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.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST SPORTS BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE LOS ANGELES TIMES • THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR • KIRKUS REVIEWS
Look for the exclusive conversation between George Dohrmann and bestselling author Seth Davis in the back of the book.
Dohrmann, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for Sports Illustrated, spent eight years chronicling the struggles and triumphs of a select group of California youths who chased their dream in his wonderful and immaculately reported first book. Dohrmann largely focuses his work on Demetrius Walker, the hoops phenom who seems destined for stardom at a young age, his travel team from California, and the club's complex and bombastic coach, Joe Keller. Dohrmann began reporting on the book back in 2000, when Walker and many of his teammates were only 10 years old, and followed them through to their high school graduation. Along the way, he shows the brutal nature of "grassroots" basketball, in which coaches can view their players as "investments," the power of sneaker companies in youth basketball, and the cutthroat antics of collegiate recruiting. But this is equally a story about relationships and the sad deterioration of many of them, whether it be among teammates, parents and son, or coach and player. It's a brilliant and heart-wrenching journey, and a cautionary tale to any basketball player who thinks the path to the NBA is a slam dunk. \n
Thus basketball mom thanks you
Thank you George Dohrmann. This book was a great read and has given me, I'm sure, just a small peek behind the scenes of grassroots basketball. It did kind of sadden me, but I'm glad to know.
I am the mother of a 12 year boy old who loves basketball. He of course started at the local YMCA at 3 years old. He continued at the rec level until the age of 9, when we were introduced to travel basketball. At the time he would go between basketball and soccer during each respective season. The overlap became too much to manage, playing both on the same day. The details escape me, but I remember him changing clothes in he car, as his dad drove from one venue to the next.
His first love was actually soccer. As it was discovered that he was the tallest kid on the team, not afraid of the ball coming toward him, and could stop shots that others couldn't, he became a permanent goal keeper at 9 years old. He liked the position, but missed running around with everyone else. At the same time, travel basketball was growing on him. Our first travel team was an absolute joy. The closeness of the boys, the parents, and coaches as we traveled the area for tournaments was a new and enjoyable experience for all of us. Simultaneously we were learning all of these new acronyms... AAU, YBOA, USSSAB, NAYBA. We needed to know what's the difference and why aren't we playing in more competitive tournaments? Parents were becoming aware of things that it seemed we were not expected to ask about or know about. Needless to say that team broke up, starting our travel ball shuffle, which I am working to bring to a hault, and this book has been very helpful.
Sometimes you have to get out of your feelings and think this through. We are trying to be smart, but the extra noise from coaches (yours and the ones that claim to want to be yours), parents, trainers, other players experiences all make it tricky to maneuver through this with and for our son. He definitely wants to play ball beyond high school, while I'm trying to make sure he does what is necessary to make the high school team. Thanks for your help.
As a former high school basketball player and huge basketball fan pro and college, this book made me see the game I love in a whole new light. Amazing read full of emotion and jaw dropping truths.
Play their heart out was an amazing book. It makes you feel in the players lives that you know them and has amazing ups and downs. From the triumphs of winning a tournament to suffering a crushing defeat dohrmann puts you in the book and tells you an amazing story of greed, triumph, heartbreak, and dedication.