Net positive: Marblehead Youth Basketball to see changing of guard

The Marblehead Youth Basketball Association will begin its 20th season this fall with a changing of the guard, but not a change in its underlying philosophy.

In 2004, Paul “Mitch” Mitchell co-founded the league and has led it ever since. Mitchell started when his son was playing and remained active long enough to see a grandchild participate.

Action from the 2022-23 Marblehead Youth Basketball Association season. MYBA will be back for its 20th season under new leadership this fall. COURTESY PHOTO/VICTORIA DOSCH

But now — after two decades of scheduling gym time with the local schools, balancing the teams’ rosters, coordinating the officials, purchasing equipment, and even washing the uniforms at season’s end — Mitchell is stepping away from the program.

He has handed the reins to Bob Lemmond. Lemmond will be assisted by longtime volunteer Don Rowe, along with the league’s board of directors.

Lemmond pledges that the league, which will open registration for the season Sept. 11, will remain true to its founding principles, including that boys of all skill levels are welcome to play and that parity is a desired goal.

Action from the 2022-23 Marblehead Youth Basketball Association season. MYBA will be back for its 20th season under new leadership this fall. COURTESY PHOTO/VICTORIA DOSCH

But he is also hoping to bring some enhancements to the league, building on the foundation of fun and skills development Mitchell and others have laid.

About 300 boys in grades 3 through 8 participate in Marblehead Youth Basketball annually. To accommodate the large number of families who head north to ski on the weekends, games are held Mondays through Thursdays.

Both Lemmond and Rowe say that, from time to time over the years, some have tried to nudge further in the direction of being a feeder for elite AAU programs and their ilk, where cutthroat competition is the order of the day. But the league has and will continue to resist those pushes.

Rowe noted that, as much as the program is trying to develop players who can play competitively in high school, it is also geared toward fostering more low-key involvement in the game, perhaps topping out at playing intramurally in college. Forging lifelong friendships is also important, Lemmond said.

But that is not to say the games are not serious. There are trained referees overseeing each game, and playoffs at the end of the season.

Scan this QR code to be taken to the sign up page for Marblehead Youth Basketball.

One semi-controversial aspect of the league is that its organizers will perform in-season “trades,” if they see a juggernaut running roughshod over the competition. Rowe acknowledged that parents are not always thrilled to have their sons change teams midstream, but the league views that bit of pain worth it to keep the competition as even as possible.

As for those enhancements, Lemmond said MYBA plans to launch a website, complete with action shots of some of the play and updated standings and schedules. 

It also plans to call in some outside reinforcements to help develop players’ skills, acknowledging that many parents, to whom the league is grateful, may not bring a lot of coaching experience to their volunteer service.

Lemmond said he has spoken to Marblehead High School boys basketball coach Mike Giardi, and he is “very enthusiastic” of deepening the bond between MYBA and the Magicians program.

Jamie Bloch and the Recreation and Parks Department, which runs a youth basketball program for the town’s girls, will also continue to be a “fantastic partner,” Lemmond said.

However, there will be one thing that Mitchell had done all those years that Lemmond will not be doing: washing all those uniforms.

Starting this year, MYBA participants will get to keep their jerseys at season’s end.

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