When the term “March Madness” came into being, it was generally in reference to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. And while that tournament is now at 68 teams, it pales in comparison to what MYAS has going with its own version of March Madness, the Grade State Basketball Championships..
Now in its 30th year, the Grade State basketball tournament is the largest tournament of its kind anywhere in the country and will again this year include over 1500 teams and 13 thousand players. Staggering numbers.
“There are a variety of reasons for the continued growth of the tournament” said Eric Rathke, MYAS Grade State Tournament Director. “We are always trying to improve facilities and the hosts do an outstanding job. The multiple brackets within each grade allows for high quality competition.”
The 2020 edition of the tournaments will be on March 7-8 for girls and March 14-15 for boys. With the huge numbers of teams and games the Grade State Championships rely heavily on a number of host sites, including 13 on the girls side and 18 for the boys tournament. One of those hosts traditionally has been Delano. “I would guess Delano has been a host for at least 18 years” says Julie Longstreet, a Delano boys varsity parent and youth board member.
“Our school’s budget for basketball has increased very little, if any, in the last 20 years, so this (hosting the Grade State Championships) helps offset things for our programs. Throughout our years with this fundraising effort, we have been able to get uniforms that fit all players and are of good quality, shooting machines for practice and off season work, extra coaches not in the school budget, team meals as well as keeping our summer costs low. “
Longtime Cottage Grove board member Connie Briggs says their organization has had a similar experience and has been hosting the Grade State Championships since 1996. “We host for a couple reasons. It is an easy fundraiser where all you have to do is show up to work. You don’t have to collect the entry fees from the teams, organize brackets or manage the referee or game schedules. A couple of your teams get to play on their home courts which makes it very special and it brings over 1000+ people into your community for the weekend.”
Briggs also feels like there’s some greater purpose that’s gained by being a host. “It makes you feel a part of a big team of people that are molding our young student athletes into better people through the sport of basketball.”
Seeding is the Key
And while everybody loves the idea of big tournaments, trophies, recognition among your peers and of course winning, none of that would be possible without a balanced playing field and a high level of competition. And according to Rathke it starts with the seeding meetings where coaches gather to give their input on their own team and teams in their division.
“We are always looking at ways we can improve the tournament especially at the seeding meetings. We have now partnered with YBB hoops to utilize trusted rankings to help teams input their scores throughout the basketball season. Which in turn will be a new tool for the seeding meeting” says Rathke.
The even playing field and multiple levels is a common thread with coaches who have been involved in the tournament for several years, including Buffalo 8th grade girls coach Pete Goodfellow. “For me it’s allowing all teams to play in state. Normally the teams in each tier whether you’re in tier one or eight , it’s a competitive bracket.”
W.H. Nelson, who coaches 5th grade boys in Minneapolis says he likes the high level of competition that his teams face every year at the Grade State Championships. “ I like the fact that you get the best competition in the state. . So if you win it, you truly have bragging rights because you have faced the cream of the crop.”
“This is most of our Delano youth players’ favorite tournament” says Longstreet. “Our athletes love making memories at this tourney that they talk about years later.”
Click here for more information on this year’s Grade State Basketball Championships.