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Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

George Dohrmann

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7. Februar 2012

Winner of the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sportswriting
Winner of the Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Youth Sports
Eight years of unfettered access and a keen sense of a story’s deepest truths allow Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist George Dohrmann to take readers inside the machine that produces America’s basketball stars. Play Their Hearts Out reveals a cutthroat world where boys as young as eight or nine are subjected to a dizzying torrent of scrutiny and exploitation. At the book’s heart are the personal stories of two compelling figures: Joe Keller, an ambitious coach with a master plan to find and promote “the next LeBron,” and Demetrius Walker, a fatherless latchkey kid who falls under Keller’s sway and struggles to live up to unrealistic expectations. Complete with a new “where-are-they-now” Epilogue by the author, this thoroughly compelling narrative exposes the gritty reality that lies beneath so many dreams of fame and glory.
Look for the exclusive conversation between George Dohrmann and bestselling author Seth Davis in the back of the book.

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“Often heartbreaking, always riveting.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Tremendous.”—The Plain Dealer
“Indispensable.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A tour de force of reporting, filled with deft storytelling and vivid character studies.”—The Washington Post
“One of the finest sports books of all time.”—Harper’s Magazine
“Amazing stuff . . . The Friday Night Lights of youth basketball.”—Leigh Montville, author of The Big Bam
“A landmark achievement in basketball journalism.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

George Dohrmann is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and the magazine’s investigative reporter. In 2000, while working at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, he won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories that uncovered a college basketball team’s academic fraud. Dohrmann lives in San Francisco with his family. This is his first book.

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.6 von 5 Sternen  109 Rezensionen
46 von 48 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A rich, detailed and unforgettable look at modern basketball. 16. September 2010
Von Patrick McCormack - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
I started this book with an expectation that it would be a long magazine article, turned into a book. Instead, I found a richly detailed story about basketball, expectations, and real people in the world of sports.

The story is about more than a star recruit and a coach... this book is about the system of development, where athletes are given small perqs, and coaches collaborate in a system that rewards up and coming, young, very young players. Each step is logical, from shoe contracts to help with homework, from summer camps to being named a starter at a young age.

This book shows what is missing, which is the perspective. Being a good junior player is like being given a lottery ticket. Yet we communicate to these young people that they have nearly won the lottery, that they are special, that they have a chance at the brass ring. Each person -- the parent, the coach, the player, the school administrators -- give their tiny message of unwarranted optimism, of perspective-less encouragement, on a path that is quite unlikely to lead to riches and millions.

The writing is very good, the research is deep and layered, the stories told from many perspectives. At times, reading this book, you want to take the young players aside and give them a more accurate world view -- this book helps you understand that this is what is lacking, entirely, among the well-meaning coaches, high schools, players, camps, shoe companies, and the basketball-industrial complex.

Every coach and every player should read this book to understand the world of basketball within which they live.
24 von 26 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Very good. The shocking story of youth "pro" basketball. 25. September 2010
Von hasselaar - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
Having read "Friday Night lights", seen the movie and watched the series, I was sceptical about this book being able to contend with such quality. I am now a believer, this is a fine book, well-researched, well-written and a stunning display of how adults in the US are able to manipulate young kids into becoming their "meal tickets". I had no idea that kids as young as 10 or 11 could end-up on mini-pro teams, that there were men (coaches) who would prey upon these young basketball players in order to earn money and prestige for themselves. I was stunned to read that the major sports supplies businesses would pay and promote these ethics in their own bid to increase corporate profits. That so many parents allowed their young children to be manipulated in such a way was an astounding revelation. This book illuminates behaviours and actions that are scandalously wrong and need to be halted.

The "coach" featured in this book, a certain Joe Keller, is "on the make" and searching for any way to promote himself. He signs these young boys to a "team", uses them in every way possible, showing zero concern for their physical or mental health, building his own reputation through the efforts of the young boys in his care. He has no scruples, he lies to the boys, manipulates them against each other, "buys" boys from other teams, and generally comes across as one of the more unappealing characters ever to see the light of day.

It is appalling to read that young boys, as young as 10 or 11 are being "scouted" for pro-like teams and worked day and night, to the detriment of their education. The parents appear to be as bad as Mr. Keller, willingly turning their young children over to this brute, on the mere chance that this child might someday reach the NBA and enrich the parents. This is an awful situation, I recommend this book to all, especially those who might consider allowing their children to be swept-up by all of this vainglory.Read this book, the story is good, the writing is excellent and it presents a subject that seems to have been kept well-hidden from the general public.
23 von 27 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Insightful, a book with a purpose 11. Oktober 2010
Von Sanchez - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
What if I were to tell you that if you come with me and read this review, you'll make it someday. I'll do whatever it takes for you to read this review, because that's how confident I am that you are special. Honestly, I've never met anyone like you. You're incredible. We're going to be a team, you and I. You're so awesome. What? Your mom can't afford rent? Done. Helping you means that much to me. I'll always be there for you. OK, yes, we're like family. Every step of the way, you can rely on me. I can get you where you need to go. I have connections. Trust me.


