School Nights

The small gym is hot and crowded. Hundreds of fans are on their feet, stomping and cheering. A lone player stands at the free-throw line, with the scoreboard revealing only a few seconds left in a tie game. The pressure is intense, and that's just the way that the players and coaches like it.

There are few sports more exciting than high school basketball. And as the fall season turns into winter, thousands of teenagers are getting ready to heat up courts all over the country.

The Players: For different student-athletes, the high school basketball season can mean different things. If a talented player has aspirations to play ball in college and even the pros, the high school season is a way to get noticed by college coaches. Throughout the season, college coaches may recruit players and even offer scholarships. For players who are not interested in playing in college, high school basketball is a great way to stay in shape while playing a game they love. Being a part of a team is also a good way to make friends and learn how to work with others.

The Teams: High school basketball teams usually have a strong connection to their schools and their communities. Unlike the pros, high school teams are not playing for money or for national television audiences. And unlike big-time college hoops, they are not playing for a big national championship. They compete against other teams in their area for league, county and state titles. They also play to learn about the value of sportsmanship and setting and achieving goals.

The Coaches: At the high school level, coaches are very much like other teachers. Sure, they draw up plays and teach players the X's and O's of the game. But their main purpose is not to win games. It's to educate their players, to help them grow up the right way. They teach values and morals, not just winning and losing.

The Fans: One of the reasons fans love high school basketball so much is because they feel like they are a part of the team. The fans are usually friends and relatives of the players. They sit next to them in class and at the dinner table. The fans feel personally connected to the players on the team, making the atmosphere at games that much more exciting.

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