Ted Farmer knows what it’s like to love basketball and not be able to play.
He landed a basketball scholarship at Southern Illinois University in the late ’50s, but a freshman football injury ended his college basketball career before it even started.
“It was the biggest disappointment of my life at that time,” he said.
Farmer, 76, of Belleville, went on to run his own insurance agency for 40 years and spent a lot of time watching his children, grandchildren and other kids play basketball. He couldn’t help but notice simple mistakes that kept many from improving their games or being picked for teams.
“There’s probably a lot of talent out there that’s being wasted,” he said. “It’s never developed. The problem is, schools can’t hire enough coaches to reach all the kids.”
That’s where Farmer got the idea to self-publish “Basketball: Basic Suggestions for Becoming a Better Shooter, Player and Person.”
The 55-page guide is straightforward, written with large type for all ages and divided into chapters on everything from layups to rebounds, dribbling to free throws.
“Most young kids aren’t strong enough to shoot free throws with both toes on the line,” Farmer said. “So they’ve got to find out where they can get the most balance by experimenting with foot placement.”
The guide’s forward is written by Jay Harrington, coach of the Blue Storm men’s basketball team at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville since 1979.
The two became friends when Farmer served as a SWIC board member for eight years in the ’80s.
Harrington wrote that Farmer’s suggestions reminded him of the basketball fundamentals that guided him as as a boy, growing up on a farm and practicing mostly on his own.
“Mr. Farmer has a knack of drawing your attention to the proper techniques that have been in place for years but not discussed for young players in this manner,” Harrington wrote.“... I certainly feel that if every kid took his suggestions to heart, we would have better prepared basketball players in the future.”
Farmer would like to see the guide used as a fundraising tool for local school basketball programs, an alternative to selling candy bars or popcorn. He’s willing to give copies to booster clubs and other charitable organizations at the printing cost ($3 each) so they could be sold for $10 at a $7 profit.
“I’m 76 years old, and I don’t need to be making money off something that could help someone,” he said.
Farmer was a shooting star at Valier High School (between Du Quoin and Benton), which led to his SIU scholarship. His “ego” led him to believe he could play college basketball, football and throw discus in track.
Farmer injured his knee, broke his jaw and a few ribs, knocked out teeth and badly cut his eye playing football. The freshman-year knee injury ended his basketball career.
“But the school honored my scholarship,” he said. “Everything was paid for four years.”
It was back at Valier that Farmer concluded that basketball is largely a game of percentages. Players who make baskets 25 percent of the time get cut from teams while those at 65 percent become starters. That’s why his guide heavily focuses on shooting skills.
“In basketball, you’ve got to square off and make sure you have reverse spins on the ball,” Farmer said. “Those are just the fundamentals.”
The guide is designed as instruction for younger players and reinforcement for older ones. It also has a motivational component.
Farmer explains that he wasn’t a very good basketball player in grade school and usually sat on the bench, causing other kids to laugh at him.
“My dad saw how much I wanted to be a good basketball player, so he put up a goal in the back yard, and it wasn’t long before the grass became a bare spot,” he writes. “The strangest thing happened. The more I practiced, the better I became.”
For more information, call Farmer at 618-277-6081 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.