[Reading] ➽ Play Their Hearts Out Author George Dohrmann – Peakpopa.info
One reviewer billed this book as the Friday Night Lights of AAU basketball, and the book lived up to this lofty standard The author spent eight years following an AAU team, with much of the focus on the coach and the star player, who was once the No 1 ranked player as an 8th grader While I was aware of the arguments that the AAU system was a major cause of the degradation of team basketball, to see the system in action was downright repulsive The coach , after identifying Demetrius Walker as a star prospect, saw Walker as a launchpad to start his own multi million dollar youth camp, and as a way to build relationships with shoe companies I put coach in quotation marks, because it s evident that the vast majority of the top AAU coaches know next to nothing about basketball, and spend no time actually developing players, in this case, which left Walker with no understanding of how to actually play the game.Perhaps the slimiest aspect of the coach player relationship was the coach s purposeful decision to position himself as Walker s father figure, only to desert Walker when needed the most a situation repeated with several players throughout, with sad consequences.The other revelation was the degree that the shoe companies dominate youth basketball, all the way up to college I m not sure why a high school player, or even a middle school player here, should be permitted to receive dozens of free shoes and clothing from a shoe company, or how coaches and high schools can pay the rent for the star athletes This is an area where immediate reform, likely from the NCAA, is needed.The book touches on the shoe companies desire to reach these kids as early as 10 years old, and how the AAU coaches use this relationship as a stepping stone for personal riches to the detriment of the kids Bottom line, the world of big time AAU basketball, and by implication, college basketball, is a system of organized sleaze, exploitation of kids and their families, and a system designed to make the coaches millions of dollars. I really enjoyed this book and became attached to many of the people that Dohrmann follows At its core, it s a story about Demetrius Walker and the ways in which the grassroots basketball system chews him up and spits him out At various points I found myself wanting to stop the story to give Demetrius advice It seems even the author had a hard time remaining strictly a biographer and it s hard to blame him.The planets that orbit Demetrius are interesting in their own right Coach Keller, Aaron, Roberto, Rome, Terran, Jordan, etc Aside from Demetrius and Keller, I think the most interesting character is Justin His experience with Keller and the grassroots machine serves as a stark contrast to D s, in large part due to their respective parenting situations Justin and his mother serve to show that the grassroots machine can be beaten.When I finished this book, I immediately turned to the Internet for updates on all the players involved It will be interesting to see what becomes of them over the next few years. It s not a badly written book, exactly It s like an exceptionally written long form really long form investigative journalism piece It would have been better at 12,000 words than a full book And it s a depressing story of opportunist coaches exploiting kids And that sucks, though the author tells it well. This is a very interesting book, especially for someone who has a child children who play sports at a high level The book illustrates the morally questionable and highly profitable grassroots basketball system that funnels kids from grade school age travel through college recruiting As with all sports, it is not necessarily the early stand outs that ultimately reach the highest levels nor are those with the most talent coached guided to reach their greatest potential And as with life, the kids with active involved parents fare the best overall though not necessarily on the basketball court I think the most horrifying revelation of the book is simply the enormous amount of money spent by sneaker companies and pocketed by coaches tournament organizers on youth basketball While some money is used to benefit the players, most of that is divvied out strategically to benefit the coach organizer with little regard for the best interest of the player , and the remainder ends up in the coach organizers pockets. I am a die hard sports fan Evidence of this fact is not hard to find For instance I spent the majority of yesterday afternoon watching preseason NFL games All in anticipation of the Broncos opener and the debut of Touchdown Jesus Tim Tebow Basketball, and the NBA s Denver Nuggets rank second in the hierarchy of my rooting heart At least where the so called major sports are concerned Despite all that I rarely read sports related books My reasoning for this is simple I can usually place said sports books into three basic categories First is the success story I don t want to give the impression that I am some bitter armchair a hole who doesn t like to see people