Boothbay Region children and their parents know how lucky they are to have a devoted teacher who volunteers her time to help develop young girls into better basketball players. Six years ago, Lauren Brown, physical education teacher at Boothbay Region Elementary School, started the Lady Dribblers for girls in grades one through five.
She had seen a similar program in Scarborough. “I thought it was a neat way for girls to get introduced to basketball and to work on skills,” Brown said.
When her daughter Page was in fourth grade, Brown started the Lady Dribblers program. Although modeled after the Scarborough program, Brown created her own, unique program.
Lady Dribblers runs from the end of October through February. This past season, Brown moved practice times to 6:45-7:45 a.m. because of difficulty getting gym time in the afternoon. She thought she would see a decline in the number of girls participating with the early morning practice time, but was pleasantly surprised to see 35 girls show up. “It’s the most I have ever had,” Brown said.
The Lady Dribblers perform their routine at Boothbay Region basketball games both at the middle school and high school levels. Usually they perform at Bowdoin College once a season, but this year they traveled to the University of Maine at Farmington, where three Boothbay region women play for the Lady Beavers, including Morgan Crocker, Meghan Smith, and Allison Crocker.
Brown’s troupe has even performed at a Maine Red Claws game in Portland.
Routines contain lots of dribbling and ball-handling skills. During practice, “we also play games and try to keep it fun,” Brown said.
The program puts a ball into the hands of every child. “That is pretty much what it is all about, getting a ball into their hands and introducing them to the sport at a very young age. It is non-competitive and non-threatening,” Brown said.
Parents buy the ball and the T-shirt. The ball stays at the school until the child graduates out of the program, then goes with them.
Brown estimates 70 percent of the girls in the program go on to play team basketball.
“Those who stick with the Lady Dribblers and continue to play school basketball already have a great foundation with regards to ball-handling, and that’s due in large part to Lauren,” said Boothbay Region High School varsity girls basketball coach Tanner Grover. “I guess in a way, coaches like me get to reap the benefit of all the selfless work that she puts into that program.”
Once students graduate out of the program, they can come back and coach. This year Brown had nine student coaches assist her. “They are very helpful,” Brown said.
Brown coached varsity basketball for eight years before starting her family. She has two daughters, Page, a sophomore at BRHS, and Kylie, a seventh-grader. Both went through her program and helped coach.
“It definitely helps” improve skills for the basketball team, Brown said. “It helps to have girls that can handle the ball.” Ten players on the BRHS West Class C Regional championship team got their basketball start with her Lady Dribblers program. “All but two on the varsity team went through the program,” she said.
“Parents are very supportive and enjoy it. I can’t speak for the coaches, but it adds value to the whole program. The YMCA has a very good program as well,” Brown said.
“Lauren’s commitment to the Lady Dribblers program has been astonishing,” Grover said. “She’s been running that program much longer than I’ve been involved with girls basketball. I think just getting a basketball into a kid’s hands at such a young age and getting them interested in the sport is a huge achievement.”
“Even beyond what it does for the participants from a skill perspective though, I really just appreciate how it enriches basketball in our community as a whole,” Grover said. “Every time the Lady Dribblers perform at a high school game, it draws a crowd and makes for a great playing atmosphere. Lauren has built this from the ground up, and it’s just part of what makes Boothbay basketball special.”
Brown has also started a jump rope program at the elementary school. She had nearly 50 children in grades two through six involved in the program this year. Although not connected to the American Heart Association, they do participate in the Jump Rope for Heart program.
She started the jump rope club seven years ago, with the help of her friend Liz Giles-Brown, who runs the Spindrifter program at South Bristol School.
The jump rope club meets twice a week, sometimes three times. They practice one morning a week, one afternoon, and sometimes during indoor recess.
“I have known Lauren Brown for over 20 years,” Boothbay Region Elementary School Principal Mark Tess said. “She is just an incredible role model for young people in our community. She believes passionately in healthy physical education for all students. She volunteers her time for both the Lady Dribblers and the Jump Rope Club. She has coached various sports teams and is a referee as well.
“Our children absolutely love her. She never complains or asks for anything. She does these activities because she loves children. I cannot say enough about how much I respect and admire her commitment to our community. Lauren is just a genuinely nice human being.”