For indoor sports leagues like Bellmore Merrick Basketball, the coronavirus pandemic has created challenges for administrators, who want to keep their organizations active while keeping kids and parents safe.
Despite the challenges, Bellmore Merrick Basketball has remained a fixture in the community, thanks to some decisions made by its leaders to move the league to outdoor courts in good weather. Now, as the league prepares for the winter season, it’s ready to go indoors and provide new clinics for basketball players of all ages.
The league has been around for more than 45 years, according to Mike Kruter, one of its administrators. Kruter has been involved with the BMBB as a volunteer for 27 years, he said. His three children played in the league.
“The league has always been promoted as a non-competitive community league,” Kruter explained.
Before the pandemic, the normal season ran from November to March. Kindergarten and first graders participate in clinics, which teach the basics of the game, and once they enter second grade, regular league play, with 12 to 14 games, begins and continues until the 12th year.
The 2019-20 season was the last time BMBB played indoors, and the season was cut short due to the pandemic. At the time, some 800 children were playing in the league. Later in 2020, he was unable to obtain permits from local school districts for the use of their gymnasiums as restrictions continued.
In the spring of 2021, Kruter said, the league needed to do something to ensure it didn’t fold. “To keep the league and the brand there,” he said, “we decided to bring the basketball league outside.”
In conjunction with the Town of Hempstead, BMBB has received permits to use the courts at Newbridge Road Park in South Bellmore. It brought together spring, summer, and short fall seasons in 2021, and a spring and summer season this year. About 400 children participated in the outdoor games, Kruter said.
The move away brought about some changes. Indoors, matches are played on a full court. On the outside, fewer pitches dictated a pivot to half-court plays. Despite the changes, Kruter said, the change was welcomed by parents.
“The parents were very grateful,” he said. “We managed to get the kids out.
Now, Kruter added, as the league looks to winter, it has been told by Bellmore school districts that they will be issuing permits for gymnasium use again. BMBB is now shifting gears to rebuild its indoor league – and exciting changes are ahead.
In the past, instructional clinics were only offered to younger players, and the league found that older kids lacked additional instruction that could help them improve their skills. In partnership with the Progressive Hoops basketball education group, led by former NCAA Division 1 player Steadman Short, clinics will now be offered to middle and high school students who play in the league.
Short, originally from Greenville, South Carolina, now lives in Bellmore and is a doctor. ed. professor at the Academy Charter School in Uniondale. He played basketball at the University of Mississippi, and professionally in Europe and South America, before moving into coaching.
Short said he hopes the clinics will help players who are on or might be interested in trying out for school teams. Because clinics weren’t offered in the past, he said, he also hoped they would provide older players with training they may have been missing. “It’s that avenue to bridge the gap,” he said. “It keeps the transition going.”
Short has done clinical work with BMBB in the past, and Sal Dilapi, who is a director at Kruter, said it has always gone well. Dilapi is the organization’s chief referee, although he also assigns and schedules officials for matches. Not everything was back to normal post-Covid, Dilapi said, and league officials are glad they were able to keep him running.
Registration is now open online, at BMBB.org, Kruter said. Entry forms, available online, can also be mailed to PO Box 364, Bellmore. The league is a non-profit organization and Kruter’s sporting goods store Lifestyle Sports in Wantagh provides uniforms.
Parents are registering their children, Kruter said, and the league has recruited new volunteers. He has a long-standing commitment to the league, he said, because he understands the importance of youth sports organizations. “I do it because I know how important sport is for kids,” Kruter said. “Even more in today’s world.”
Although the league faces some uncertainty as it resumes indoor play, its administrators are looking forward to another successful season from November. The clinics taught by Short will still take place outdoors at Newbridge Road Park in September and October. For more information about them, visit the Progressive Hoops Instagram page, @Progressive.Hoops, and to find out more about the league, visit their website or contact [email protected].