The Mercer Island Girls Basketball Booster Club was founded in 2001 to improve the competitiveness of Girls’ Basketball on Mercer Island. At the High School level, the boys’ program had been strong for years, but the girls’ teams had only occasional, small successes that weren’t sustainable. Club founders identified the need for a developmental “Select” program to complement the existing “Recreational” programs already in existence on the island. Such a program would enable girls to play basketball at a competitive level in their middle school years (and before), not unlike the successful “Little Dribblers” program for Mercer Island boys.
The founders were Blair Rasmussen and Jim Richards. At the time, Blair was the Varsity Coach for the Mercer Island High School Girls Basketball program (a position he held through the 2004 Season). He also had daughters in the program. Jim had coached various youth sports for several years and had three daughters who played basketball. One of those daughters also became the MIHS Girls Varsity Basketball Coach, Jamie (Richards) Prescott and now works for the MISD as an Associate Principal at the high school . Their goals at the time were to:
- Encourage more Mercer Island girls to play basketball during their middle school years
- Increase competitive opportunities for these players; play more games and play against better teams
- Recruit enough volunteers to enable organizers and coaches to focus on program and player development
- Create an organization strong enough to weather changes in coaching at the high school and to allow for the smooth transition of leadership as the programs expanded
Early volunteers responsible for getting the Club on its feet and sustaining it through challenging times include: Michael Dierdorff (2001-2003), Kitty Flaherty (2001-2005) Mike Stadius (2002-2004), Bob Kendrick (2003-2004), and Sarah Rasmussen (2004-2005). The Club never had more than a three person Board during those years so a great deal of work was done by very few people. Also, coaching was provided entirely by parent volunteers.
Prior to his involvement with the Club, Mike Stadius supported the Boy’s and Girls Club Shooter’s program. He later became the Club’s Select Coordinator and orchestrated a vast array of responsibilities including: organizing gym space and practice times for all the teams; purchasing and maintaining equipment inventories; coordinating games and tournaments with league officials and referees; and, communicating with parents and players as changes occurred. Mike not only did all these things almost single-handedly, but he also coached several teams. Additionally, he created and maintained the Club’s first web-site, established an e-mail account to expedite communication to program participants, coordinated slide-shows for the end of year banquets, and did whatever else was necessary. The Club simply would not exist today were it not for his extra effort.
In 2001, there were hardly enough interested players to assemble teams at the 7th and 8th grade levels, and there was very little off-season activity. Today the Club supports 5th and 6th grade teams in addition to the 7th and 8th grade teams. The number of girls trying out at every level has more than doubled.
The club sponsors off-season camps and training opportunities for 4th through 12th graders. Open gyms are scheduled for all interested participants throughout the year, including conditioning and skill development. Varsity players give back to the program by running open gyms for all age groups, assisting Select coaches and mentoring younger players. Other special events also encourage intra-program synergy such as the annual Teacher – Student Exhibition Game (supported in 2005 by both the Seattle Storm and the UW Huskies Women’s Varsity team). In the spring of 2004, the Club partnered with the Emerald City Basketball Academy to sponsor a Spring season. Over 45 girls from the 4th through the 8th grade came out to play off-season basketball.
Club volunteers and supporters will continue to seek opportunities to further expand interest and participation. As previously mentioned, through 2004, the club was essentially sustained by a three-person Board and volunteer Parent-Coaches. In 2005, the board expanded significantly and began the process of incorporating the Club, creating by-laws to guide governance, and registering the organization as a 501(c)(3). The Board also made the strategic decision to develop a compensation program to attract and retain experienced coaches for all Club teams for the 2005 Fall Season and beyond. A new web-site has been developed and Club programs are evolving in anticipation of continued growth.
A Bright Future
None of this would have been possible without the vision and hard work of the early volunteers. Special recognition is due those individuals for their dedicated and determined effort. Thanks to them, the future of Girls Basketball on Mercer Island looks very bright indeed.