The 25th Anniversary Committee of the WMBA has announced a new website dedicated to recording the history, accomplishments, and contributions made by their volunteers, Board Members, League Convenors, referees, and participants during our past 25 years.
The new website can be found at http://www.WMBA25.ca and, together with its Facebook page previously announced at "WMBA 25th anniversary 1997-2022," includes pictures, videos and other interesting information about the league together with a testimonial section inviting your comments regarding your involvement. The committee is planning some exciting events in the fall, and please watch for further announcements. In the meantime, they invite you to submit team pictures, videos and other information, which will be posted and provide an excellent reference for everyone who has played in the league.
The WMBA is pleased to announce the opening of its 25th-anniversary Facebook group page (WMBA 25th Anniversary 1997-2022). The league welcomes contributions of videos, photos, and history to include on the pages together with ideas for its 25th-anniversary events it can host in celebration. They are also looking to profile on this page of players, referees, coaches, organizers, convenors, and those who have contributed to basketball in Manitoba and elsewhere through their involvement with the WMBA.
To kick things off, they have included some history of the WMBA and photos, which we hope to update regularly with contributions from everyone who has been involved in the league.
Did you know that since inception, over 20,000 youth have participated in the league?
Winnipeg Minor Basketball Association (WMBA) - League History
Years 1-10 (1997-2006)
After 5 years living away in Victoria and Calgary, Mike Ruta returned with his family to Winnipeg in August 1997 but not before observing community basketball played in both cities. Separate from high school and elite provincial basketball Victoria and Calgary had developed community programs for both male and female youth involving teams selected in community centres throughout each city. Starting at age 5, teams were organized and played at local schools in one-hour intervals involving referees, gym supervisors, coaches and practices throughout the season ranging from October to April.
Before returning, Mike contacted Adam Wedlake, who was employed as program director at Basketball Manitoba. Adam immediately took an interest in assisting with the concept of a community league, and Mike proceeded to contact 25 Winnipeg community centres to solicit their interest in setting up a league. By September 1997, many community centres had committed to proceeding, including Burton Cummings, Chalmers, Fort Richmond, Gateway, Kelvin, River Heights, St. Norbert, Tyndall Park, Vince Leah, Lindenwoods, Fort Garry, Park City, Valley Gardens, Varsity View, Kirkfield Westwood, Dakota and Waverley Heights.
Mike turned to founding members Dale Gamey (Waverley Heights), Jan Mashinter (now Jan Voss)(Valley Gardens), Lori Black (Gateway), Larry Kabez (Vince Leah) and Adam Wedlake (Basketball Manitoba) to lead efforts throughout the city which included organizing board meetings, preparation of a constitution, schedules and contacting convenors and coaches to kick off the league. Our convenors were many and involved vital members and supporters, including Doug Coates, who designed our logo, which endures today. The first season 1997 to 1998, included 40 teams and increased each year to over 400 teams. In 1998 the WMBA introduced a spring league running from April to June to complement our successful winter league offering.
In 2006, the WMBA endorsed the formation of the Winnipeg Minor Basketball Foundation to finance, build, and maintain outdoor basketball facilities at community centres in major sections of Winnipeg.
To date, 6 outdoor courts were constructed with contributions from teams via a nominal player surcharge, contributions from the government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg and member community centres. The courts were designed by Prairie Architects and constructed by Ted Fardoe through his company Canotech Consultants Ltd. The first court completed was at Garden City Community Club in 2006 at around $110,000, and five others have since been constructed at Oxford Heights, Dakota, Kirkfield Westwood, Whyteridge and Central Corydon community centres. The courts feature a solid aggregate base covered by a Mondo surface, sturdy hoops with plexiglass backboards, a fenced-in surface with lights to allow play in the early evening, and benches for player use, all built to withstand Winnipeg weather conditions. The foundation also awards bursaries to both male and female youth who have participated in the league and desire to expand post-secondary education with continued involvement in basketball as players, coaches, referees or organizers.
Also, in 2006, the WMBA received a grant from a Federal Health department to promote female involvement in basketball. The grant gave rise to a program entitled "Girl - she got game," which was used in all community centres to promote participation in basketball through the WMBA. At the same time, the WMBA introduced a coach of the year award modelled after the exemplary coaching of Bruce Russell, our first recipient. Also, the WMBA conducts Hoopfest for all our younger youth participants who started early in our development and continues today.
Years 11-20 (Years 2007- 2016)
Growing and developing was the mandate WMBA board for the next ten years. The introduction of great programs such as Steve Nash Youth Basketball and the "Training Day" for grassroots coaches, as well as solid concepts such as fair play and zero-tolerance policies, are strong examples of initiatives the WMBA board implemented to promote and enhance the experience of players, coaches and parents. In collaboration with Basketball Manitoba, the Training Day coaches clinic soon developed into the Super Coaches Clinic, which became the largest coaches clinic in the country. Every fall, the Super Coaches Clinic remains a landmark opportunity for local coaches of all youth basketball levels.
In 2007 FIBA rules were adopted by the country's governing bodies of basketball. The WMBA also adopted these rules for our leagues with appropriate modifications to suit youth skills and abilities.
In 2008, the WMBA foundation announced the award of the third outdoor basketball court to the Dakota Community Club. The court was completed and opened officially in August of 2009. To meet the demands of the competitive club basketball development, the Rising Stars League was also developed for ages 12-15 in 2008. The popularity of this league necessitated the introduction of a qualifying tournament for the 2009 fall season.
2009: At most board meetings, a recurring theme and discussion were "how can the WMBA attract participants at the youngest age groups and maintain them year over year. There were great concepts such as HoopFest, the Christmas Wesmen Classic tournament; however, we wanted more athletes in our leagues.
