Sanborn girls basketball coach Brian Gray knows the importance of keeping his team playing together during the offseason.
So this summer, he took matters into his own hands.
Two weeks ago, with the help of a handful of volunteers and the support of athletic director Vicki Parady-Guay, Gray launched the inaugural season of the Sanborn Girls Summer League. The league consists of eight New Hampshire varsity teams, plus four junior varsity teams.
For the local schools involved, like Pinkerton and Windham, it’s an opportunity for team growth just a short drive from home.
“I think the inspiration was just to have a league for the local teams that are around,” said Gray. “I think a lot of programs are young right now, and getting kids more experience over the summer is great. I just think it’s good for team-building, program-building.
“A lot of kids want to play.”
Besides the teams listed above, Pelham, Sanborn, Exeter, Portsmouth, Spaulding and Pembroke round out the varsity field of eight. Each team will play the remaining seven once over a seven-week schedule that will end on the first Tuesday of August. All games are played on Tuesday at Sanborn High with start times ranging from 5-7 p.m., and, for at least the first season, there won’t be any sort of playoff format.
But, that would hardly be the point.
“We just wanted to keep it kind of small,” said Gray. “It’s more about getting games in than making money.”
Gray had experience running day-long jamborees in the past, but nothing quite as large as a league. But as options for summer basketball in New Hampshire continued to dwindle, it was time to do something.
For a team like Pinkerton, which had previously played in the Merrimack Valley Hoops for Hope League, the trip to Sanborn is less taxing. The Astros will also be dealing with the loss of Eagle-Tribune MVP Brooke Kane and All-Star Madison Mahoney this upcoming winter, so any extra offseason work for the returning talent is crucial.
Likewise, Pelham is parting ways with stalwart scorer Olivia Gagnon, and is now preparing for life without her on the court.
“It’s a nice opportunity for everyone,” said Gray. “It’s even an opportunity for the refs in the Seacoast area to get some work. Most of the time we’re getting three refs at each game because they’re also looking for feedback and to grow our game.”
And it may be early, but the results are already starting to come back positive.
“So far, so good,” said Gray. “It’s been really fun and we’ve been getting really good feedback.”