Beachside buckets: Embargo League kicks off fourth season

May 28, 2024

MARION — On weekend nights in the summer, the sound of dribbling, laughter and early 2000s hits can be heard coming from the basketball court at Silvershell Beach.

The court serves as the home to the Embargo League, a summer basketball league for college-aged hoopers from the South Coast.

The league, which started in 2021, currently features 12 teams and over 130 players.

“There was no outlet — If you didn’t play college basketball, you couldn’t play anywhere,” said Dylan Cantara, CEO and co-founder of the Embargo League.

“When it first started, we were just trying to get some guys to get outside and play basketball at a competitive level while also having fun,” said co-founder Michael Pardo.

The league started with around 50 players, and has more than doubled in size. Every team is sponsored by a local business or organization, including 143 Market and the Mattapoisett Police Department. Cantara said that 80% of the league’s sponsors reached out to him to partner up, rather than the other way around.

Cantara believes that the success of the league can be partly attributed to an emphasis on social media presence.

“I think what separates us is our social media coverage,” said Cantara. “We are very active, trying to post as many cool things as we can to keep the players engaged.”

Embargo League players can get home from a game and watch their highlights on the league’s youtube channel. Every minute of every game is recorded and players’ statistics are tracked.

Pardo said that listening to input of players and coaches has kept participation levels high. The league even has a players’ association of 10-15 players that voice requests and ideas regarding scheduling and game structure.

Cantara, Pardo and co-founder Andrew Bellemare all graduated from college this spring.

“I think I'll definitely take a lot from this experience,” said Pardo. “This has given me hands-on experience in running a business with other people along with experience in marketing, operations and finances.”

The Embargo League, represented by Cantara, took home second place at a national competition in Austin, Texas for growing a business in April.

Despite the growth of the league in recent years, the triumvirate of Cantara, Pardo and Bellemare are not yet satisfied.

“We want to expand the league next year into Newport or Cape Cod,’ said Cantara. “We are also looking to build a barn-type facility that will have two indoor courts and two outdoor courts. We are looking for investors to really help the league take off.”

Bellemare said his goals for the future of the league include introducing youth lessons and leagues for different age groups.

The Embargo League has grown into a business, but it remains at its roots a place where young adults can forget about other facets of their lives and have fun doing what they love.

“My favorite part is seeing everyone each week,” said Pardo. “I’ve met a lot of awesome people through this league. Coming back each summer and seeing them again, catching up while also competing against them has been a joy for me.”

“It’s a community — Everyone is cheering each other on, everyone is talking to each other,” said Cantara. “It’s like a brotherhood, everybody comes together.”

“Embargo means a lot to me because it signifies all the hard work myself and many others have put into the league,” said Bellemare.