In 2010, the WMBA secured its first corporate sponsor to offer youth basketball leagues to the introductory ages 5-7 years at a significantly reduced fee. Denny's Restaurants was our title sponsor for the youth basketball programs. In cooperation with our member community clubs, this subsidy initiative has proved very successful for the 5-7-year-old divisions for many years. We considered this initiative an opportunity for families to provide affordable playing opportunities while introducing their children to our great game. As part of the league's mandate to increase and provide quality programming, we ventured forward to deliver pilot projects based on the new 3x3 concept. The first was a 3 on 3 league for 6-8-year-olds, where the available court time and the ability for coaches to instruct athletes increased significantly. The second initiative was a 3x3 summer league on the WMBA foundations outdoor court facilities for boys and girls between 15 and 18 years.
In 2011, the Community Wesmen Classic tournament had run its course with the loss of the title sponsor and subsequent loss of support from the hosting facility and in 2012, the league rebranded with the "Winnipeg Sun 3 on 3 Classic Tournament" The tournament was based on the 3x3 play format emulating the future Olympic sport.
Through the growth of the league over the years and the numbers of teams competing for practice gym time, issues became apparent not so much for gameplay; however, for practice times for all teams. Many discussions regarding the requirements associated with Sport Canada's Long Term Athlete Development model. The league's community club convenors and league coordinators worked tirelessly to build teams across clubs and share gym times as best as possible.
By 2012, numerous new community club gymnasiums had been developed in the city, and the practice time pressures were alleviated; these quality venues were also utilized as game-day facilities; however, we noticed a decline in girls' participation in the league.
In 2013, we welcomed Suki Choeun to the board as the Director of Women's Programming. The "Girls Can Play" initiative successfully attracted 190 participants to well-organized fun-based skill camps. Of the 190 girls attending these camps, 150 were first-time participants in basketball.
The WMBA also moved forward with a new program for 5-7-year-old boys and girls this same year. The Jr NBA program was a 12-week skill and fun-based development camp that followed the Canada Sport for Life guidelines and Canada Basketball athlete development pathways. The first-year pilot had four community clubs run the program for 80 athletes. The NBA facilitates a separate coaches clinic for all coaches involved with the program. These great programs carried on for numerous years.
2014 saw the installation of the final court in the WMBA Foundation mandate to provide one facility in each of our six districts started approximately 12 years previous. It is an excellent achievement of the WMBA Foundation to see through the installation of one of these outstanding outdoor facilities in each of our original Districts. Installations were provided to the following community centers that have been the benefactors of this program. Garden City Community Club, Whyte Ridge Community Club, Dakota Community Club, Kirkfield Westwood Community Club, Oxford Heights Community Club, Corydon Community Center.
2015 and 2016 maintained the provision of great programming as noted above. The elite arm of the league rebranded from Rising Stars to the Manitoba Basketball League, attracting 29 teams in its first season.
Years 21-Present (2017- 2022)
In 2018, the Jr. NBA program was expanded to offer sessions for ages 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12. This initiative was put in place as a strategy to introduce basketball to players who were new to the game as well as provide additional training sessions outside of league play. The expansion was well-received. A new partnership was also formed between the WMBA and Peg City Basketball to deliver two significant club basketball programs: the Peg City Youth Basketball League for grades 5-8 and the Peg City Showcase series for grades 9-12. The first season saw 61 teams.
In 2019, the Peg City Showcase series grew to 86 teams and Club teams from outside of Winnipeg started to participate, including teams from Kenora, ON. Fall registration was on the rise, increasing by 300 players, with excitement for basketball at an all time high after the Toronto Raptors won the NBA Championship. The league expected Spring numbers to be through the roof.
Unfortunately, early 2020 saw the cancellation of the 2019-20 playoffs as well as the 2020 Spring season due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 had programs open partially only to get shut back down. The WMBA persisted, however, by offering 1-to-1 training, virtual skill work, and smaller sized in-person training when given the green light from governing bodies to re-open the Winter programming in 2021.
2021 Spring Season was pushed into summer and evolved into an outdoor 3x3 league that saw 70 teams back on the WMBA outdoor courts again after the competition hiatus. Modifications were made for the lower ages with adjustable backboard and newly lined courts. The summer was a huge success!
Fall 2021 saw strong registration numbers considering we were still in the middle of a pandemic. Challenges arose as school permits were no longer being offered to many of the community centres leaving many teams with little to no practice time. To address this, the WMBA set up group training sessions at the Sport for Life Centre to help offset the lack of team practice time. The first half of the season was successful and after an extended holiday break, due to the Omicron variant, the WMBA season is back underway and will be gearing up for the 2021-22 Playoffs in coming weeks.
The WMBA leagues continues as Manitoba's largest basketball league with the work of club conveners, coordinators, gym supervisors, referees, coaches, and of course athletes.
The mission of the WMBA is to provide a positive environment for all Winnipeg & surrounding area youth, coaches, referees and parents by promoting the sport of basketball through a community centre program.
Objectives of the WMBA:
Past Executive Directors of the WMBA included Adam Wedlake, Susie Laping, Lee Hurton, Darcy Coss, and our current Executive Director Sean Close. Past Presidents of the WMBA include Mike Ruta, Dwight MacNeil, Ted Fardoe and current president Terry Wolowiec. The WMBA is a non-profit organization that adopted a fair play policy since its inception. Our coaches, convenors, Board of Directors are all volunteers. Without the assistance of Bill Wedlake, who cast support to the WMBA by the University of Winnipeg through profiling the league throughout its early years, including a tournament for league teams at the Wesmen Classic, our referee assignor Reid Kenyon with the assistance of Neil Gottfried, who has served as our assignor for league games since inception, our founding members, Presidents and Board members and so many other dedicated volunteers the league would not evolve to the third largest community sports program in the city.