The Daring Book for Girls
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Andrea Buchanan
All right reserved.ISBN: 9780061472572
Rules of the Game: Basketball
Basketball was first played with a soccer ball and a suspended wooden peach basket when it was invented in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith at a YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. Girls originally shot hoops wearing Victorian petticoats, white muslin pinafores, and silk slippers. The dress code has thankfully changed, and basketball today is one of the few team sports that a girl can not only learn in elementary school but also dream of playing professionallly.
Basketball opened up to girls—real uniforms and all—in the 1970s. The United States passed a law known popularly as "Title IX" (the full name is Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972), which said that no one, girls or boys, can be excluded from participating in school activities if that school receives federal funds. Some schools resisted, but many more decided to open up team sports to girls. As a result of Title IX, girls can now play sports at all school levels, and college women's basketball in particular has become a popular sport to watch and play.
Women's basketball made its Olympics premiere in 1996, and the American team won the gold. In 1997, the Women's National Basketball Association launched with star players, including Sheryl Swopes, Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie, and Cynthia Cooper.
Point Guard: She's the shortest, quickest, and best ball-handling player on the team. The Point Guard doesn't shoot much, but she is the team leader on the court and manages the plays.
Shooting Guard: She specializes in getting the ball in the basket and scoring points. She's skilled in hitting those three-point baskets from outside the line and darting to the basket for layups. Great with the ball, she can throw, dribble, and shoot in her sleep.
Center: She's the strongest, tallest, and highest-jumping player on the team. On college and professional teams, all eyes are on the Center. The Center rules the free-throw lane, and she shoots from right under the basket. She gets right into the mix, creates the space to shoot and score, and is also a major factor on defense for rebounding.
Power Forward: She grabs the rebounding ball from the other team's point, fast breaks it down the court, dribbles hard, and passes to the Center. She's also a good shooter. Actually, all the players need to be good shooters.
Small Forward: The Forward does it all. She shoots, runs, passes the ball, and scores, scores, scores. She's the ultimate player, and can substitute for anyone.
Of course, none of this matters if you're playing a pickup game or shooting solo at the hoop in front of the house.
Dribbling: Cup your hand so that it's not your palm bouncing the ball, but the pads of your fingers. Think of a push-and-pull motion as you move your arm. Practice dribbling the ball—not too high or low—'til you can do it without looking. In a game, you won't have time to watch your hand on the ball. You'll be too busy preventing other players from taking it, and holding them at bay by stretching out your non-dribbling arm.
Passing: Throw the ball to a player who is primed to shoot, or who can protect it from the other team.
Shooting: Get your arms out in front, elbows bent. Your stronger arm holds the ball, the weaker supports it. Your hands are close together, with the fingers spread. Flick your wrist back, and push the ball into the air toward the net. Really push. For more fun, try a jump shot. Position yourself in classic ready position: two feet on the floor, legs slightly bent and shoulder-width apart, one foot slightly forward, and shoulders squared to the basket. Hold the ball with your arms and hands high and cock your wrists back. Aim for the backboard. When you shoot, stay relaxed, look at the rim, uncock your wrists—and push the ball into the air while you jump up and slightly back. The power from your legs pushes through to your arms and sends the ball high into the air toward the net. You will be able to score many more points over the outstretched hands of defenders if you can perfect this fade-away jump shot.
Scoring: Shoot from inside the semicircle, it's two points. Shoot from outside, it's three. If someone fouls you and you stand at the freethrow line to shoot, that's one point.
You might think that being good at basketball is about strength in your arms. Yes, but not entirely. The real strength is in your legs. The stronger your legs are, the more power you send into the ball and the easier the jump shot will be. How do you strengthen your legs? You jump. Jump everywhere: five times across the court and back, long jumps, short jumps, up and down the sidewalk in front of your house, or inside in the hallways. You are in training: jump, jump, jump.
After you've learned to dribble (and remember the two-hundred-time rule: you can do anything once you've tried two hundred times), you're ready for tricks. Basketball is filled with show-off moves: bounce the ball under your legs, between your legs, slam-dunk the ball into the net, or pirouette away after you shoot. With a practiced flick of the wrist you can even twirl the ball on your index finger. Here are two behind-your-back moves.
Bounce behind the back: First, master the crossover dribble. Instead of the usual single-hand dribble, bounce the ball from your right hand toward the left, and then dribble with the left. Bounce the ball from your left hand and pick up with your right. Keep bouncing and dribbling back and forth. That's called a crossover. Practice until you get it. Now, try crossing behind your back. Dribble the ball with your right hand, move the ball to your right side, and bounce it behind you, picking up the dribble with your left hand.