“These girls give 100 percent on the court, but they give 200 percent in the classroom. They really work hard,” said Elgin “Al” Jenkins, head coach of the Main South girls varsity basketball team.
According to Jenkins, 80 percent of the girls on both the varsity and junior varsity basketball teams are on their school’s honor roll.
“That’s what I’m most proud of: their grades,” said Jenkins, who is in his third year coaching the team.
Composed of girls from Claremont Academy and University Park schools, the Cougars have been to the Central Mass. Division 4 tournament the past two seasons, finishing last year 11-9.
“The last two years we made it to the district[s] and were bounced in the first round. The girls are [a] little fed up with making it to districts and losing. Our goal this year is to win the districts.
“This year I think we will be really good. I’ve had five of the girls for three years playing varsity, and two of the girls have been playing since eighth grade.”
As a way to show just how proud he is of his players, Jenkins started a GoFundMe effort on Nov. 15 to collect money for new warm-up apparel, basketballs and other equipment.
Specifically, Jenkins said, the team needs 12 each of: sets of warm-up pants and jackets, practice jerseys, basketballs, jump ropes and water bottles. And cones for practice drills.
“Going around to games in and around the city, the girls would see teams with brand new uniforms or brand new warm-ups, and ask me ‘Hey, coach, how come we don’t have that?’
“When I first got the team, you could tell the uniforms were really old. The numbers were falling off,” Jenkins said.
“Being where we’re from in the Main South area, it’s hard for us to fundraise. The girls put so much effort into school and basketball, and other responsibilities they have [at] home, that I didn’t want to take them away from that and have them out on their own fundraising.”
On the GoFundMe page, Jenkins further expresses his pride in the girls’ work ethic both on the court and off, and said that by donating to their page, the girls will receive a much-deserved “break.”
Jenkins writes: “In our attempts at fundraising we come up short but continue to try and have learned to appreciate what we have. My players have responsibilities that so often go outside of academics and basketball that I stand in awe of their accomplishments. Those girls, my girls, deserve a break so they can have the warm-ups, the balls, the training equipment they need. I know it is a difficult time of year but any help you can offer will be greatly appreciated and pay dividends way beyond the court.”
The Cougars open the regular season at home [Claremont Academy] against Assabet Valley on Dec. 16.
As of Friday afternoon, the coach’s GoFundMe effort had raised $520 toward the goal of $2,500 — an impressive start from fans already cheering from the sidelines before the basketball begins.