FITCHBURG — On Sunday afternoon, the Massachusetts Athletic Youth Sports Scholastic Association (MAYSSA) capped its first year of existence with the first ever Pick up In the Park basketball game at the outdoor basketball court at Parkhill Park in Fitchburg.
For two hours, 17 female athletes took to the recently refurbished court to showcase their skills, share a few laughs and build lifelong memories.
“We started this program back in March, shortly after the completion of the winter basketball season. We saw a lack of opportunities for younger female athletes,” said Rick Maynard, MAYSSA director and a basketball coach for over 25 years. “Today was a big success. It’s something I hope can do every year.”
Broken down into four eight-minute quarters, Sunday’s game was the perfect way to cap off the MAYSSA Huskies’ inaugural season, which began in March.
According to Maynard, who was helping out the coaching staffs at the Longsjo Middle School this past winter, the idea to create the Huskies was the brainchild of his daughter Rylie Maynard, a rising senior at Monty Tech.
“I noticed there was lacking with women’s sports at the middle school level and it just kind of sparked an idea for us to start and build this Huskies program,” said Rylie Maynard, who was a captain on the Bulldogs’ junior varsity basketball squad last winter. “We had a few girls when they got to Monty Tech and played with us as freshmen, that didn’t have the opportunity to gain experience at the middle school level and that really inspired us to do this.”
Shortly thereafter the Huskies were born. In addition to teaching the skills to be successful on the basketball court, Rick Maynard and his coaching staff are trying to teach these young women the skills to be successful at life.
“We started this program and had 24 girls,” he said. “I want them to know that learning the game and making this a positive experience is our goal. We’re not going to just focus on basketball, long term. This is a starting point.”
The Huskies program is open to females in the middle school level in the city of Fitchburg, like Charlotte Luft.
“I think it’s awesome to be a part of this. As you grow, you become like a family at the end of the season,” said Luft, who will be a seventh grader at Memorial Middle School when the new school year begins. “You get to really know each other and it’s so much fun when you have friends on the team and you support each other and have a really great time.”
Lenaia Nolasco was an eighth grader when she joined the Huskies at the end of last school year. Now she is moving up to Fitchburg High School.
“My experience with the Huskies has been really interesting. Coach Maynard is a really good coach and I’ve enjoyed being a part of the team,” said Nolasco. “The team came together really fast and I think the staff is really good at bringing everyone together and creating teamwork.”
Sunday’s game was tabbed as the past versus the future. With one team filled with current middle school players and the second team a mix of former area basketball standouts.
Two of those standouts playing Sunday were Mikala Malboeuf and Maddy Merchant.
“For me to be a part of this is a great experience because for me being from this area and being a PAL coach and coaching at the high school, you don’t see a lot of these types of opportunities for the younger players,” said Merchant, a Monty Tech graduate and current junior varsity girls’ basketball coach for the Bulldogs. “It’s great to get out here and bring awareness to something like this.”
“This is nice to see because when I was their age there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity,” Malboeuf added. “Something like this is really special. I think it’s a really big game changer.”
Anyone interested in learning more information about the Huskies program can contact Rick Maynard at: (978) 400-3411 or visit theteam’s website at mayssahuskies.com.