Dear Gary, Thank you so much for your donation of $500, we really appreciate it. This is a tremendous help to us. Many thanks again Gary, your generosity is appreciated. Sincerely, Jennifer & Bruce Caughill
A league of their own
A league of their own. A number of girls from Niagara-on-the-Lake were on the Niagara Falls Red Raiders novice squad that won a provincial championship last season. SUBMITTED PHOTO
School teacher Jennifer Caughill can’t remember a time when girls had a shot at playing club basketball in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Caughill and a small group of hoops fanatics are paving the way to bring the game of basketball to town as soon as this fall.
The goal is to create a basketball league for girls with an emphasis on learning and fun.
“One step at a time. We want to start with these two teams and get them up and running,” said Caughill, who played varsity basketball at the University of Ottawa. “It’s a pretty costly process to start up a travel team. We’ll see if we can progress into anything more next year.”
Tryouts will kick things off in September with practices beginning in October at Virgil Public School. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the girls will play weekly league games against Welland, Port Dalhousie, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines. After Christmas, they’ll dribble their way into three major tournaments. In April, the organization will register for the Ontario Basketball Association tournament.
“We want to teach them the love of the game. We’re looking at this league as a developmental one. We want to work on their skill building and want to focus on playing for fun,” said Caughill. “A lot of these kids have never played before, so we don’t want to come out of the gate with a real cutthroat, win-at-all-costs, attitude. When you’re young, you need to focus on skill development and playing for fun so kids get hooked on basketball.”
Caughill and her husband, Bruce, who also played basketball in university, currently coach in the Niagara Falls Red Raiders Basketball Association.
“I’ve never heard of a girls’ basketball team existing in Niagara-on-the-Lake before,” admitted Caughill. “We’ve always had to travel to coach and play basketball in Niagara Falls. I was driving seven kids, three times a week in my van to Niagara Falls to play. It didn’t really seem to make a lot of sense to be doing all that driving.”
The remedy was to start two teams for girls. The first, a novice squad for girls in Grades 2-4 (or those who were born in 2001) and an atom team for Grade 5s based on the 2010-11 school year.
“We thought we should start up a league in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I think there’s a real need for it,” said Caughill. “There’s a lot of kids, boys and girls, that travel to Niagara Falls or St. Catharines for basketball. We want to start one here and get it off the ground as soon as we can.
We’re looking to the community for sponsorship, because we’ll have to buy uniforms, start booking gyms and contact referees. We want to try and keep the fees down for parents, so that it’s affordable for anybody who wants to try out.”
Until the Niagara-on-the-Lake teams get off the ground, they will operate under the umbrella organization of the Niagara Rangers Basketball Organization.
The club will start out with two of the youngest age groups - novice and atom - and slowly progress to the older divisions as those players grow up.
“What I would love to see is two new teams each year. Two this year and bump it up to four the following season,” said Caughill. “We would like to keep those younger ones going. We would need to recruit coaches too. Eventually, we would like to have a board of executives and build it up into an entire self-sustaining league.”
With the closing of the Niagara District Secondary School, the community needs to reach out to its younger people, according to Caughill.
“Our high school is gone, so we have no basketball. We’ve got soccer, lacrosse and hockey, but most of those things are geared toward boys,” she said. “We don’t have a whole lot to offer our younger girls here. This town really needs to work on something for its younger generation.”
Those interested in playing should contact Jennifer Caughill as soon as possible at 905-468-9408.