The Santa Rosa Bible Church Youth Basketball League was started in 1977-78 (November of 77 through January 78) by Mike Sheppard. When Mike's son, Shawn Sheppard was 9 years old, he had tried the Boys Club and YMCA leagues, but both seemed disorganized and didn't have enough supervision, much fewer skills training. So why not do something that would teach skills, but let the kids have fun learning?
SRBC was then located at the Benicia campus, and Mike asked Todd Baker (SRBC Administrative Assistant) if he could use the gym on Saturdays to let some kids come and play basketball. Don Totemeier, Russ Young, and Bob Johansson brought their sons and some friends. The second week we had about 32 kids, so we decided to divide up the kids into 4 teams, get some t-shirts and prepare a schedule and let them play each other. This continued for the next couple of years and each year the numbers increased, usually by 2-6 teams.
In the fourth year, due to some nagging from Kathy Benedetti that girls should also be allowed to play, we grew by 4 additional girls teams. By now we were dividing the kids up into age divisions and getting coaches from not only SRBC but from some of the other churches that had kids participating. Each year the program grew, adding kids from the surrounding neighborhood and soon from as far away as Sonoma, Sebastopol, Kenwood, and Windsor.
Initially, Mike had gone to each of the near-by Elementary Schools and left flyers advertising the program to interest kids in signing up, but after a few years, we were having more kids than we could accommodate at the Benicia campus. We tried for a couple of years to use some Elementary schools for games on Saturdays in addition to the Benicia site. Also, for one year, we had some Friday night games for the older division. Fortunately, the Lord allowed us to move and build a large gym that could accommodate two games at the same time for 10 hours on Saturday.
The league has now been running for 42 years. At one point, it had maxed out participation at 540 to 560 kids with a waiting list each year. More interesting is that some of the kids who played in the early years are now back coaching kids (usually their own) in the league and in leadership positions. The principles of the league are still in force, which is to let the kids learn the game, develop skills and have fun. Some never play basketball beyond the age of 14, but many have gone on to play high school, college, and even professional basketball.