The Chelsea Youth Basketball League has a proud history in this city.
Before Nestor Lopez, Richie Harris, Joe Smith, Chris Jones, Tommy Mims, Teddy Lim, Leo Chafin, and three-point king John Saunders led Chelsea High School to its last Greater Boston League championship in 1987, they all performed in the CYBL.
Before Roy Valentin starred at Chelsea High, he played in the CYBL. And before Timmy and Bobby Mullaney, the younger brothers of Chelsea High Principal Joseph Mullaney, went on to play high school basketball, they were standouts in the CYBL.
Such legendary youth coaches as Bruce Harrison, Larry Notkin, Steve Selbovitz, Joe Godin, Ron and Leo Robinson, Mark Zamansky, and Jimmy Manzo all led teams in the league.
The good news is that CYBL is still in existence today with Michelle Lopez leading the way at its president and 270 boys and girls, ages 5 to 14, competing in the weekly program.
“Our league is about 80 percent boys and 20 percent girls,” said Lopez, whose son, Nick, plays in the senior league.
The league plays games on Saturdays at two locations, the Jordan Boys and Girls Club and the Williams Middle School gymnasium. Sixteen teams started the season in November and they will end with playoffs in March.
Lopez, whose efforts have been lauded by parents and coaches, is in her fourth year as president and is assisted by junior league president Amir Rodriguez and senior league vice president Tony Martin. Lopez launched the pee wee division of the league three years ago “so we could have an instructional program for the little kids and by the time they move up to the junior league, they’re ready.”
Lopez said the league could use some additional volunteers and there is much fundraising to be done.
“We send out letters to businesses and city officials and we try to raise funds by selling chocolates,” said Lopez.
The CYBL leader is happy to provide an organized league for youths who want to learn the fundamentals and perhaps play at the high school level.
“I’m glad to see the kids are off the streets and there is something positive for them to do,” said Lopez. “The cost of playing in the league is $75. Players get to keep their uniforms. We could always use more support.”
Elaine Monge, branch manager at Metro Credit Union who is a team sponsor, said the league is well organized and fun for the players.
“The league is really awesome and it’s good for the kids to come together and play organized sports and build teamwork and some other skills,” said Monge, who is an assistant coach of the Blue Devils team. “Michelle does a tremendous job as president.”
Troy Irizarry, coach of two teams in the league, said the CYBL is “a great organization.”
“It’s great for the community and the kids always have a good time,” said Irizarry, who played sports at Everett High. “I’ve been involved in the league for four years and we owe Michelle a big thank you for the great job she does running the league.”