"Basketball Beyond the Floor"

I have loved doing this feature over the summer. "Basketball Beyond the Floor" has been so much fun and after next week, I am really going to miss it. I truly believe in the power of knowledge you can only get from reading. So even though this feature will soon hibernate until next summer, I want you to keep reading and writing to tell me about your picks. Magazine, newspaper, internet article, children's book or novel it doesn't matter. As always, you can contact me through the Dino Nation Blog site or our Face book Fan page. As another chapter ends, a new one will be beginning in a new feature called "Behind Enemy Lines". This will take the place of "Basketball Beyond the Floor" on Thursdays and look at the teams the Toronto Raptors will be playing in the upcoming week. Game analysis, injuries, stats or what's flying on my newsworthy radar will make the cut. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. A good, healthy debate is the cornerstone of a democratic society and when its about basketball, it just makes it that much more fun, doesn't it? Now onto today's discussion: Basketball: Learn how to be a star player by Matt Parselle versus The Young Basketball Player: A Young Enthusiast's Guide to Basketball written by Chris Mullin with Brian Coleman.

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

Before I really had a chance to comb through each book, I enlisted the help of a very well-read 6 year-old. I left her alone with both books and came back after ten minutes to gage her first impressions. She liked Basketball: Learn how to be a star player better because it "had more kids pictures" and "was easier to follow". I would have to agree. For the average young player just picking up the game in a fun house league, this is a good book for them. I like how each section was introduced by a 'character' from the game, such as a coach or referee. Each time, different parts of the game are explained in a very easy to understand and conversational way: "A basketball team has five players and you can play in one of three positions - guard, center or forward. Whichever position you choose, you'll need to master all the skills of the game...". Very basic, yes. But a very important point to make for a young player just starting out. It is important to master all the skills of the game whatever position you lean to. This is the challenge I had playing Division III Indoor Soccer when I was in university. I loved being in net and stopping the fast balls. Once in a blue moon, I may have ventured out on defense but for the most part was a goal keeper. Well, when I ventured onto college for my broadcast journalism degree, I tried out for the school soccer team feeling pretty confident. That is, until the coach put me out on forward and I just couldn't produce a goal. Now, I know in soccer goals are harder to come by than baskets in basketball, but this example shows how if I just tried forward once in a while it would have made me appreciate the position a little more and maybe help me read my opponent a little better when they are coming at my net.

Like Peas in a Pod

So when I had a little 'audience' background going into a book that was clearly not geared for me, I looked at it from a technical perspective. While I agree Basketball: Learn how to be a star player was easier to follow, it alienated the Canadian player right from the first page: "There are different ways of playing basketball - in this book we follow US college rules...". Now switching gears to The Young Basketball Player, its first page had an opening from Chris Mullen - then of the Golden State Warriors- and adjacent to this, a paragraph on how basketball was born in Canada by Dr. James Naismith. So even though the intro is laced with players in Team USA or NBA jerseys, the young Canadian player knows the roots of basketball started here. Turning the page, I see The Young Basketball Player is doing the same thing as our other book for discussion. It explains the rules and parameters of the game but in a more detailed way - a step up from the more junior-geared explanations in Basketball: Learn how to be a star player. For me, The Young Basketball Player has more credibility since its focus is to improve your game - not make you think you are going to be a star player. It also explains how NBA and FIBA rules work and uses real-to-life photos of age-appropriate players going through the motions of proper dribbling, passing, fast breaks and more. So if you know a young basketball player in maybe the senior grades of elementary school, this book would prove to be quite helpful.

A Common Thread

Although in The Young Basketball Player it is more prominent, both show young girls playing the game. This made me very happy. There are a lot of how-to books out there for many sports, geared to young ones but are really focused with the male player in mind. We have Canadian-born women playing professional ball in the WNBA and overseas but in Canada? Most WNBA teams are tied to an NBA club and with the Raptors taking us on this emotional roller coaster, I don't see Toronto or any other city in Canada getting a WNBA franchise anytime soon. Along these lines, too many times I see retail stores with 'girls' and 'boys' sections - the 'boys' sections having the sports-related merchandise and the 'girls' ones with flowers and cutesy things. "Sugar and spice and everything nice" is OK for some but why do some retailers think they can't make money off the female athlete. There are a lot of us out there. I do have hope, though. I was in a grocery store recently and flipping through a cake book and saw a "Girls Basketball Cake". And it wasn't all "girl-ized and hokey" either - real athletes. All excited, I asked the baker if they did other sports and she replied "Girls and Boys Sports cakes. Oh yeah, we do all of them". Thank God.

Flick Pick of the Week

Today's pick I haven't yet watched but plan to this weekend. "Above the Rim" has names in it like Tupac Shakur and Marlan Wayans and is about a young player with aspirations of being a professional. I know it has been done before but I heard it was worth watching and a Wayans brother is in it so I have to watch. Next week, our last and final "Basketball Beyond the Floor" of the off-season, will be dedicated to our young players - the future of our game. I wanted some Canadian content, so I am choosing Steve Nash: Most Valuable Player by Peter Bailey and adding Arthur and the Pen-Pal Playoff by Marc Brown. I know you all have sons or daughters or nieces or nephews or young ones in your lives, so try these ones out with them and we'll talk next week. I will be here on Tuesday as always with "Jiggly Bits", so until then, happy reading.

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