ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The annual youth basketball tournament, HoopStars, returned to the UW Sports Factory on Monday after a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Twenty-five teams, consisting of more than 100 players, took part. HoopStars is a three-on-three tournament for players in 3rd through 8th Grade.
One organizaer said that, while numbers are down slightly, the impact remains.
“We’ve had more in past years,” said Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford). “We’ve had up to 300 kids in past years and that makes for a crazier tournament.”
After two years of being sidelined by the pandemic, Stadelman’s youth basketball tournament was back in action.
“It’s back after a two-year break because of COVID, so it’s nice to be back on the court and have kids running around on Labor Day for the basketball tournament,” said Dameon Lewis, 7th grade coach for Rockford Elite. “They could be at home on a computer, instead they’re running around playing sports. That’s a good thing.”
Lewis’ team won the 7th grade championship. He said that he was glad to be back for such a fun event.
“They love playing,” Lewis said. “They love the game, so anytime we can come for free and play, it’s a win-win for us.”
Coen’s 5th grade team was not as lucky, but it was still a great way to wrap up summer and head into the school year.
“We lost both games, and it was really tough, but we did good,” Coen said.
For his coach Greg Jackson, it was all about making the kids better individuals.
“I enjoy being around the kids,” Jackson said. “I enjoy teaching them the game of basketball and helping them become better players.”
Stadelman added that he plans to keep the positivity going for years to come. He created the tournament in 2013, saying he wanted to provide a family-friendly event to fill the void left by the departure of the “On the Waterfront” music festival.
“One thing that’s cool about this tournament, you look across the courts — kids from all over the community, not one part of town — and the diversity this tournament brings is another positive thing for this community,” he said. “There aren’t’ a lot of events, necessarily, where you see kids from all different parts of town, at one place. So, I think we do a really good job of inviting kids from all over town, different backgrounds, here at one place, competing against each other and having a good time.”
Each player received a free t-shirt.