What a weekend! The 7th annual Windy City Classic had 272 teams, nearly 200 colleges & over 280 college coaches in attendance. It has been a whirl wind tour for me upon my arrival from Arizona State (if you weren’t aware – click here). Needless to say, the boxes are still in the basement & the week leading up to the tournament I saw 4:00 am on my office clock on three different occasions. After all the work and late nights, it seems we were able to pull off another successful weekend.
As the staff was putting everything together leading up to Windy City, we were reminiscing about the first year it started in 2006. I had just left the University of Illinois the summer before where I envisioned a spring event in this region. I wanted to provide another option to the club teams besides flying out of the area to get exposure in the Midwest. We had 70 teams that first year & for all intents and purposes – 70 teams and over 70 college coaches is a great accomplishment for a first year event. To see expansion every year is flattering but more so this year as I stepped away for eight months to coach again & STILL saw 50+ team growth which is incredibly humbling.
As one of the leaders in grassroots girls’ basketball, I spent some of my winter discussing ideas with the club community to make the environment better for the young athletes. We came up with this new piece to our event structure and we unveiled it at this event: Teams/Coaches shaking hands of sportsmanship & wishing ‘good luck’ BEFORE the tip off of the games instead of at the end of a game. The feedback I received has been very positive. Our logic was twofold, first it takes away the end of game tension that sometimes gets to coaches after a heated game & doesn’t put them in a situation for potential volatile exchange. Secondly, this allows the teams time the few minutes after the game to be used to clean up their bench areas & show sportsmanship in that manner (not sure how many followed through on this aspect).
Unfortunately I personally did not get to enjoy many of the games having to be the ‘wizard behind the curtain’ posting all of the online schedule/pool/bracket updates throughout the day. When I did get to peek my head out – I was able to witness about half of a great battle between NE-Cornhuskers Shooting Stars vs. OH-Sports City U. If you haven’t watched this Nebraska program, try to get a look at them this coming summer – they won’t win the ‘eye test’ during warm-ups, but they will win your heart by the time the game ends with their passion and toughness.
The event saw the unveiling of the new Colorado Mile Hi Rockies organization – bringing our Blue Star travel team: Boulder Rockies & Carl Mattei’s Mile Hi Magic together and solidifying their presence in the Rocky Mountain state. Plus we were able to welcome a number of new organizations to our event such as Dave LaGrande’s Michigan Monarchs, and Greg Mason’s Indiana Flight just to name a couple.
We want to thank everyone for the kind emails upon my return, and at the conclusion of the event. It is nice to know that hard work is still appreciated and that people realize that these events don’t run flawlessly by accident. Over 590 games using 33 courts within six venues in a 2 ½ day span – nice to be back home doing what I know I was called upon to do for our sport.
You can find all USJN post event information in the left hand column of our home page – http://www.usjn.com