WARREN, Pa. – Born in 2020, the Warren County YMCA School Basketball League is now bigger and better than ever as they get set to begin the 2022 season on Saturday.
The league features two divisions – third/fourth grade and fifth/sixth grade, with all the county schools – Eisenhower, Warren, Sheffield and Youngsville involved, as well as Randolph (NY).
The league is not run through the school district, but the teams are made up of boys who go to their respective schools together.
“I would say this is the biggest year,” said league founder Jamie Frederick. “There have typically been five to six teams in each division, and this year without a doubt was the biggest. I mean, we pretty much maxed out. We’re at seven or eight teams for each division.”
The league plays its games at the Warren YMCA through the blessing of its Executive Director Thad Turner.
“We work graciously with the Y,” Frederick said. “This year it has grown to where we’ve made it as county-wide as possible. Thad has been so gracious, Andrew (Papalia), and everyone at the Y to accommodate us and make sure there isn’t anything else going on.”
For his part, Turner and the Y are happy to accommodate.
“I think the greatest part of this league or our soccer leagues or any of it is the volunteer coaches, the parents come in and people come in from all over and work with these kids,” Turner said. “And they make a real impact on a lot of these kids’ lives who maybe have, you know, some struggles in their own lives that they’re working through, and they come in and this is kind of a refuge.”
The league was born, in part out of COVID.
“I remember that day in March and the boys’ basketball league was on its last Saturday and the Y had to shut down,” Frederick said. “It all started when COVID hit. The leadership the Y showed in opening everything back up safely was terrific.”
Frederick also credits some of the connections he’s made at the Y for helping to get the league up and running.
“I’ve been with the board for 10 plus years and they said, ‘hey, do you think we could make it happen at the Y,’” Frederick recalled. “They said we’ll make it happen. I don’t know the blueprints, I don’t know how it’s going to work, but we’re going to make it happen.”
Comradarie in the league among the teams and coaches is also evident.
“I’ve been happy to see the camaraderie with the boys and in the schools,” said Teresa Ablanalp, one of the league’s coaches. “The growth and the dedication is great. Jamie does a fantastic job letting us use the Y, that’s the way we’re able to function.”
Community involvement is also something that is very important.
“For example, I’ve got the varsity players from Eisenhower scheduled for two of the six weeks are going to come and officiate,” Frederick said. “I’ve even talked to Jeff Dougherty (City of Warren Police Capt.) and the police and he’s volunteered to ref and he said some of his fellow police officers might want to also, so we might have a day where it’s police officers officiating. Everything has just really grown.”
Overall, everyone involved is excited about the direction the league is heading.
“Where it goes from here, we’ll see,” Frederick said. “We’re very excited.”
Added Turner: “Whatever (league) we’re doing, there’s always community involvement, which turns it into something great.”