achieve their dreams However, I would much rather watch those sort of triumphs live The Saints recent Superbowl win is a good example of this Particularly because head coach Sean Payton and starting quarterback Drew Brees have both released books on the heels of the big win neither of which I have any intention of reading Sorry champs, I know how the story ends The second category is the hard luck heartbreaker The story of the star who didn t make it Sure there are lessons to be learned from such books but as I ve already said I do not derive pleasure from an athlete s failure Third, and most likely to draw my disdain is the tell all media whoring money grab The kind of book released by guys like Jose Conseco, full of finger pointing, and rife with tones of self righteousness Of course I don t condone cheating, yet there is something especially off putting about books like that Even so when you consider the fact that most authors of these books wouldn t be saying anything if they weren t broke and desperate for cash.Now that you know why sports related literature is a rarity for me you may wonder what makes George Dohrmann s Play Their Hearts Out an exception to the rule Well I d be remiss if I didn t admit that I was somewhat obligated I won an advance copy of this book through a goodreads giveaway Still there is a reason that this book enticed me to enter where others of it s ilk get no attention whatsoever The hook was that I wanted a better understanding of the so called grassroots game This is the term most closely associated with the AAU system The AAU organizes leagues and tournaments for grade school kids as young as seven, and as old as eighteen second grade, through highschool The AAU dabbles in almost all sports, but basketball is by far king in it s the youth sports machine Baseball has Little League Football has Pop Warner Youth basketball has no such establishment, outside the AAU, or at least not one so strong Basketball also differs in another big way The NBA s entrance procedure is different Players are not barred from joining the Association straight out of high school, and often than not, straight off an AAU roster Superstars can be, and are routinely drafted early The NFL still requires it s players to, if not attend college, at least wait three years after high school graduation before becoming eligible The MLB, though not shy about drafting youngsters, has an extensive minor league system where prospects develop before being sent up to the majors One need look no further than the NBA s two biggest stars to see the contrast Kobe Bryant and Lebron James never went to college They are both products, and prodigies of the AAU Other notables include Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, and Tracy McGrady.Basketball is unlike other team sports, in part because of it s limited team size Having only ten players in total on the floor at any given time means individuals have greater chance to shine, as individuals Yet the brighter spotlight is not all a natural occurrence Sponsorship greases the wheels of the AAU system in an unmatched capacity Specifically sponsorship of shoe companies, such as Nike, Adidas, and Reebok In the AAU it is common practice for coaches of elite teams to sign on as consultants with shoe companies, which nets them salaries and product in insane amounts in exchange for agreements to wear gear, and in many cases run sponsored tournaments and camps The money allows teams to travel nationwide and increase their top players profiles which helps explain some of how mega hype spreads The coaches themselves are some of the loudest drum beaters for potential phenoms, and as you will see subsequently, one of the most unsavory elements of grassroots basketball.I don t want to give away too much of the plot here, seeing as this advance review release date says 10.5.10 What I will say is that the story deals primarily with one star, Demitrius Walker, and the coach who discovered him Joe Keller At the age of nine or ten Walker was told by Keller that he was destined for the NBA, and of course riches beyond imagining Demititrius had size and quickness that other boys his age couldn t hope to match These types of promises are doubtless common, no matter how ludicrous they might seem Yet what Keller didn t mention to his golden boy recruit was both money and revenge were coach Joe s primary motives Years earlier Keller had been duped by local coach and power broker Pat Barrett when he handed over eventual 2 overall draft choice Tyson Chandler Barrett had promised a partnership which never materialized Barrett s SCA Stars were already sponsored by Nike, and so Keller thought he would extend either a joint team proposal or a similar contract to the one he enjoyed Dohrmann, who was writing a story for Sports Illustrated in 2000 hoped to get some dirt from Keller When their initial meeting revealed little, Dorhrmann assumed he d have to look elsewhere Still a relationship was forged, and Keller would eventually talk at length about his relationship with Pat Nothing goundbreaking was published