Another book to try is "On the water" by HM Van Den Brink. Really, its a short story of only 130 pages. Set in Holland in 1938 and 1939 it tells the story of working class teenager who joins a rowing club and is partnered with another young lad called David. Together they train and improve under the guidance of their gruff and idiosyncratic German coach.
Of course, we realize that middle-class David is Jewish and that war is on the way. there will never be a 1940 Olympic Games. But young Anton, the little Dutch boy, doesn't read newspapers or listen to the radio. This is a rites of passage book beautifuly told in terms of the young rowers. The descriptions of the boat, the water, the rigor of the training, the excitement of the competition; are all used to flesh out the growing relationship between the two boys.
It is not an easy read, but it repays the effort.