If you’re looking for a women’s basketball league in Sarasota, don’t bother trying County Parks or the Family YMCA. No, the person you want to talk to is Kaydi Lyons.
A couple of years ago, after playing in hoop games that came and went, the 26-year-old started her own league — the Sarasota Rec League.
On Thursday nights, four teams play in the Faith Lutheran Church gym on Beneva Road. Most of the women — Lyons still calls them “girls” — are former high school players.
The level of play is pretty good, but the league is strictly DIY — Do It Yourself.
Lyons gets her dad to referee games. Her brother and his girlfriend help keep score.
She uses her laptop to project the score and time onto a whiteboard at the side of the court. She plugs speakers into her cellphone to broadcast a dance mix during games.
"We take it seriously — we’re very competitive — but we listen to music, so it’s for fun," Lyons said. “Everyone seems to like it.”
Lyons played guard at Riverview High School before finishing her career at Venice. She still looks like a teenager, taking the court with straight black hair yanked back in a ponytail. Some of the newer players just graduated or still play prep ball.
“We definitely recruit,” Lyons said, laughing. “That’s what Facebook is for.” One of the best players is Natalie Gaudreau, a Venice High star who was the Herald-Tribune’s Player of the Year back in 2007.
One of the oldest players is Jacquie Gee, 37, who played at Southeast High School in Bradenton and Webber International University in Babson Park, Fla. We talked during a recent game while Gee sat on the bench with a sprained ankle.
“I do it for the exercise, mostly,” she says. “I enjoy playing, but —”
Our interview was interrupted by the opposing team hitting yet another 3-pointer to start the game.
“You want a time out?” Gee called to her teammates. “We’re down 12-nothing.”
‘This is ours’
Lyons works for a company that stocks magazines in department stores and supermarkets. She has some flexibility in her days and hours. She made me laugh when I asked about starting the Rec League.
“We wanted to keep playing, so I thought, How hard can it be?” she said. “Well ... it actually was a little difficult.” Lyons collects $50 from each player for each season. She picks the teams and tries to keep everyone equally matched. She gets T-shirts printed and negotiates gym rentals and team schedules. Of course, she doesn’t make any money running the Rec League. At first, it actually cost money out of her own pocket.
Now that the game is up and running, with a steady group of players, I asked why she didn’t just take the league over to the county or YMCA. Wouldn’t it be nice to take advantage of their organization and facilities?
That’s when Lyons laughed at me.
“We kind of like the idea that this is ours,” she said. “We don’t have to answer to anyone.”