Friday, October 26, 2012

Above the Rim?

**Originally appeared on SLAM Online October 26th, 2012**
  Thanks to UCONN coach Geno Auriemma, there's a new-found debate in the world of women's hoops. Should the rims be lowered in the women's game?

  When the headline first come across my Twitter timeline a few days ago, I dismissed it with a 'no', as I shook my head. And quickly moved on.

  Then I saw it again. And again. And now that the subject is clearly going to linger longer than first anticipated, I just had to throw my two cents into the debate. As a female basketball player, of course I'm going to have an opinion!

  First and foremost, I find it disrespectful. The question insinuates that women can't play the game, with the same rules as men, just as well. But maybe that's the competitor in me talking.

  I get a little peeved when I hear complaints about the level of skill in the women's game, and their solution is to lower the rim. You don't search for a short-cut, you work even harder to improve your skills. Lowering the rim isn't going to make anyone handle the ball better, pass the ball better, or shoot better.

  People complain of missed layups. Don't lower the rims, practice finishing at the rim!

  People complain of missed jump shots. Don't lower the rims, practice your jumper!

  People complain of sloppy play. Don't lower the rims, practice your ball-handling!

  And no, I'm not delusional either. I am well-aware that the athletic ability most men possess exceeds that of most women. 

  Yes, the dunk is exciting and fun to watch. If I had the ability to do it, I would be dunking at every opportunity. But I realized at a young age (even to my dismay), that the dunk wasn't going to be a part of my basketball repertoire. So I worked on my skills! That being said, I think comparing the excitement level (based on dunks and athleticism) of the two games is a little unfair.

  But let's be clear, there are certain people who will never be a fan of women's basketball. I have come to understand that, and they are entitled to their opinion. Those non-fans will always have complaints about the game, no matter what you do.

  We cannot compromise the game in an attempt to garner the fandom of a certain group of fans who will never come.

  Be honest, if you aren't already a fan of women's hoops, will a handful of rather-pedestrian dunks entice you enough to watch on a regular basis? I don't think so.

  So my only question is this: what do you hope to accomplish by lowering the rims?

  Do you hope to increase its popularity?

  Do you hope to make the game more exciting by increasing the number of dunks?

  Do you hope to improve the quality of play?

  Improving the quality of play should be the only motivation. And by doing so, the other two matters will take care of themselves. Increased talent, fundamentals, and yes, athleticism, makes for a more entertaining game to watch. That's how you increase popularity. You improve the product.

  Focus on developing fundamentals at the youth-through-high school levels, to actually improve play. Don't just aim for what-seems-to-be-improvement via superficial means. That's like resorting to liposuction to lose weight instead of changing your diet, training, and working hard.

  There will always be comparisons between men's and women's basketball. Even with lowered rims, comparisons are unfair. Until everyone realizes they are two vastly different games, the women's game will always be searching for ways to appeal to the 'common' fan.

  We cannot continue to look at what the women's game lacks. If improving the quality of play, improving the product, is truly our motivation, the 'lowering the rims' question would never be asked. 

  It will take time, and a lot of effort. But one thing's certain, the skill and fundamentals can be improved across the board. How can we do it?

  That's what we should be debating.

  So no thanks, Geno. Lowering the rims is a bad idea, and would do nothing to improve women's basketball.


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