ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
It?s big and it?s coming to town this weekend.
Some 96 ninth- and 10-grade teams, plus their coaches, parents and
assorted fans?2,000 people by conservative estimate?will converge
Hillsboro from Friday evening through Sunday to play basketball in
gyms at the high school and Tabor College.
They call it Mid America Youth Basketball.
How big? Consider that the 96 teams coming to Hillsboro are only
age division in a tournament that is officially located in Newton.
entire event will involve nearly 4,000 fourth through 12th graders
playing on 645 teams in 60 gyms and 17 cities within an hour of
How big? The Newton tournament, though by far the biggest, is only
of 64 tournaments MAYB sponsors throughout middle America from the
of May through the end of July. Some 2,000 teams will participate.
?Something about whatever we?ve done, the competition level and
intensity level seems to be better than what they?ve done (in
summer basketball programs),? says Greg Raleigh, the man behind
He and his staff of six assistants work year-round out of the back
Raleigh?s insurance agency in Newton to organize what he believes
the largest weekend boys and girls summer tournament in the
Planning MAYB events keeps their hands full year round. But in
as the tournament schedule nears, Raleigh says the pace is
?Partly because I?m running an insurance business, too, I put in
80-hour weeks for a couple of months,? he says. ?And I?ve got a
people who do the same.
?There?s a lot of nights when we?re here until two in the morning
trying to sort things out,? he adds. ?During the day, you can?t
anything done because the phone just rings and you just tread
You?ve got to use the late time to do some things while nobody
Teams pay an entry fee to play in an MAYB tournament?$940 to play
four-tournament package, or $275 for an individual tournament. But
don?t think Raleigh and his four full-time staff are getting rich
?To tell you the truth, there are times when I wonder why we ever
started doing it,? Raleigh says. ?But I love it when we run our
(Newton) tournament. I love seeing all these kids from all over
place. I?m just amazed by the talent.?
For Raleigh, a Halstead native now living in Hesston, MAYB grew
his experiences as a former high school basketball coach at Lebo,
Lyons and then at Halstead until 1998. He also was an assistant at
Bethel for a time.
Raleigh believes summer basketball is a key way for young players
develop their skills during the off season, but he was discontent
the options offered by existing programs?especially the cost.
?We wanted to do something,? he says.
He hooked up with a Wisconsin-based organization for a year. While
liked several aspects of that program, he felt he could create a
better, more user-friendly option on his own.
So in 1992 he and another organizer began MAYB. They set their
fee at about half what other programs were charging, gave teams
freedom to play when and where they wanted to, and didn?t require
they travel to a national tournament.
Raleigh and his staff offer their expertise to all MAYB
but they hire area directors to actually run a specific event. The
Newton tournament is an exception.
?That?s sort of my baby,? Raleigh says.
In the MAYB format, teams play two 20-minute halves with a
clock and are guaranteed at least five games over a weekend.
?We run the clock, but you?re still on the court more than if you
played three games with the clock stopping,? Raleigh said. ?We
them on the point that we want to get the kids out on the court
The cost of the program is another selling point.
?We?re the most cost effective program out there,? Raleigh says.
cost per game is under $4. That?s reasonable. Of course, that
factor in that some people are spending the night, and those kinds
He admits the program isn?t perfect. The size of the tournaments
requires teams to play on Sunday mornings. Also, officials work a
of games over a weekend, and don?t always call them as tightly as
He has considered making some adjustments, but has been outvoted
?Every year we poll our people and try to do things in favor of
majority,? Raleigh says. And, he adds, officials won?t work
tournaments unless they?re guaranteed a lot of games.
In the end, finding enough qualified officials may force Raleigh
limit the size of the Newton tournament.
?We?ve got officials coming in from out of state this year to help
handle it,? he says.
Another major hurdle is finding enough motel space for the teams
travel here from a distance.
?Those two things will be what end up limiting us,? he says. ?If
quality suffers, then the size of the tournament will suffer and
will balance itself out.
?That?s what we tell our people,? he adds. ?If you run a good
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF