Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2010
: Each year, millions of grammar school athletes swarm fields and courts armed with little more than an infectious love for their games. These endeavors represent the purity of sport, as kids are allowed to be kids and compete outside the demands of lucrative contracts and extensive media coverage. Yet sadly, as George Dohrmann's Play Their Hearts Out
demonstrates, such a paradise is fading fast in today's corporate sports world. Dohrmann provides a first-hand account of the rise of a nine-year-old basketball phenom and the grassroots programs that both helped and hindered his dreams of superstardom. To call this story a cautionary tale is to sell it short, as Play Their Hearts Out
is an unflinching look at the increasing need for hype in youth athletics. Fans of the brilliant Hoop Dreams
documentary are advised to add this book to their cart immediately, as Dohrmann's masterful ability to remove himself from the plotline achieves an honesty that leaves any and all judgments to the reader. --Dave Callanan
Photographs from Play Their Hearts Out
Starred Review. 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.
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