“There is no other tournament like it in Texas,” says Hardin-Simmons University professor of fitness and sport sciences, Dr. Ron Rainwater. The Polk-Key City Girls Basketball Classic, held in Abilene since 1952, will bring approximately 300 high school girls’ basketball players, coaches, and team managers to represent just about every geographic region of Texas says Rainwater.
The Polk-Key City tournament has a bit of an unusual history as well. In 1952 Hardin-Simmons University began hosting a girl's invitational basketball tournament under the direction of its founder, Dr. Otho Polk, professor of physical education and recreation. In 1975, the Abilene Independent School District initiated the Key City Invitational Girls Basketball Tournament and enjoyed success for many years.
Because of scheduling conflicts, the two tournaments eventually fell on the same dates.
In order to eliminate the competition between Hardin-Simmons and Abilene ISD, the two institutions decided to combine their efforts to produce what has been called one of the finest high school girl's invitational tournaments in the state. The tournament became known as the Polk-Key City Invitational High School Girls Basketball Classic and is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Otho M. Polk, who not only taught at Hardin-Simmons for 51 years, but also served as tournament director for 30 years.
Rainwater, the tournament’s current director, says, “One of the values of the tournament to the teams is no entry fee. Teams are guaranteed to play at least four games and players get the experience of traveling and playing teams they will never see in their districts. That gives players the opportunity to see different offenses and defenses, plus the players have nice accommodations at the MCM Elegante and they get to play on a university campus.”
Likewise, the tournament is valuable to HSU fitness and sport sciences majors, says Rainwater, “It gives our sports leadership students direct hands-on management experience with a tournament before they graduate and an opportunity to put into practice management strategies they have learned. The tournament also serves as a unique way to develop Christ-like servant leaders.”
About 40 HSU students are directly involved as part of the senior management class in the fitness and sport sciences program. HSU students will each serve about 12 hours during the tournament and that doesn’t include planning or classroom time.
Rainwater says, “The tournament is a tremendous economic windfall for Abilene and we love being a part of that. The tournament has many sponsors and is truly a community event. The Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau helps with promotion of the event and provides gift bags for the teams.
When we get through with this tournament, we turn around and begin planning for next year’s tournament.” Rainwater also says there are a number of unique things in the works that will make the event even more valuable to the community in the future.
The tournament starts on Thursday, November 21, 2013, and goes through Saturday, November 23, with the last of the 32 games played at 8 p.m. in the HSU Mabee Gym. As a part of the partnership between AISD and HSU, games are also held at Cooper High School and Abilene High School.
Teams come from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, El Paso, Wichita Falls, Odessa, Lubbock, Amarillo, San Antonio, and Houston. Local teams include Abilene and Cooper, as well as Jim Ned.
“I am confident there is no other tournament with this geographic representation anywhere else in the state,” says Rainwater. “These teams do some serious traveling. That makes this tournament pretty special.”
Information provided by HSU athletics department.