New 10-community league gives women lacrosse players chance to compete again
SHELTON — A few weeks ago, high school athletes could only dream of taking the field for competitive action. For some local girls lacrosse players, that dream is now a reality.
The James Vick Foundation has formed the Dream League, a free statewide high school girls’ lacrosse league with teams from Branford, Guilford, Madison, North Haven, Wallingford, West Haven, Amity, Stratford, Monroe and Shelton.
“When I learned about the James Vick League, I knew I wanted to play right away because I never got to play my last lacrosse season, and this would make up for it,” said Shelton resident Maeve Marks, who missed out on her final high school lacrosse season and spent the final months of her senior year distance learning.
“It is important to me to get back on the field because with everything happening around us, it gives us a chance to think about something positive and to have hope,” said Marks.
Marks will be co-captaining the Shelton Stags with SHS teammate Rachel Dillon, who was a junior this past year. Practices for Shelton began June 20 at CFC Park in Bethany. Practices for Shelton will be held at CFC Park until the city opens its fields on July 6 for lacrosse. At that point, league officials said they hope a practice field and game location can be determined.
“It was paramount to make an effort to give these girls a season,” said Christian Vick of the foundation. “The cancellation of the high school season had an incredible impact on high school athletes in this country.
“To give these girls an opportunity to play with their teammates one more time, to give the seniors a proper sendoff, made it critical that this league happen,” added Vick.
“When I first heard about Christian (Vick) giving us the opportunity to be able to play in a league with other towns, I was overly excited,” said Dillon. “Having our season taken away from us was devastating and this gave us a way to be active and be competitive against other great towns.
“In these tough times, it is definitely important to be staying active and playing the sports you love,” added Dillon. “To get back on the field is a great feeling and is important because it gives us a sense of normalcy in these horrible times.”
The 10-team league will begin games on July 6, with the regular season concluding on Aug. 8. Each team will play a mix of both out-of-conference games and in-conference games; every single team will get a senior night.
Dillon said she has played lacrosse since first grade, and she credits the coaching in the youth and high school programs for her development.
“This is a huge success to be able to say that I have played throughout our town’s programs, and it has made such a positive impact on my life,” said Dillon. “Even though the SHS team has had its setbacks, we always pushed each other to our limits and made sure we were doing our best no matter what the outcome.”
Marks, who has played since she was 7, said she loved taking the lacrosse field with her teammates each year.
“Being a captain means a lot to me,” said Marks. “Since I started playing at SHS, I always knew I wanted to be captain.
“Unfortunately, we have a very small team for this league,” added Marks, “so we are hoping to get more girls that are from other towns and give them a chance to play lacrosse again. Playing with the team will give me some sense of normalcy. I’m very excited to step on a field and play lacrosse with my teammates and my friends.”
“Captaining this team had a bumpy start trying to pull together a team so quickly, but with a little bit of hard work and dedication from the team, we are all looking forward to this makeshift season,” said Dillon.
The Dream League program is free for the student athletes. Enrollment includes insurance, practice shirts and game uniforms that are covered by the league. The James Vick Foundation provides general administrative support to all of the teams and the girls, while the coaches and the parent volunteers provide on-site support.
The Dream League is intended to give the athletes back what was taken from them with the canceled high school season.
“The teams that will compete in the program are finally getting a chance to enjoy the thrill of competition,” said Vick, “and we could not be more proud of all of them.”
In order to compete, girls must submit to Covid-19 testing and agree to underdog prevention protocol at practice and games. The league reports that athletes started getting tested last week and things are going well.
Vick said the league has 35 prevention protocol volunteers and a medical oversight committee made up of RNs and doctors who will oversee the results of prevention protocol, monitor test results and make recommendations to the commissioner.
Mental health more than anything, according to Vick, is the primary reason for creating the league.
“We did a league opening clinic last weekend and the happiness, the joy, even the tears, made it very clear this shutdown has changed the very fabric of these girls’ lives,” said Vick. “This league is much bigger than lacrosse.”