'We’re here to learn and to have a good time': Girls athletic league puts fun first

Jan 13, 2024

It’s never too early to start hitting the court. At the Dartmouth Girls Athletic League, recreational games start at the Kindergarten level. 

The league, which is open to girls through the eighth grade, gives Dartmouth kids the chance to learn the basics of a new sport and make a few new friends along the way without the competitive stress of a typical team.  

“My main goal is to get them to love playing basketball and get them to come back and play again,” said Coach Shawn Dury, who has been coaching the League’s K-2 clinics for 6 years. “At the end of the day, we’re here to learn and to have a good time.”

The League is 100% volunteer based and offers basketball, softball and field hockey classes through the winter, spring and fall. Two-hundred girls are currently enrolled in the League, Dury said.  

At one of these basketball clinics held the morning of Jan. 13 at Cushman Elementary School, the girls dribbled, passed and shot hoops while their parents watched from the sidelines and mingled with other parents. 

One of those parents was Maureen O’Neill, whose daughter joined the kindergarten basketball group this year. O’Neill said the League is a great opportunity for her daughter to learn something new in a stress-free setting. 

“It gives them a really good chance to play and learn and work on teamwork,” she said. “Right now, it’s just about having fun. They’re at an age where the rest of it really doesn’t matter.”

Dana Curran’s 8-year-old daughter Rowan and 5-year-old daughter Ellie joined the program this year. Curran sat with her 3-year-old daughter while Ellie practiced dribbling and shooting hoops with the other kindergartners. 

“She’s not old enough, yet, but she will be,” Curran said of her youngest daughter. 

After months of isolation during Covid, Curran said the League gives her daughters the chance to make new friends and build confidence through teamwork and hands-on learning—things they couldn’t do during the pandemic. 

This is Rowan’s first real sport, and it’s really sparked her interest in basketball.

“She’s obsessed with it,” Curran said of Rowan’s new-found interest in basketball. “She loves just being on a team and being out with friends.”

Curran said that her daughters have mostly grown up at home, and this is the first opportunity they’ve had after the pandemic to learn from other adults and to be part of a community. There aren’t as many sports for girls, she said, and the sports that are available are overly competive. 

Curran said the League is a supportive, friendly way for her daughters to get involved without the usual stress of traveling to games and making tryouts. 

“Sports have gotten so competitive so young that it prohibits kids from trying stuff,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to try some different stuff and not feel like it’s already so competitive that you’re behind.”

Jeremy Cote said his daughter Georgia is already getting better at dribbling after just two weeks in the league. Georgia played for the Dartmouth Youth Activities Association’s Smurf League last year. 

 “I like the coordination, the socialization, the community,” Cote said.

To register or to learn more about the Dartmouth Girls Athletic League, visit dgal.org.