The Heart of the Game

"Draw blood!" shouts Bill Resler, a tax professor at the University of Washington. He's not encouraging the IRS, he's juicing up the girls' basketball team he coaches on the side. If you're thinking this is another of those cloyingly inspirational Disney sports dramas, such as Glory Road, Stick It and Goal!, think again. Director Ward Serrill, who spent seven years chronicling Resler's experiences with Roosevelt High School's Roughriders, has no stomach for turning documentary truth into a Hallmark card. By focusing on Darnellia Russell, one of the few black players on a white team, Serrill digs deep into the social and economic conditions that threaten to keep Darnellia down and the no-bull spirit she finds in her coach and her own bruised heart. It doesn't matter that the acclaimed Hoop Dreams played the same game. There's no denying the exuberant energy and emotional force of this movie. It gets to you.

From The Archives Issue 448: May 23, 1985