Members of the Mount Desert Island YMCA’s third to fourth-grade basketball team pose for a photo. The team is one of two third- and fourth-grade MDI YMCA squads participating in the YMCA Sports League, which holds a practice weekly and plays teams from other YMCAs in Downeast and Midcoast Maine. PHOTO COURTESY OF ALYNE CISTONE

New YMCA Sports League providing new opportunities for young athletes

BAR HARBOR — A new initiative at the Mount Desert Island YMCA is gaining momentum at the pre-K through fourth-grade level.

Entering its second year, the YMCA Sports League has brought new energy to youth sports at the MDI YMCA. With offerings throughout the year, the league has helped to provide more opportunities for the island’s younger athletes.

“We’ve started this up pretty recently, and it’s been a pretty big success so far,” said MDI YMCA Sports Director Garrett Lee. “We’ve been able to get it going pretty quickly, and we’re hoping it gives kids and their parents a lot of new opportunities.”

The YMCA Sports League currently offers basketball and indoor soccer. An outdoor soccer league is set to begin in the fall, and other options could be on the horizon.

The league offers first to second- and third to fourth-grade teams in basketball, and under-11 and under-8 teams in soccer, but it also presents even younger athletes with chances to play. The basketball league offers pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teams, and indoor soccer has an under-6 age group.

“For a lot of kids, the younger ages are when they get introduced to sports for the first time,” Lee said. “It’s about building relationships and learning cooperation and the mentality of playing on a team, which are things you can do even before your skills have developed.”

Lee arrived as the new sports director in November, at which time the YMCA Sports League already had a basketball system in place. With the help of Youth Director Jarred Erskine, the YMCA was soon able to add indoor soccer to the mix.

“We got that started fairly soon after I got here, and it’s been our biggest program so far,” Lee said. “It’s been good for the kids because they’ve been able to play during the winter. When you add that to the outdoor one we’re going to be starting up this fall, it’s something that can be more year-round.”

The teams practice once per week and play regularly against the Down East Family and Blue Hill YMCAs. They also have occasional matchups against YMCA teams from Bucksport, Belfast and Thorndike.

“[DEFY Youth Sports Director] Shane [Lowell] goes through scheduling and works with us and the other teams,” Lee said. “It’s important to get kids against other competition because that’s something they’ll be doing their whole lives if they keep playing sports.”

As interest in its offerings grow, the Youth Sports League is likely to become a mainstay in the island’s sports scene. Doing so would be a boost to both the MDI YMCA and youth sports throughout the area.

“We’re always trying to see what we can do in terms of providing something for every kid at that level,” Lee said. “The youth years are important, and I think we’re building a program that can get something out of everyone, from the kids who are going to be playing sports for their lives to the ones who are only going to play a little while.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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