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Epic Grade State Tournament Success Tempered By Handful Of Challenges

By Dawson Blanck, 04/05/24, 2:45PM CDT


April Dawson's Desk

With the 2024 Grade State Basketball Championships in the books, we’re proud to announce remarkable participation and engagement in celebration of Minnesota youth basketball. Here’s a snapshot of the numbers:

Team Participation:  A total of 1,674 teams took part, engaging in spirited competition on 150 courts spread across 30 different sites.

Player and Fan Turnout:  With 15,066 players showcasing their skills and over 50,000 enthusiastic fans in attendance, the event buzzed with excitement and energy.

Game Statistics:  We saw a high level of competitiveness across the 2,912 games played, with 64.48% of girls' and boys’ games decided by 10 points or less, and an impressive 81.95% of all games decided by 15 points or less.

Rising Stars Grade School Basketball Showcase- March 16:  This event featured 1,016 talented 4th-8th grade girls’ and boys’ players representing 112 MYBA member associations from across Minnesota, showcasing the depth and talent across all levels of play. These Rising Stars were nominated by their coach and/or teammates.

We're thrilled by the overwhelming success of these premier events and deeply grateful for the dedication and enthusiasm of all participants. Your support and involvement truly make events like these memorable and impactful.

Despite all the wonderful happenings at the 2024 tournament, it is evident there is still work to do related to unacceptable conduct displayed during the event. Our MYAS Team Members, Tournament Hosts, and Tournament Directors spent far too much time working on isolated incidents involving unacceptable conduct. We continue to try and be proactive with our messaging, teaming up with Youth 1st to promote sportsmanship before, during, and after each game. For the fifth straight year, we implemented a Conduct 1st environment at every venue, highlighting the significance of positive behavior.

And yet we dealt with multiple incidents during Grade State — mostly involving adults. A few examples of these incidents:

*   Two middle schoolers got tangled up while battling for a ball. The referee assessed a double technical, then parents from one team and an assistant coach from the other team stepped onto the court. We had to escort people out of the gym so the teams could finish the game. It was determined by tournament staff, the host group, an association president, and MYAS team members that the parents who stepped onto the court and all other parents of the offending team would not be allowed to return for the following day's game.

*   An adult scorekeeper was berating the officials, so one of our staff members had them removed and informed them they were not to return for the remainder of the weekend. Yet that person tried to sneak back for the next day's game.

*   An individual was accused of making a derogatory comment, and things got heated as the tournament director tried to clear people from the gym and speak to various witnesses.

*   An eighth-grade player rostered on a team participating in Grade State was also on a high school roster, which is not permitted.

*   There were multiple incidents of aggression toward officials because of various calls, especially late in the games. But where is the grace and the perspective about other factors that happened far earlier in the game, like missed shots or rebounds that weren't secured?

We are dealing with human beings, because so many are needed to make youth sports happen. We need more grace, and we need more people to diffuse situations, not escalate them.

Listen, I'm a parent myself. I understand that we get emotional when the perception is that your child has been wronged by an opponent or an official. But why do we let things get so heated and so intense so often, instead of taking a deep breath and, perhaps, letting our son or daughter deal with and learn from the situation? How can we, as adults, work to influence one another to understand that there is no place for unacceptable conduct or behavior in youth athletics?

Truth be told, of all the incidents reviewed, only one issue involved kids. Two third graders were going after a loose ball, and they rolled over one another. After a held ball was called, one boy swung at another, and then one coach came onto the court to try and separate them. But the other coach took exception to the way his counterpart handled it and pushed the coach. Both persisted. Ultimately, the player who threw a punch was suspended for one game, and both coaches were asked not to come back for the remainder of the tournament.

So, while we celebrate an overwhelmingly successful event and the strongest participation level ever, it's important to acknowledge the numerous challenges we encountered. My struggle here is we do want to show our utmost appreciation to those that serve to be part of the solution, and we certainly want to note how much we appreciate the majority of participants that conducted themselves admirably. But we need your help to assist us in spreading influence to reinforce the idea that for the sake of our kids, acceptable behavior at our events - and any youth sports event - is not a request but a demand. Therefore, we need your assistance more than ever in setting and upholding the necessary behavioral standards as we cannot ignore the negative impact of those who did not adhere to the Youth 1st Environment messaging and MYAS Code of Conduct.

Moving forward, we are committed to ensuring that all participants understand and uphold the values of respect, sportsmanship, and fair play. By collectively addressing these challenges, we can preserve the integrity and enjoyment of future events, allowing us to focus on the remarkable achievements and talent showcased by our youth athletes.

Thank you to all who contributed to making this event a success, and we look forward to continued growth and success in youth basketball across the state as our organization enters the 35th year of servicing the youth basketball community in Minnesota.

What do you think? What more can we do? Can you relate to our frustration and struggles? I'd love to hear from you on this!

Special Thank You:  Each playing location of Grade State was a wonderful fundraiser for a local youth athletic association or high school booster club. Each host group retained all concessions and admissions from this tournament to support their local program.

Shout out and major props to the following host groups:

  1. Bloomington Jefferson HS  Girls Basketball Booster Club
  2. Champlin Park HS Touchdown Booster Club
  3. Park-Cottage Grove Girls Basketball Booster Club (2)
  4. Farmington HS Girls Lacrosse
  5. Fridley Youth Basketball Association
  6. Lakeville South HS Girls Basketball Booster Club
  7. Osseo HS Girls Basketball Booster Club
  8. Prior Lake Lakers Booster Club
  9. Rogers Area Youth Basketball (2)
  10. Hope Fieldhouse-Rosemount (2)
  11. White Bear Lake HS Track & Field (2)
  12. Coon Rapids HS Boys Basketball Booster Club
  13. Delano HS Basketball
  14. Farmington Tigers Fan Club 
  15. Fridley HS Boys  Backcourt Club
  16. Rockford Area Athletic Association
  17. Spring Lake Park HS Boys and Girls Basketball Booster Clubs
  18. Bloomington Jefferson HS Football Booster Club
  19. Park-Cottage Grove HS Girls Softball
  20. Elk River Girls Basketball Association
  21. Osseo/Maple Grove Basketball Association
  22. Monticello Center Court Club
  23. St. Michael/Albertville Boys Basketball Association