It was a record-setting year at the MYAS Grade State Championships that wrapped up this past weekend with the 7th and 8th grade boys tournament. In all, 1,540 teams participated over three weekends in what has become the largest tournament of its kind anywhere in the country. The record-breaking year was made possible due to the increased awareness of MYAS programs and high participation in the various communities by families, coaches, and players across the state of Minnesota.
Once again teams from across Minnesota participated in locations throughout the Twin Cities area last weekend at the Grade State Championships. Brad Hiranaga, head coach of the Minneapolis Lakers 8th Grade Blue team explained that his team is a city-wide effort. “Our team represents the whole city, but Southwest Minneapolis is where most of our players are from—Southwest High School, Washburn High School, and some others. This is the biggest tournament of the year for them and so these guys get super excited—every other tournament is in preparation for this one,” he said.
Hiranaga explained the importance of last weekend’s event, “we prepare for it a couple weeks before, and they never forget about this tournament. We had a few weeks in January where we were not playing well and we were getting blown out by some teams in higher leagues, but the last month these guys came together and really focused on defense and they brought it” said Hiranaga.
The lessons learned in basketball are also important when applying them to real life situations. “Basketball is a great sport for learning how to be resilient,” said Hiranaga. “I think the idea of playing as a team is important and if you get down on yourself you’re not helping the team.” Hiranaga recalled playing basketball as a youth and what a positive experience it was. “The competitiveness of the sport is so great to have in your memory bank, I hope our players have that as well.”
Other coaches have a similar hope for their players as well. Champlin Park 7th grade coach John Howe noted some of the goals he hoped his team would accomplish at this year’s tournament. “The boys worked hard all year, this was our goal to win state. These boys have been together for a while, we have all gelled together and have worked very well as a team.”
Gaining new skills is something every coach would like for his team and Howe also hoped this for his team; “if you try hard and work hard a lot of good things will come. You can’t do it alone. You have to do it all together. That’s what I hope they take away from it.”
Whistle Blowers love Grade State
While players, coaches and parents all look forward to the excitement of the Grade State Championships, they aren’t alone. Referees also look at Grade State as an opportunity to strut their best stuff and take part in an event that they too have fallen in love with over the years.
Longtime official Peter Suggs says that this is one of his favorite events of the year to officiate. “This year’s Grade State was awesome. What I like most about officiating the Grade State Championships is seeing all of the kids and coaches from this year’s tournaments shift focus for the final weekend of competition. Everyone gains that ‘eye of the tiger’ when competing for medals and trophies.”
And while high school teams and leagues have struggled to find referees the last couple of years, MYAS director of officials Tony Schrepfer says that things have been picking up in the hiring of youth sports officials. Primarily because of the success of an online training program that incoming officials seem to like. MYAS also recruits former youth coaches to step in as referees. Says Schrepfer “who better to recruit then coaches of youth basketball as they’ve been in it and see the need for more and better trained officials.”
Maple Grove Fundraiser
Part of this year’s record-setting tournament was played at Maple Grove Middle School. Jim Davison, coordinator at Maple Grove, explained the importance of hosting this year’s championships. “Our basketball association fund raises to help pay the operating costs of the Maple Grove Community Gymnasiums,” he said and noted that the MYAS tournament also “provided an opportunity for a few of our OMGBA (Osseo Maple Grove Basketball Association) travel teams to play Grade State in their own community.”
Maple Grove Community Gymnasiums are relatively new, having opened in 2015 (built and operated in partnership between the City of Maple Grove, ISD 279, and the OMGBA). Davison said it was a unique venue for hosting the Grade State tournament.
.“It is a wonderful facility to view three games at the same time. Also, the large commons area, dedicated concessions space, and windows separating the commons area from the game courts further enhances the experience,” he said. “Being connected to Maple Grove Middle School allows an additional two game courts in close proximity to host five court events.”
Davison recalled some of his past experiences with coaching over the years and how it related to last weekend’s past tournament. “Personally, I have coached in eight Grade State tournaments and have watched my wife coach in four others,” he explained. “Coaching traveling basketball and ending the traveling season at the MYAS Grade State tournament was always the highlight of the year—win or lose. The pressure increases, the environment is great, competition is strong, and the large team trophies are definitely motivating!”
Of course there are always challenges with hosting a tournament. “Once things are operational, there is time to enjoy the games and the competition,” said Davison who noted that there is also value in hosting an MYAS event. “If you have a supportive district and have the necessary resources (gym space, volunteers, etc.) to host the event, it is a great experience and valuable fundraising opportunity.”
Click here for results from 7th/8th grade boys tournament
Click here for photo gallery #1; gallery #2; gallery #3