Girls high school summer basketball has been more of a novelty sport over the years, but with dramatic improvement of the girls game each recent winter, Washington area coaches, AAU organizers and parents have been making stronger efforts to conduct more summer leagues for female athletes.

This expansion is evident in the newly-formed Classics League, which started with 12 public and private school teams playing in two divisions at Quince Orchard High School.

Each summer, the number of girls leagues has been increasing in the area, and just as importantly, the quality of existing leagues has been getting better. Those involved in girls basketball appreciate the growing number of summer playing opportunities.

Just one year ago, H.D. Woodson girls basketball Coach Bob Headen expressed concern over the lack of more summer girls leagues. "Girls just can't walk out onto the playgrounds and play a five-on-five game because it is hard to find five girls who want to play," he said. "Guys walk on the court, hear a bounce and they want to play."

Although boys have more summer opportunities to play, Headen is convinced girls benefit more from playing during the summer. He believes the improvement of girls basketball is due to girls gaining a better knowledge of the game's fundamental skills, and he thinks playing in summer is a place to learn those skills.

Einstein Coach Patti Langworthy wishes that 16 years ago, as a senior at Holy Child, she had the opportunities with which current players are being presented.

"I was one of those kids that had to work real hard," said Langworthy. "Catholic schools were really strong with teams like Regina and Holy Cross. They played all summer and when other teams would play them during the regular season, they wern't as strong. But now, all that has changed because of recreation department and AAU leagues."

Warren Crutchfield's girls league at Sherwood High School was the place for girls to hone their skills during summer vacations toward the close of the 1970s and for most of the 1980s. The Jelleff League added a girls division in the early 1980s and has been perhaps the most attractive place to watch girls basketball ever since.

Now, girls summer basketball seems to be in full bloom in Montgomery County where AAU member Paul Gorely started the Classics League. Playing opportunities also exist in the Montgomery County Recreation Department's girls league at Churchill High School.

"We have more girls interested in playing basketball," said Gorely. "They lacked the opportunity in the past, but we at the Classics (an AAU member club) are concerned about the development of our girl athletes so we decided to organize a league."

The Fly League at Eleanor Roosevelt, directed by DuVal Coach Walter Clark, is another that has upgraded itself. A playoff format was instituted and the everyday quality of the league has improved.

Clark is dedicated to making the league a place where girls can work on fundamentals. The league has a unique rule which prohibits teams from pressing until the fourth period.

During summer league play, the rule may hurt Clark's DuVal team more than any other because DuVal probably is the league's quickest and most talented team overall. Unable to use that quickness, DuVal suffered its first league loss last week, to Coolidge, but Clark realizes the longterm benefits.

"We want the kids to work on playing halfcourt basketball," he said. "I thought that it would {still} work out well for our team because we play well in transition, but it backfired against us on that night."