What's great about this book is that it's not just for the basketball minded. In fact, it's an interesting study in human behavior, people using people to get ahead - only, in part, the people being used are 10 year olds. From chapter to chapter you have to remind yourself that these are just kids. Seriously. The pictures before every chapter helped remind you of that important detail. The narrative does a great job depicting the decisions and scenarios that surround these children at every turn. They're children. Before you know it, you involve yourself in those decisions. But believe me, you very rarely win. Shoe companies are using the coaches, coaches are using the kids, and the kids (rather their parents) are using the coaches. In the end, who wins? Bittersweet wins. College scholarships are on the horizon for some of these kids, that's the sweet part, and there are some real heroes in this story. The bitter comes with the success of the main (adult) antagonist/protagonist that with every chapter aims to "coach" his way into millions. Disliking he and the system he rode in on is the easy part. The hard part comes with, perhaps, finding yourself rooting against his teams at these kids expenses. Yes, he is THAT unlikable. It's not until (spoiler alert) he rather rudely drops them from his life, along with all of his promises, that these kids begin to run into some serious trouble dealing with that change in speed. It's then where you start to really feel terrible for them, regretting having felt angst when they succeeded under his tutelage (if you want to call it that). All the elements in a great story are here, live and in person. There are cautionary tales. There is some coming of age. And, unfortunately for a chapter or two, there is seduction. This book comes highly recommended, whether you are in it for the basketball or not. You'll get incredible access to the underworld of grassroots basketball, provided with the keys to the minivans that once drove the likes of Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and other highly touted phenoms of our generation. More importantly, you're also driving those that fell short, that's the rub. So punch your ticket, take the ride, it will cost you less than a pair of basketball'll know what I mean.

Now that you read my review:

It's a shame we can't continue our relationship. I guess we have to go our separate ways. I wish we could solve all our issues but I guess we will have to go our separate ways.
16 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen it's complicated 30. Juni 2011
Von Scott Saccenti - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
I come to this book with a lot of perspective. And some would say a lot of bias.

I have been coaching Division 1 AAU boy's basketball for three years now; I was involved as a parent for two years before that.

Most everything I have encountered in AAU basketball has been positive. Now that must sound crazy to anyone who has read this book, but who has not been close to the scene itself.

One cannot escape the writer's strong bias against AAU throughout these pages. If you accept his position, then you are going to regard AAU basketball coaches as predators. Adult men out to exploit kids, looking for profit. Simple as that. The writer might pay some lip service to exceptions to this formula, but it is just that, lip service.

The reality is exactly the opposite. There are coaches like Joe Keller, obviously. The writer found one. But that is the exception. That is one or two men in a hundred. I personally don't know anybody quite like Keller, and I know pretty much every coach from my age group in the Mid-Atlantic area.

There are some men in this for profit, and there are a few who eke out a small living. Those are the rare few though. As for guys who are making a swell living, making real money, getting rich, like Keller? Bet you can count the number of those, in the entire country, using just your fingers.

By far, BY FAR, the average AAU coach for younger teams, let's say 13U and under, are either dads who are coaching their sons, or men who once coached their sons all the way through, and have returned out of love of coaching to do it all over again with younger players. That second group, by the way, is far and away the preponderant one. Most all the guys I know on the better teams are men who have a long history of coaching, some twenty plus years, and started way back coaching their own kids.

Most everyone I know, and I mean upwards of 95%, don't make a dime doing this. Indeed, we are often deep into our own pockets coaching these teams. That is sure true of me.

And so it is frustrating to read this tale, and think that parents are going to come across this book and be soured on AAU because of a few bad apples.

I think it should be better emphasized: the coaches and teams that the writer describes in this book represent a tiny minority, the very very top handful of teams and situations in the country. My team finished top 30 in the country last season. I can tell you that there is a HUGE difference between #30 and #10. If you have a son who is good enough to make #10, then yes. You ought to read this book and you ought to tread very carefully. You ought to ask every question, and question every answer.

But that is a tiny minority. For regular folks, AAU basketball is a tremendously rewarding experience, full of hard work, competition, life's lessons, all the stuff that makes sport great. I would hate to see anyone turned off to it by this book.

ps. Two small things directly regarding the book itself. First, way too long. This is a magazine article expanded into a book, and it didn't need to be expanded SO MUCH! Second, the writer throughout uses the term "grassroots" instead of "AAU." I'd never heard this term before. Everybody says "AAU." Either "grassroots" is a term they use on the West Coast (where this book is almost exclusively centered), or the author really didn't get "close to the ground" after all. Yes. Pun intended.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Thank the shoe companies for the sleeze in youth basketball 15. November 2010
Von Bama Biker - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Just the tip of the iceberg. George Dohrmann, an award winnng Sports Illustrated senior writer, does a great job of exposing the underbelly of youth basketball. You have to feel for the kids who become pawns for the power brokers tied to shoe company grassroots promotion money and major alumni benefactors "donations" to the tax exempt "foundations" of these same AAU coaches and organizations. Pretty naive to believe that all these elite athletes are going to play at the college level for only scholarships covering tuition, room and board, and a small stipend after coming up through organizations where they received gifts, clothing, cars,phones, and spending money, and maybe their mom's rent paid for by their AAU coaches and/or their AAU coaches agent buddies. Sad commentary on how the whole "high level" youth basketball industry - and that is what it is - an industry - has evolved on the backs of kids with dreams of making it in the NBA.
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