RYBA passes the torch


FOR many years Rochelle has been home to a variety of positive groups and programs that support the development of our children. In any place you look there are people willing to share their passion, effort and time in order to create a positive experience for the youth of the community.

One shining example of this type of selfless giving has been Rochelle Youth Basketball Association (RYBA). If you have had a child grow up in the Rochelle community, the chances are that you have had some experience with this program during your time here.

RYBA has been a staple of the youth sports community since it was established by Gene Kessen in 1978. Gene dedicated well over 30 years of coaching and aimed to create a positive environment for youth to refine the skills that they would utilize as they grew into adults.

If you have had any experience with RYBA in last 25 years, it is also likely that you have met Henry Bunger along the way. Henry has been involved with RYBA since 1995 and running the operations since 1998. It would not be uncommon to find Henry outside of Central School at 5 a.m. after a snowfall the night before so that the children could enjoy another week of learning to play the game of basketball.

“The RYBA program is about getting kids playing the game at an early age,” Bunger said.

RYBA has succeeded in its tenure to not only produce improvement in physical skillsets but also to serve as the bedrock for youth to grow socially amongst their peers and coaches.

There have traditionally been two age groups of players that move through RYBA’s system. The third and fourth grade league is focused on establishing a love for the sport and an understanding of the fundamentals.

The fifth and sixth grade league “was still fundamentals, but added more of the competitive side as well”, Bunger said.

Beginning this year with the Rochelle Park District, RYBA will take on a new name. REC Basketball will continue this well-established tradition with the same passion and effort that RYBA’s past leaders have invested into this league to make it what it has become.

With the addition of The REC to the Rochelle community, Rochelle Park District will be able to provide a centralized location for practices and games that take place under the supervision of dedicated coaches and administrators.

Players will have one team practice a week as well as one combined practice that includes all players and coaches in their respective age group. The focus of combined practices will be to provide players with a well-rounded experience with a variety of coaches and teaching methods. During individual practices, youth will become acquainted with team play and gain a more personal bond with their specific teammates and coach.

League administrators work directly with the coaching staff of Rochelle Middle School and Rochelle Township High School in order to produce a foundation that allows our young athletes to transition seamlessly to the next level.

Girls’ REC Basketball League will begin in a few short weeks with the first practice being on Oct. 14 and the first game on Oct. 23. The girls’ league will continue on until the middle of December with games every Saturday morning. 

The Boys’ REC Basketball League will begin shortly after the first of the year and continue through early March.

Registration is currently open for Girls REC league at the Rochelle Park District website (www.rochelleparkdistrict.org) or by phone (815) 562-7813.

Scott Stevens is the recreation supervisor of the Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District.