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Women Bring Competitive Basketball to South Jordan Rec Center

Aug 03, 2016 03:21PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

Salt City Sparks pose for a photo after winning the first women’s league at South Jordan Fitness and Aquatic Center.

By Billy Swartzfager | billy@mycityjournals.com 

South Jordan, Utah - The South Jordan Fitness and Aquatic Center just wrapped up its first ever women’s basketball league. The league, which began in early May and ended on June 23rd, was a success and something many women throughout the valley have been looking to participate in for years. What began as an inquiry made by Joanie Tester resulted in a very competitive league with a lot of skilled players.

Tester, who works out at the center, saw a flyer for a men’s basketball league and asked whether or not there was a league for women. She was told that there was little interest, though she knew otherwise. Tester asked if the rec center would hold a league if she could find enough players to play, and, the center agreed. Tester went to Facebook, posting in the Garage Sales section, and in less than a week, was able to round up over 150 interested women to start a Facebook group and the communication had begun.

“It was a lot of work to find the teams, the players and a home base, and Joanie did most of that,” Recreation Program Director at the center, Chet Wanlass said. Once there were enough women committed to signing up, the process of collecting fees and assigning players to teams began. Each team had 10-12 players and each team played at least seven games. “We were very pleased with the turnout, especially on the short notice and quick turnaround we had to work with,” Wanlass said.

The Salt City Sparks won the league, going 7-1 during the regular season, earning a top seed for the end of season, single elimination tournament, which they won. As with most Salt Lake County recreation programs, the team won t-shirts with the word champions across the front. As well as being the winningest team in the new league, the Sparks also counted the league’s top scorer within their ranks.

Amaris Newkirk, who played college ball for Eastern Arizona College and Southern Virginia University, had been looking for a competitive place to play basketball for years before Tester completed the leg work to start the league in South Jordan. She wasn’t the only one either. “Some of these women came all the way from Magna to play ball,” she said. “It’s harder for women to find these outlets,” she added. Newkirk said she had a lot of fun playing, that there were a lot of high intensity, passionate basketball players, and hopes it will grow. Newkirk ended up leading the league in scoring, a title that wasn’t determined until the very last game of the season. On top of her championship t-shirt, she was able to sport a pullover with her name and new title on it as well. “When I saw that they recognized the leading scorers in their leagues I said it would be fun to win it, I did and I feel good about winning it,” she said.

Tester was also pleased with her accomplishments. She loved setting goals and accomplishing them, while learning more about the game. Most of the women on the teams didn’t know each other before their first games, but grew together over the course of the season. “I loved meeting new people, we were strangers at first, but, we are all friends now,” Tester said. And, she hopes that the resulting comradery will push the league’s growth in the future.

The staff at the rec center and Tester tried to continue their success by starting a summer league that would have started in July or August, but were unable to get the same interest they had in the spring. “I’m bummed about summer, but I am determined to make this happen,” Tester said, “It’s nice to see people having so much fun. It’s something the community needs, I feel it’s important.”

Wanlass agrees, “It was tough to get a lot of players with summer vacations and stuff like that, but, we will be back again next March, we’ll have more time to plan and market the league.” 

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