While the coronavirus pandemic has dragged on for almost a full year in Frederick County, that certainly hasn’t rendered Raynah Young idle.
The 5-foot-6 Frederick High senior guard wants to play collegiate basketball, and she’s worked tirelessly to improve everything in her game, from quickness and jumping to dribbling, passing and shooting.
There’s one problem: She really doesn’t have a means of showing that improvement to college coaches.
By offering its YMCA Girls High School Basketball League, the YMCA of Frederick County will soon play a role in helping Young and a host of others in her shoes.
Featuring eight varsity teams and four junior varsity squads, the 10-week league is tentatively scheduled to begin Jan. 30 and end April 3 with league championships. Some scheduling quirks may present themselves, but a normal weekend slate of games includes three JV games on Saturday and four varsity contests on Sundays.
The league is not associated with Frederick County Public Schools, which has to this point opted not to begin winter sports competition due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the county.
Over the past few months, Young has fretted about putting together her best game film for college coaches to review. She has not played competitive basketball since playing outdoors in the six-week COVID-19 2020 Fall Ball League last October.
“I’m trying to make sure that college coaches get to see our best selves and where we are at now,” said Young, who also sees the YMCA league as a means of staying in shape. “A lot can change in a year.”
YMCA sports director Josh Henson oversaw a fall co-ed recreational league in November and December that included approximately 100 children ages 4-10. A YMCA winter league that started Monday has 117 participants ages 4-13.
“The feedback that we got from our members and our parents was that there were so many families that wanted their kids to have access to exercise and play in a gym,” Henson said. “When we had that feedback, we knew there was a demand in the community.”
So when the YMCA reached out to area basketball coaches to gauge interest in a girls basketball league early this month, Henson said, it took about a week for the YMCA to go forward in forming the league.
“The players and the coaches were definitely excited from the beginning,” Frederick High coach Tony Murray said. “There was really no pushback.”
The YMCA league will have some of the same organizational framework as the fall ball league, with players who attend the same high school having the opportunity to play on the same team. The color of jerseys, instead of school names, will determine team names. Also, players from different high schools are allowed to play on the same team.
With league play taking place indoors, all players, coaches, game officials and spectators are required to wear face masks. Officials will use hand-held, battery-powered whistles, and the YMCA will allow only one parent per athlete into the gym.
All members of high school coaching staffs are not allowed to coach in the league.
The high school season being in a state of flux has taken its toll on Young. FCPS had tentatively planned on starting the winter season on Jan. 4 but then pushed it back two weeks on Dec. 22. FCPS followed that up by halting all winter sports practices, and if it were to somehow salvage the winter season, competition likely wouldn’t begin until next month.
“The back and forth is really difficult because we just want to be able to know that we can play,” Young said. “One day they say we can, and the next day they say that we can’t. It’s really hard.”
If the high school season were to begin, Murray said, it wouldn’t interfere with the schedule of the YMCA league.
Murray said Young is one of 15 girls in Frederick’s high school program who aspires to play collegiately.
Middletown coach Amy Poffenbarger also pointed out the benefit of players acquiring fresh game film in the YMCA league, but she also pointed out other intangibles associated with competition improving the mental well-being of athletes.
“I’m very appreciative of the individuals who put this together because it’ll be such an asset to our girls that need to be with other people and bond and become teammates and things like that,” Poffenbarger said.
If you are interested in joining the YMCA Girls High School Basketball league, contact Josh Henson at firstname.lastname@example.org.