Jhe North Bellmore-North Merrick Basketball League, which has been around since the 1960s, is in danger of shutting down this year, due to a lack of volunteers to help run the program.
Board member Kirk Oshan has been involved with the league for about 20 years, he said. His children played there, and so did he when he was a child.
At its peak, Oshan said, the league had about 650 active boys and girls, from sophomores to high school students. He couldn’t have a season for the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, but in 2019 there were 475 players and enough active board members.
“Maybe in the last 10 years or so,” Oshan said, “things started to change.”
Coaches started leaving the league, he said, followed by administrators, for a variety of reasons. Often it was because people were retiring and moving away, or because their kids were no longer in the league. Now, Oshan said, after the two-year hiatus, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find new volunteers.
The games are non-competitive. “Every kid on every team plays the same time,” Oshan explained. “It’s more about knowing how to play the game, sportsmanship – and hopefully having fun.”
Todd Kamelhar, one of the league’s co-chairs, has served on its board of directors for eight years and has been its chairman for five. “I was really brought in by a group of guys who had a passion to keep this league alive,” he said. “My children graduated and I was already a board member. I stayed because of the great experience my kids had in the league.
“We only have one manager who still has kids in the league, and that’s kind of sad,” Kamelhar added. “We cannot get parents to volunteer.
The season normally begins in November and ends with a playoff in March. Oshan said every team, regardless of their regular-season record, qualifies for the playoffs. In the 2019–20 season, the league had 45 teams competing.
The league is non-profit and the season usually consists of 10 games, although for the 2022-23 season they may consider reducing this number to eight, in the interest of reducing costs, but these factors remain to be considered. determine. The fee is remarkably reasonable compared to other youth sports, Oshan noted, and includes a mesh jersey.
League managers are more involved, Kamelhar said, and at least one attends every game. “Our league is all about fairness,” he said. “It’s designed for kids who just want to play.”
Games are played at North Bellmore and North Merrick gymnasiums, high schools, colleges and elementary schools in the area. Prior to the start of the season, arrangements are made with school districts and the league hires referees to officiate games.
“We need to have the right insurance,” added Oshan, “and we’re on top of our game in terms of what needs to be done.”
The league is not limited to residents of North Bellmore and North Merrick. In the past, children from Bellmore, Merrick and East Meadow have played. According to Oshan, it comes down to volunteers who are willing to join and help keep the league alive.
“We have no future if we do nothing,” he said. “The league will have to close. I feel sick about this – I want a place where these kids can play.
Longtime coach and former league president Herb Maletz said he would be sad to see him go. “Looks like we’re going broke,” he said. “We don’t want to close – the community loves us – but we can’t go on without help. We desperately need new blood to continue.
For now, Kamelhar said the board is not ready to run the league again in 2022-23 and needs at least five new volunteers. “It’s a matter of time,” he said. “We have to commit to the season going forward. It takes a village.
The league has a website, NBNMBBall.com. Those interested in volunteering can contact Oshan at [email protected] or (516) 425-6800.
“This league has been around for a very long time,” Kamelhar said, “and it would be a shame if it had to end.”