Photo Credit: USA Today
I was recently approached with the question should female basketball players play on nine-foot goals to make the women’s game more exciting on all levels? The old me would’ve said yes without any hesitation. I always dreamed of being able to dunk and if I was able to play on a nine-foot goal instead of the normal 10-foot goal, that dream would’ve come true. Twelve inches is a big difference. However, I recently had the privilege to experience a WNBA game first-hand. The Washington Mystics battled the Atlanta Dream and it was an intense, high-energy game. The ladies balled out, and a lot of their plays should’ve made “SportsCenter’s” or “Fox Sports Live’s” top plays. To see that type of performance was reassurance that the women’s game is moving forward in the right direction. Now, I had a former high school girls basketball coach say that lowering the goals would increase the women’s game and bring in more fans. This statement may be true because if more women are dunking, catching alley-oops, slapping the glass and playing above the rim, this may garner the attention of more fans. On the other hand, this excitement comes at a cost. Essentially, this change would water down the women’s game. I’m all for change if it’s for the better, but this change would negate everything female basketball players have worked for thus far. To play with a smaller ball is one thing – many women can play just as well with men’s basketballs – but to change the height of the goals, female ballers would have to change their shots and that’s a problem.
Women would probably agree that, although it’s tempting, they don’t want the easy way out. Goals shouldn’t be lowered to nine feet, female players need to continue to play at a higher level. Many fans and college coaches are looking at girls basketball at the middle school and high school levels and focusing on the bad players instead of the talented ones. There are some players who get involved with the game at a young age, work hard and their performance shows, while others may play because their parents want them to, their friends are playing or other reasons that are a reflection of their performance. Genetically, males are more athletic than females, so male basketball players playing above the rim comes more naturally. Although there are athletic women who are explosive and can dunk , if fans judge the quality of the women’s game based on it being above the rim, then female basketball players will never be good enough. To me, excitement is not limited to dunking, it’s a jaw-dropping crossover, a nice pass, a good strip on defense, converting a circus shot or a blocked shot that gets fans out of their seats. This is the excitement that is more and more prevalent in the women’s game.
Another observation is that the talent of girls and boys basketball – at the middle and high school level – seems to diminish every year, with the exception of a few players. It’s more obvious with the girls than the guys, but it is something to pay attention to. Players are also a lot smaller now than past generations. High school players are starting to look like middle school ones. Size also impacts how someone judges the quality of the game. However, once you get to the college and professional levels, the quality of talent is much better because coaches can recruit and draft the players they want, instead of having to play with the hand they are dealt at the grade school level. Nevertheless, female basketball players should have the mentality and work ethic to be more than the best player on their team, in their state, in their region or in their country, but to be the best player in the world. If more of them have this mentality and work ethic, we would not be having this discussion.
In contrast, the shot clocks should be the same for men and women at the college levels. The men have a 35-second shot clock and a 10-second violation, whereas the women have a 30-second shot clock and no 10-second violation. I think both men and women should have a 35-second shot clock and a 10-second violation. This would help pick up the speed of the women’s game and the excitement level. A lot of times, women spend most of their shot clock in the back court and they struggle to get a shot off. A 10-second violation will help them play with more of a sense of urgency. However, the NCAA recently made the women’s three-point line the same as the men at 20 feet and nine inches, so that’s a plus. Furthermore, the WNBA now uses the same 24-second shot clock as NBA players. The difference in shot clocks at the college and professional levels are fine, because the goal is for players to be able to make adjustments as professionals. Most importantly, a shot clock is long overdue at the high school level. One of the most boring parts of the game is a team constantly holding and passing the ball around. At least a shot clock forces a team to shoot and creates more possessions in a game. What’s your take on this matter?