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Rec Center Unveils Beginners Basketball League for Women

The Sweet 16 in the Women's NCAA Basketball tournament face off this weekend. Echo Park has a women's league of its own that needs more players.

Maybe you’ve never played organized basketball. Maybe it's been a long time since you stepped on a court.  Either way, ladies, the wants you.

For the first time, the center is offering a beginners-and-intermediates-only basketball league for adult women.  The Monday night practice sessions have already begun, but league play won’t start until early April. So it’s not too late to join.

Ramon Alvarez, the coach in charge of the program, said the idea for a women’s beginner league was spawned during the youth basketball season as a way to give the mothers who attend their kids’ games a chance to play the sport.

 “Some of them had experience in high school, but they hadn't played in many years,” said the 38-year-old Alvarez, who played high school ball in the Philippines. “We’re working on the fundamentals.”

At least 32 women will be needed for a four-team league. Twenty-four women had signed up after the first two practices. But six new players attended the third practice Monday night and everyone seemed to enjoy it–including the oldest player on the court, 62-year-old Gricelda Pineda.

“I’m here to exercise so I can feel better every day,” Pineda said.  

Nadia Aguilar, 23, said she hasn’t played since high school and has had to reacquaint herself with the game.

“My shot is a little off,” Aguilar said. “And my endurance–I can’t run. But once you get into it, it’s fun.”

Delores Salazar, 44, said her interest in playing in the new league is more about working out and interacting with a fun group of women.

“It’s a very good crowd,” she said.

Alejandra Cabral, 35, has four children who play basketball in the rec center’s program.

“I think it’s a pretty good chance for me to play and have fun and it’s going to be good for my health,” Cabral said.

Adrianne Aguirre, 43, was a cheerleader in high school but signed up for the league because she’s a diabetic and is looking for fun ways to control her blood sugar levels.

“I like working out, that’s my main thing,” said Irma Gaspar, 29. “Anything that has to do with sports, I’m in.”

The fee for the program is $369 per team.  If each team has eight players, as organizers hope, it will cost about $46 per person to play six regular-season games and up to two playoff games.

The age group is roughly 25 and up, but several players who practiced Monday were younger.  And while the league is touted as being for beginners, the official position is that most who’ve played organized ball in the past are not being turned away. But, a few players have been turned away as either too young or too good, according to several of the women Monday night.

Marjorie Dall, program director at the Echo Park Recreation Center, said if anyone else turns out to be a superstar, they may be asked to wait and join the 18-and-older women’s competitive league she hopes to start this summer.  That way, said Dall, all women in the area will have an opportunity to play with others at their own skill level.

“I think since we have something for men, we should have something for women,” said Dall, who has been working in Echo Park for six months. “And then also we’re going to start some teen programs for kids in the summer.”

For more information, call the at 213-250-3578. Practices are held Monday nights, 6:30- 8 p.m., at the center, 1632 Bellevue Ave.

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