at that point but after a follow up interview in 2001 Keller advised Dohrmann to keep in touch He explained his intention of starting a new squad to beat Barrett at his own game What is even telling is Keller s decision to allow extended access to his teams story once Walker was found Keller explained that as long as any comprehensive piece done about his team, or a book like this one waited until the conclusion to be published, he, meaning Keller, would be rich, and would no longer care what Dohrmann said.The story is a long one that spans over eight years From the inception of Keller s team the Inland Stars to the high school graduation of it s players The team is eventually re branded as Team Cal, following a sponsorship with Adidas The roster changed frequently but Demitrius was always the focal point as far as coach Joe was concerned Many Inland Stars Team Cal alums went on to sign with Division I programs This is the most positive part of the story to be sure It also proves Keller s eye for future talent What is also apparent however is Keller s reputation as a dishonest, and generally bad guy For example he is no longer on good or even speaking terms with his former players Walker s rise to a 1 ranked prospect in the 8th grade led to his being dubbed by one of Dohrmann s SI colleagues The Next LeBron in 2005 His life anointment shines a light on the darker side of expectations and the hunt for NBA dollars.Again I reiterate that I do not typically read sports books Play Their Hearts Out is than that This is the type of story that movie makers might salivate over If anything holds this back from being a blockbuster it will either be it s grittiness which may scare away family oriented film makers and it s length which could keep it from being a future Spike Lee Joint It s no real surprise that this was well written After all Dohrmann is one only four sportswriters to ever be awarded a Pulitzer Albeit an earlier series of stories he wrote for the St Paul Pioneer Press detailing academic fraud The book may not change the way you view basketball, but it will show you up close, what has changed basketball Review w song can be read and or heard on my bloghttp subliminalmaybe.blogspot.com 2 Perhaps the best sports book ever written. Eight Years Of Unfettered Access, A Keen Sense Of A Story S Deepest Truths, And A Genuine Compassion For His Subject Allow Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist George Dohrmann To Take Readers Inside The Machine That Produces America S Basketball Stars Hoop Dreams Aren T Just For Players The Fever That Grips College Basketball Prospects Hoping To Strike Big Time NBA Gold Afflicts Coaches, Parents, And Sneaker Executives As Well Every One Of Them Has A Stake In Keeping America S Wildly Dysfunctional, Incredibly Lucrative Youth Basketball Machine Up And Running No Matter The Consequences InPlay Their Hearts Out, George Dohrmann Offers An Up Close And Unforgettable Look Inside The Maw Of That Machine He Shares What He Learned From His Years Spent Embedded With A Group Of Talented Young Recruits From Southern California As They Traveled The Country Playing In Elite Amateur Athletic Union AAU Events It S A Cutthroat World Where Boys As Young As Eight Or Nine Are Subjected To A Dizzying Torrent Of Scrutiny And Exploitation Coaches Vie To Have Them On Their Teams Sneaker Companies Ply Them With Free Shoes And Gear All Star Camps Are Glorified Cattle Auctions, Providing Make Or Break Opportunities To Secure The Promise Of An Elusive College Scholarship At The Book S Heart Are The Personal Stories Of Two Compelling Figures Joe Keller, An Ambitious AAU Coach With A Master Plan To Find And Promote The Next LeBron Thereby Paving His Own Path To Power And Riches And Demetrius Walker, A Fatherless Latchkey Kid Who Falls Under Keller S Sway And Struggles To Live Up To The Unrealistic Expectations His Supposed Benefactor Has Set For Him As Their Fortunes Take Shape And The Pressure Mounts Demetrius Finds Himself Profiled In Sports Illustrated At Age Fourteen, While Keller Cultivates His Business Empire Dohrmann Weaves In The Stories Of Numerous Other Parents, Coaches, And Players Some Of Them See Their Prospects Evaporate As A Result Of Poor Decisions And Worse Luck Others Learn How To Thrive In A Corrupt System By Playing The Right Angles Written With Incomparable Detail And Insight, Play Their Hearts Out Is A Thoroughly Unique Narrative That Reveals The Inner Workings Of An American Game, Exposing The Gritty Reality That Lies Beneath So Many Dreams Of Fame And Glory I m really excited for this one I won it thru First Reads This book took me a little while to get into, but I was SO hooked It was literally like watching a train wreck and I would keep my husband up at all hours of the night telling him all the outrageous things I had read that day This story is Demetrius Walker s story about how as a 10 year old he was recruited by a jerk of a coach Joe Keller in the AAU system of SoCal Joe Keller used this boy so disgustingly to make himself a millionaire acted the father figure, hyped and marketed