After coaching more than 1,200 games in 40 years, winning eight championships, and being named “Coach of the Year” by the Yeshiva League, Bobby Kaplan could well be called the king of the hardwood floor.
But he admits that when he was a high school freshman, he didn’t make his school basketball team. “The coach told me I was too short to make the cut,” said Kaplan, who is slight and stands at about five-foot-six. “I came home that day crying.”
The rejection armed him with some life lessons that helped him rise to prominence on the court.
|Bobby Kaplan’s shirt shows the cover of his new book, “Bball Basics for Kids.”|
Kaplan, who lives in Teaneck and is a longtime basketball coach at Torah Academy of Bergen County and the Frisch School, brings a combination of knowledge and compassion to the game.
“I love coaching,” said Kaplan, who is affectionately called “Coach K” by many of his players. “To some degree, there’s a difference when you coach Jewish kids. There’s a bigger stress on sportsmanship and camaraderie in the yeshiva world. Of course, everyone wants to win, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a right way of doing it.”
He hopes to share his expertise with the next generation of athletes in his recently published book, “Bball Basics for Kids.” The handbook, which is self-published and won two publisher’s awards, aims to help youngsters learn the basics. That includes dribbling, passing, and rebounding – and it also includes the game’s values – respect, cooperation, sacrifice and perseverance.
Kaplan, who grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and attended the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, grew up shooting hoops. He eventually did make his high school team and proved to be a talented player. His first coaching experience was with the Young Israel of Manhattan and the Educational Alliance. Though he worked a fulltime job in industrial psychology, he went on to coach at Ashar for 14 years, and then at Frisch and later TABC, where he now is the athletics director.
Book writing was never in the plans for Kaplan, whose life was busy enough with coaching, teaching and his fulltime job until he retired from the corporate world nearly two decades ago. But things changed some 15 months ago, when a TABC colleague asked Kaplan to recommend a book on basketball basics that he could give to his young grandson. After some research, Kaplan realized there wasn’t much on store bookshelves that would resonate with kids. “I reviewed approximately 300 titles that allegedly were for kids,” he said. “They were either extremely infantile or so complex nobody – not even coaches – could understand what they were saying.”
Then he recalled that when he was owned IBA, a basketball academy summer camp in Israel and upstate New York, he produced a basketball handbook for campers that he campers had enjoyed. He rummaged through his basement and found the booklet. After he gave it to his friend for his grandson, he found out the boy loved it so much he took it to bed with him. Everyone suggested he publish it.
Soon “Bball Basics” took shape, as Kaplan expanded on his original guide by creating a step-by-step, easy-to-read, and fun way to learn the fundamentals of the sport. The book is chock full of pointers, with chapters on shooting, dribbling, rebounding, passing; there also are photos. There is even a section on the history and rules of the game and some sound advice on nutrition.
The book has an unusual feature: the ability to customize photographs so that teams and schools across the country can include their own players in the book.
Kaplan opted to include several inspirational stories based on real life incidents to teach some valuable lessons to today’s young players.
“I think to be good at anything, it takes work and dedication and commitment and understanding of what it is to be on a team and your role on the team,” Kaplan said. “Kids today have so many outside interests. It’s important for them to have the appreciation of how fortunate they are to wear the team uniform.”