Volume 74, Number 37 | January 19 -25, 2005

Coach Lauryn Lynch, right, goes over teamwork with a member of The Team.

Ball hogs take back seat to balance in girls’ league

By Judith Stiles

Being a ball hog can make a 10-year-old basketball player look like a mini-superstar as he or she dribbles around everyone on the other team, with a few clever fakes before the shot. This type of play wins games for a year or two, that is, until the opposing defenders figure out how to thwart this kind of move.

Ask any player in the Greenwich Village Girls’ Basketball league and she will affirm that being a ball hog and going solo in their games doesn’t fly with their coaches, who all happen to be women who play basketball themselves, along with volunteering their time to coach the youngsters. 

The girls will tell you that ball hogs can be a source of annoyance to teammates and even spectators. However, Coach Beth Grys, a player in the Chelsea Piers Women’s League, has no problem working out the glitches with ball hogs. She says with a wink, “Ball hogs? Heh, I pull them aside and talk to them in a positive way. Then I go over set plays again and again, which force them to pass. I use a lot of repetition in practices,” she adds.

Under the leadership of Commissioner Harry Malakoff, the G.V. Girls’ Basketball League has placed an emphasis on teamwork, while all the coaches seem to have remarkable disregard for developing individuals to become star basketball players. The league is known for its noncompetitive environment, and since the day the league began in 1993, girls of all abilities from 10 to 14 years old feel welcome to join a team and learn more about the game.

By the third week in January, both the younger and older divisions are more than halfway through their season, with seemingly no discussion in the bleachers about standings. Samantha Fried of Greenwich Village, hung around after her own game to watch The Team, coached by Lauren Lynch, play the Justis Mortgage team, coached by Grys. “I had Beth as a coach and she was really nice but really tough,” emphasized Fried, who wants to be a physical education teacher when she grows up. “I learned so much…such as a lot of defensive and offensive drills,” she added, never mentioning her wins and losses that year.

In the beginning of the season, the coaches observe the players in one evening and assign them to teams with an informal draft. For over a decade, the league has enjoyed a reputation for having very evenly matched teams. This is no easy feat when girls between 10 and 14 are going through puberty and growth spurts, resulting in teams like Justis Mortgage where number 12 is twice the height of a rookie on the same team.

In what was described as a typical Saturday at G.V. Girls’ B-ball League, the game between The Team and Justis was tied 9-9 at the end of the third period. Then in the final period, with 31 seconds to go, with The Team leading 15-13, Coach Grys called a timeout and calmly spoke with her players sotto voce, and then sent them back on the court. Soon, with only seven seconds to go, Kasey Mc Kenna of Justis drove down the lane and made a smooth layup to tie the game, forcing overtime. According to Fried, tie games and overtime are business as usual in this basketball league, because the teams are so well balanced.

As the season winds down, you can catch their games Saturday mornings at the P.S. 41 gym, 116 W. 11th St., or watch them play at halftime at the N.Y.U. women’s game versus Brandeis University, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., at the Coles Sports Center, 181 Mercer St. You can also observe a practice or two on Friday nights at the Children’s Aid Society and see the magical art of how these coaches set a tone of inclusiveness with all the players, regardless of how athletic a girl might be.

And oh yes, the final score of the game? There were lots of cheers and no tears when Justis Mortgage finally won the game 18-15, and although it was over, the players lingered in the gym to discuss what they might cover in the next practice. Coach Amy Friedman, who hasn’t missed a practice with her teams in over five years, was lamenting that next Friday night she will be absent because of a trip to California. Her players were a bit disappointed. “But don’t worry,” she said to the girls, “I’ll be calling in the drills on my cell phone!”

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