When Sarah Franey and Kristine Manning were growing up in the 1980s, there were not many athletic opportunities for young girls. With the exception of basketball and soccer, most girls were not exposed to sports until high school.
That's why the two friends formed PlayHer Sports, a company dedicated to teaching young girls in Montgomery County about field hockey and lacrosse. The group was formed in January by Franey and Manning, who graduated from St. Mary's High School in Annapolis in 1992. Franey, 25, is the head field hockey coach at Paint Branch High School and the head lacrosse coach at Blake High School. Manning, 25, played lacrosse at Villanova University and is now the head women's lacrosse coach at Catholic University.
This weekend, PlayHer Sports is accepting applications for fall field hockey and lacrosse, the first such leagues in Montgomery County. The field hockey league is open to players in grades 5-10. There will be at least five teams of 20 players with each team playing a six-game schedule. Teams will practice two times a week and games will be held Saturday mornings at Blake High School. The $85 fee covers uniforms, officials, coaches and fields.
The lacrosse league is open to players of all ages. There will be at least seven teams of 20 players and each team will play a seven-game schedule. Games will be played Sunday afternoon at Stone Ridge High School in Bethesda and the $75 fee covers uniforms, officials, coaches and fields. Play Her Sports will also hold lacrosse clinics every Sunday at Stone Ridge from 2-3 p.m. for beginners.
"This is something I've dreamed of for a long time," said Manning, who will hold a free field hockey clinic Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Catholic University. "When I was growing up, there was not a lot of variety for girls sports. Soccer and basketball seemed to be it. We just want people to know that there are definitely more sports out there and we think they should try them all."
According to Franey, the idea for PlayHer Sports came last year when the Paint Branch field hockey team could not find a place to play in the winter. Franey and Manning decided Montgomery County could use such a league and formed PlayHer Sports to give girls more athletic opportunities.
PlayHer Sports ran an indoor lacrosse league at Holy Cross High School in January and February and had close to 100 participants. The group then held a spring field hockey league at Stone Ridge High School, drawing close to 100 girls, and had more than 200 players sign up for the summer field hockey and lacrosse leagues.
Franey and Manning hope to get more middle school girls involved in the program this fall. They said girls who play field hockey and lacrosse as youngsters have a huge advantage when it comes to making the high school team. And with high school soccer moving from the spring to the fall, Franey fears that field hockey might take a hit if girls are not exposed to it at an earlier age.
"Field hockey is a very complicated sport," said Franey, who coached at Notre Dame Prep and McDonogh High School before moving to Paint Branch last year. "That's why it's so important to start young and play year-round. In lacrosse, you can take a good athlete and make her into a decent lacrosse player right away. That's not the case in field hockey. It takes years and years to learn how to pass and dribble and the sooner you learn these skills, the better your chances of playing in high school and beyond."
Said Manning: "The interest is there. There's no doubt about it. We're just happy to give girls the opportunity."
For information on PlayHer Sports or to sign up for fall field hockey or lacrosse, call (301) 897-5458 or email email@example.com