Thursday, March 15, 2012

SI's George Dohrmann critiques college athletics

The state of youth basketball appears grim.

“It’s worse than it’s ever been. It gets worse every year,” Sports Illustrated senior reporter George Dohrmann told students at Penn State’s student union Tuesday night. Those who make it through the myriad camps are “survivors” to him.

On the NBA rule preventing players to jump straight to the pros, Dohrmann was even more outspoken.

“It’s absolutely silly and stupid,” he said, adding that because of money’s influence many young players are often treated as professionals.

Besides delving into the world of college athletics, Dohrmann imparted some journalistic wisdom to students as part of Penn State’s College of Communications Foster-Foreman Conference of Distinguished Writers.

Reporters need to allow the story to unfold and not come with some agenda.

“When I sit down with somebody, I just try to connect with them” Dohrmann said.

This approach allowed him to write Play Their Hearts Out, an award-winning book examining the world of boys youth basketball.

He shared an excerpt from the book that shed light on the pressures teens face. By the time one boy was 16, he went from being touted as the “next LeBron” to a bust. Dohrmann explained that these young people could start playing for their future in the NBA at 10 years old.

His investigative work on college sports has drawn the ire of fans. “It blows me away … that they assume you have some personal vendetta,” he said, later adding “I try not to worry about that fringe.”

Finding work in journalism is getting increasingly difficult, and Dohrmann strongly pushed for students to specialize in a subfield and offer unique skills to employers.

-- Steve Bien-Aime

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