By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
One of the founding members of the American Youth Basketball Tournament (AYBT), Jim Goorman, has his hands in a lot of tournaments as summer is realized and the AYBT season starts to heat up.
The iconic sculpture at the center of downtown Muskegon serves visitors notice that this is no ordinary destination.
But the AYBT event in Muskegon, MI is and will always be special for Goorman.
“It has been one of the joys of my life, to watch the level of play improve across West Michigan,” said Goorman, who led the Western Michigan Christian Warriors to five state titles and three runners-up finishes across his 33 years of coaching before stepping down two years ago.
The Holland Christian graduate said the Muskegon AYBT event, which takes place June 20-21, has been held for 16 of the organization’s 17-year existence, and was, just a few years ago, AYBT’s biggest event, drawing at its height as many as 220 teams. The tournament’s large size meant nearly every high school gym in the Muskegon area was needed to host a portion of the event.
Ironically, the tournament started in 1997 with just six teams.
The Muskegon event isn’t quite as big now, but it still requires four host gyms – Mona Shores middle and high schools, Orchard View High School and Spring Lake High School.
Goorman said it’s his belief that AYBT’s focus on the younger grades has meant that the skill level of entire generation of basketball players has improved.
Water and beach culture sits comfortably beside Muskegon’s blue collar, working class populace.
“I’ve seen the improvement,” he said. “Now kids in third grade can dribble with both hands, between their legs, behind their backs. The increase in the level of skill between (before AYBT) and now is obvious. We like to think we have something to do with that.
While basketball is of course the primary focus of Muskegon’s AYBT event, Goorman said he likes to think of the whole thing as the “ultimate family affair.”
Between Muskegon’s nationally renowned library and art museum, its plethora of sport fishing and camping opportunities, and its over two miles of free public beaches, Goorman said, “I just think this event does a good job of capturing the flavor of West Michigan. There’s no doubt it attracts plenty of people and for good reason. If they haven’t yet been to the area, they will be surprised at what they find when they get here.”
The American Youth Basketball Tour is America’s foremost leader in team basketball skills and character development. For more information on AYBT district tournaments and events, head over to aybtour.com/.