him to the point he was ranked 1 player in the country as a 6th grader That led Sports Illustrated to do a story on him titled The Next LeBron One tiny little drawback Keller knew jack about basketball and didn t teach D the fundamentals or how to work hard He had promised the boy he WOULD be in the NBA How do you think a 6th grader would handle the pressure Or how as a freshman, when everyone else had now caught up to him in size he fizzles out as his mentor drops him on his a I m sorry to even fake swear here but my indignation and anger at how one could so callously use another human being like this without regard for the child s best interest makes me want to vomit This is a child And Joe Keller is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of pariahs in the grassroots AAU system that suck the future out of these kids to line their pockets To read to the end of the book to find out how this all played out I can only say one thing D wasn t perfect, but for him to be where he is at now is credit to his character Crazy crazy Crazy I almost feel like I did at the end of reading The Glass Castle I think I was that outraged Not as extreme in treatment but in the blatant disregard for the welfare of a child p.s This is not a fast read It s a little detail laden only when it comes to basketball games especially at the end But being a girl that LURVES basketball I ate it up, yo I would recommend this to my friends who don t like basketball, they can just scan the play by play if they like but the story needs to be told. I ve watched countless hours of basketball in my life March Madness is my favorite time of year but didn t know much about grassroots youth basketball and just how dominant most Division I college NBA players have come out of that system and corrupt and unregulated it is This is an extremely illuminating look at grassroots youth basketball mainly in Southern California The author focuses on a coach, Joe Keller, and his protege, Demetrius Walker, who comes to see Keller as a father figure Keller hypes and thrusts Demetrius into the national spotlight a Sports Illustrated profile describes Demetrius as 14 going on LeBron This book follows Demetrius and other players on one of Keller s teams for eight years and the rise of Keller s star as he develops his youth basketball empire and callously discards whoever no longer serves a purpose for him Some of his kids don t have the right guidance starting with the coach himself and fall through the cracks while still hoping to play Division I basketball one day , while others come out OK because they had a parent watching out for them Unfortunately, some of the parents are as despicable as the coach like the single mom who decided where her son should go to high school on the basis of which coach subsidized her rent by 1000 a month , even though that coach had faced allegations of molestation AND her son had been molested by one of her husbands and refused to remove her kid from that atmosphere even after her son told her the coach had actually made advances toward him I was amazed at the pressure facing these kids at such a young age The shoe companies Nike, Reebok Adidas are complicit in the grassroots process by sponsoring teams and showering 9 year old players with shoes and gear hoping to gain their loyalties so that they ll go on to, say, a Nike sponsored high school or summer team or college and even paying some coaches salaries like that of Keller Interestingly, there are rules for college coaches recruiting high school players, but not for college coaches vis a vis players who are not yet in high school, so we hear accounts of coaches from high visibility programs such as USC UCLA Kentucky Florida scouting middle schoolers and younger at summer camps sponsored by the big shoe companies Highly recommend for any sports fan If I read a better book in 2012, I ll be very shocked and pleasantly surprised, as this book is about as good as it gets.The author, George Dohrmann, follows an AAU basketball team and its players,coaches and parents for eight years This book has been called by some people the Friday Night Lights of youth basketball I couldn t disagree I actually liked some characters in Friday Night Lights No, the Hamlet of youth basketball is probably better.Although without giving away the ending, you find yourself not liking most of the characters, ESPECIALLY the main head coach Joe Keller, and a lot of the parents The story focuses on Keller and how he helps out these kids, but his main focus seems to be just trying to find a winning lottery ticket and the next Lebron James that he can use to make money off The line that ends the first section of the book made me actually throw my book down to the ground in digust I knew youth basketball was bad, I didn t know just HOW BAD it was Read this book with fine reporting and find out for yourself A good story, you seem to be rooting for a lot of the players and hoping that through it all, they can find a way to make it A must for any sports fan of any kind and it should be required reading for journalists.