When Scott Rockfeld, ’01, was 12 years old, his father gave him a telescope for his birthday. He was a curious child, and eagerly dove into all things astronomy. One evening, during the halftime of a Monday Night Football game featuring the Denver Broncos and their quarterback at the time, John Elway, he and his father went for a walk. The sky was clear, and there seemed to be a million stars in the sky over his hometown of Atlanta.
“Look! It looks like somebody throwing a football in the sky!” young Rockfeld exclaimed. His dad smiled. “Oh, it’s the John Elway constellation,” he replied. They pointed out other sports figures in the sky that night—and they continued to imagine creative new constellations until Rockfeld’s father passed away about 15 years ago.
Those father-son memories are at the heart of Rockfeld’s children’s book series, Sports Stars: Astronomy for the Sports Fan in All of Us. When Rockfeld stepped away from Microsoft in 2019 after spending nearly 20 years at the Redmond, Washington-based tech company—most recently serving as senior director of product management and marketing—his goal was to work on more creative and entrepreneurial endeavors. He jumped into a few projects, from writing a screenplay to starting a small hardware products company, but the idea for the children’s books had been hovering at the back of his mind for years, and he knew this was the moment.
“I truly am loving what I’m doing, and I’m working too much because it’s not work anymore,” Rockfeld said. The books were an exciting project, and he was determined to get them right. He spent hours researching constellations, hired an artist, wrote up biographies of sports stars, and found a star-finder smartphone app that would allow him to help kids find constellations in the sky.
“I think STEM is so abstract unless you can apply it to everyday experiences,” said Rockfeld. Through stories that connect astronomy to something that kids are already interested in, he hopes to attract young readers to science in an organic way that doesn’t feel like work. After all, sports are something they can easily relate to.
“In some of the early reviews of the book from parents, I heard, ‘My kids never even looked at the stars until you told them that their athletic hero was up there,’” Rockfeld said.
He has now published three editions: the first featured NFL quarterbacks, the second NBA stars, and the third the US Women’s National Soccer team. The choices were personal, inspired by the heroes he knew would resonate with young kids. Rockfeld decided to feature the US women’s soccer team after watching the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in a packed pub while on vacation with his family.
“I think that was the first time my children had that pride of cheering for their country’s team,” Rockfeld said. “I also really wanted to include female heroes. I did not want this to be a male-dominated series.”
Rockfeld is reading reviews of the books and thinking about future versions. Delighted readers have already requested topics including cricket and esports. Taking a lesson from his time in the corporate world, the new author says he has learned to balance and adjust to the pace of progress.
“The job is never done,” said Rockfeld. “You have to keep revising and improving with every version. When I started getting feedback, I made changes to the books. Focusing on continuous improvement, getting better and better over time—that’s something that Chicago Booth taught me.”
Now, even though Rockfeld is hard at work on many projects, he has been able to take a few star-focused evening walks again—this time with his own sons.
“I have two boys, 11 and 13, and they are sports fanatics, but they would rather play Madden or watch sports on weekends than get outside,” said Rockfeld. “Especially through the pandemic, this just gave them a reason to get outside, and share a unique and wonderful experience between a parent and child.”
Find the books at www.sportsstars.net.