegory that illustrates a successful mentoring relationship between “Rookie” and his new mentor, an effervescent business mogul known as “Doc.”

Through “Rookie” and the action steps that follow each chapter, readers/mentees develop twelve key “success plays” to build valuable relationships with mentors to enable them to triumph in both work and life, according to McKoy.

“The uniqueness of ‘Rookie’ is that it emphasizes the mentee’s responsibility and provides the mentee with the tools necessary to best leverage the relationship,” he said.

The former teen father also has advice for young individuals.

“For the teen fathers, love your kids and be present for them, regardless of a temporary inability to provide for them,” McKoy said. “For those teenagers who are not fathers, don’t strive to become one. Being a teenager in the twenty-first century is a challenge within itself,” he said.

“Playing Up” can be purchased at and “The Coaches’ Playbook” is available in e-book format at To purchase hard copies or bulk supply of “The Coaches’ Playbook” call 908-420-6056.