cover of book

Vicarious Thrills: A Championship Season of High School Basketball
by Paul E. Bates
Southern Illinois University Press, 1995
Paper: 978-0-8093-1979-4 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-8298-9
Library of Congress Classification GV885.43.C37B38 1995
Dewey Decimal Classification 796.323620977399


This engaging book chronicles the Carbondale Terriers’ 1993–94 season, a season in which the team progressed all the way to the state high school basketball championship game before ending the season with a one-point loss.

Although arranged chronologically, the book is much more than a team diary. Paul E. Bates, whose son was one of the team’s starting guards, brings his sensitivity and expertise as an educational psychologist to bear on team sports in general and on how they define and are defined by the players and coaches that make up the teams and by the communities in which they thrive.

Bates frames the team’s experience by sharing his own personal love of basketball, beginning with his childhood years in Decatur, Illinois, when Stephen Decatur High School was a perennial Illinois high school powerhouse. Through his exploration of the sport and his involvement and interest in it, Bates creates a book that serves both as a rousing tale of youthful achievement and as a history of high school basketball in the state of Illinois.

Throughout his account, Bates repeatedly emphasizes his belief that extraordinary accomplishment is no accident but rather the result of years of preparation, dedication, and hard work. Most of the key performers on the 1993–94 Terriers, for example, had played together on a grade school all-star team that was undefeated. Then, in junior high, this group went on to win numerous championships, and in high school their remarkable success continued, even though their accomplishments were humbled by season-ending losses.

But Vicarious Thrills leads the reader through a very personal account of both the ups and downs of championship basketball. Triumph does not occur without defeat, and it is through defeat that the team members, as well as their families and other supporters, learn many important lessons. As significant as the individual and team accomplishments are in making up this story, the 1993–94 basketball season is more importantly a beginning rather than the defining moment in the lives of these young men.

As an inspiration and motivation to young people, and as a spark to memories of childhood aspirations for older readers, this book is a pleasure to read for individuals of all ages.

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