THE HEART OF THE GAME is a terrific sports documentary that focuses on
a girls' high school basketball team in Seattle, Washington. Initially director Ward Serrill
had planned to solely concentrate on coach Bill Resler, who is more than a character.
Resler was an inspired choice as a movie subject: a college professor with minimal
experience who agreed to coach the girls' team at Roosevelt High School. Resler
took a ragtag group and instituted changes that helped to build spirit and teamwork.
He made the young women do repetitive drills designed to build up their stamina.
Each year, he also selected a theme to describe the team. One year it was "pack of
wolves" (with the exhortation to "draw blood" from the opposing teams), while another
year it was "tropical storm." His unique style had the desired effect, though, as the
team coalesced and began to win games and eventually qualify for state and regional

 With the recruitment of player Darnellia Russell, though, Serrill's film shifted gears.
Resler began to take a backseat to the story of this young girl. A street-tough African-
American who was not happy to be attending the predominantly Caucasian high school,
Russell was a naturally gifted athlete. Under Resler's tutelage, she began to build on her
strengths and developed into one of the school's -- and the region's -- best players.

 When a life-altering event occurred that threatened her future -- I refuse to spoil
an audience's enjoyment of the film, although astute viewers will have figured out
the "surprise" before the filmmaker reveals it -- Russell has to fight to regain her spot
on the school team. Serrill builds the tension in the final third of the film which says a
lot in that the outcome may seem a foregone conclusion, especially given the
support that Russell receives from Resler as well as her teammates.

 Narrated by Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges,
THE HEART OF THE GAME falls in the
tradition of the best sports films and is well worth seeing.

                             Rating:                       B +
                             MPAA Rating:          PG-13 for brief strong language
                             Running time:           97 mins.

                                     Viewed at the Park Avenue Screening Room
The Heart of the Game
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.