Lithuanian Athletic Club Zaibas: open History

History of Zaibas
The first Lithuanians to settle in the Cleveland area arrived in around 1871. However, it was not until 1921 that the first athletic club was organized by Jurgis Venslovas, which was then known as the Lithuanian Catholic Athletic Club.

In 1937, an event hosted by the City of Cleveland was attended by a basketball team from Lithuania. The next year, Lithuanians from Cleveland travelled to Kaunas to participate at the first (1938) Lithuanian National Olympiad which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuania's independence. Here 3 gold and 2 silver medals in track and field were won by J. Prokopas. Cleveland's team leader, J. Venslovas brought the flag of the first Lithuanian National Olympiad which had been blessed by Archbishop J. Skvireckas, home to the United States. This flag had been presented to him by President Antanas Smetona of Lithuania. In 1986, the flag was presented to LAUNA by the Žaibas club.

After World War II, approximately 30,000 Lithuanians immigrated to the United States and some 3,000 settled in the Cleveland area. Their arrival reinvigorated the Cleveland Lithuanian community.

Cleveland's Žaibas was formed on May 5, 1950. Thirty years of a well established athletic tradition was transferred to the newly arrived exiles. Its first president was Vytautas Januskis. With the arrival of Algirdas Bielskus in Cleveland a new track and field section was added in 1950. The club's activities rapidly expanded to include other sports. The men's and women's volleyball teams. coached by Rytas Babickas, dominated in most athletic events.

In 1951, at the 1st North American Lithuanian Games (LAUNA), Žaibas members participated in basketball, volleyball, and table tennis. The following year, the club hosted the 2nd North American Lithuanian Games in Cleveland and fielded teams in basketball, volleyball, table tennis, and track and field.

In 1956, the club became active in swimming. tennis was embraced in 1959, skiing in 1969, biathlon in 1978, riflery in 1980, racquetball in 1982, and softball in 1993. In its 56-year history, Žaibas has actively participated in and hosted numerous sporting events.

Žaibas has been led by the following individuals: Vytautas Januskis (1950), Algirdas Bielskus (1950-1957), Rytas Babickas (1957-1975), Juozas Kijauskas (1975-1991), Vidas Tatarunas (1991-2013) and Peter Titas (2013-present).

Žaibas Juniors, Inc. presently has over 100 active members.

Juniors Basketball
The Lithuanian-American Athletic Club, Zaibas Juniors would like to invite all children of Lithuanian descent to join our organization and compete in this year’s North American Lithuanian Juniors Basketball Tournament. On an annual basis, approximately 300 participants representing 40 teams participate in these junior tournaments. If you know of other families in the Greater Cleveland area who may be interested in playing in this tourney please pass this information on.

Mens Basketball

Sr. Mens Basketball
35 years and older


Junior Girls Volleyball

Track and Field