The Newburyport Boys Basketball Association (NBBA) was formed in November 2003 as a way for any boy in grades 5 through 8, who lived in or attended schools in the city of Newburyport, to play basketball. At that time, the Newburyport Boys Youth League offered limited opportunities for approximately 10 to 12 players at each of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade levels to participate in organized basketball. These players played other Cape Ann League teams, and the Newburyport teams were chosen by the coaches of each team. A group of fathers of 5th and 6th grade boys who had tried out but did not make the NBYL teams or who had boys who were simply interested in playing basketball started the NBBA.
The first year the league consisted of four teams (44 players) at the 5th and 6th grade level. A team of players from the Immaculate Conception Church and a team from the city of Amesbury also participated. All in-town games were played at the Hope Church, and the four teams also occasionally traveled out of town to play teams from other towns. The first season culminated with a double-elimination tournament that invited teams from other communities to compete.
The league’s second year in 2004 saw addition of a 7th and 8th grade division, and an increase in the overall number of participants. In 2005, the NBBA merged with the NBYL to form one united city boys’ youth league. This allowed all middle school level basketball, both teams competing in the Cape Ann League and the In-Town League, to be coordinated under one organization with a consistent philosophy. This philosophy consisted of equal playing time and balanced team selection in the In-Town League and an open and balanced selection process for the Cape Ann League participating team. The In-Town program selects equally talented teams without a “traditional draft” that requires coaches to know each player in the league. NBBA league officials evaluate each player and initially place them on a team. Each coach is then consulted to ensure they feel that each team has equal talent. Adjustments are made and team selections are finalized. Equally talented teams lead to closer, competitive games and provide more excitement and fun for the kids. This philosophy has worked well over the years.
The Cape Ann League team now includes an open invitation for any boy who wants to play at a more competitive inter-city/town level. Three evaluators are enlisted to select each team, the presumptive coach of the team (if their child makes the team), an outside evaluator, and a third evaluator from the city who has no connection to players on the teams that he or she is evaluating. Selecting a team is an imperfect exercise, but this system at least ensures that no boy is automatically entitled to make the team. It also has allowed boys who may not have made the team in previous years to have a real opportunity to make it if they continue to improve their game.
In 2006, the NBBA obtained its official 501c3 non-profit status. This allowed the league to more easily raise funds.
In 2007, the Development League or D-League was formed for boys in 3rd and 4th grade. This program introduces boys to the game of basketball and allows them to play in games against their friends. Forty players participated in the first year, and games were competitive and high-scoring, with many teams scoring more than 30 points per game. This program was considered a great success in its first year, and is acting as a feeder program to the Cape Ann and In-Town Leagues. The NBBA’s success was highlighted nationally and locally as the NBBA was featured on Sirius satellite radio’s the ABC’s of Sports show and articles about the end of year tournament were featured in the Newburyport Daily News.
In 2008 the NBBA introduced the Sheriff Frank Cousins Award. Frank is a long-time Newburyport resident and a strong supporter of youth activities. Frank has achieved professional success through hard work and perseverance, and has overcome many challenges along the way, yet remains humble. He has strong leadership skills and is well-liked and respected in his community. He has also been a strong supporter of the NBBA from its very first year and we felt it appropriate to create an award in his name. Each season the NBBA Board will recognize an 8th grader who has been an In-Town NBBA player for at least three years who possesses the strong personal characteristics that Frank has, and displays those qualities both on and off the court. The recipient will receive a framed certificate and will be recognized during the NBBA finals.
Today the league has over 250 players at all levels. The NBBA officials hope that the future overall play of the high school teams will be enhanced by this comprehensive program at the elementary and middle school levels.