Saturday will mark the final time Morris Community YMCA Sports Manager Ken Iverson participates in a Youth Basketball League (YBL) weekend. And when Ken thinks about his last day, he can’t help but think of his own childhood.
“I fell in love with the game of basketball when I was just a boy,” Ken said. “My dad, a Norwegian immigrant, had never played the game, but he put a hoop up for me. Just a piece of plywood sitting on a pole. I went out and shot on a slanted driveway and just played and played.”
Iverson, a Morris native, has been a fixture in the community’s sports scene for more than 40 years and his passion for basketball burns with the same intensity as it did when he was a kid.
“I can remember sitting on the steps of the bleachers at Morris High School games because there was nowhere else to sit. People were screaming and yelling and I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life,” he said.
Ken would go on to play at Morris High School and also got a chance to walk-on at Western Illinois University. He returned home to coach middle school basketball throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s and, after retiring in 2005, he was approached to help expand the Y’s presence in Morris.
“We started off with the youth programs, which was my wheelhouse. I’ve been doing that all my life,” Ken said. “But it’s also been rewarding to expand programs to adults and seniors.”
YBL’s growth under Iverson’s leadership opened the door for more sports programming and eventually the Y’s expansion into its current downtown Morris location. Ken played a role not only scouting locations for the Y, but also recruiting the likes of Executive Director Missy Durkin to join the Y team.
“Over the past six years it’s been an honor to work with Ken and watch his passion for the Y continue to grow,” Durkin said. “I can’t even begin to imagine how many lives he’s touched through his Y career from YBL and adult leagues, to fishing camp and more. We’re grateful he is not retiring just yet, but we know he will be deeply missed in the gyms next year when YBL resumes.”
After 14 years, Ken still relishes his opportunities to make an impact at the Y, particularly working with kids.
“I’m convinced the reason sports are so important is because of the life lessons you learn for outside the game. It’s about never giving up, hanging in there, always trying your best. For kids, there are virtues that are better learned in this environment than anywhere else,” he said.
Ken is also excited for the future of YBL having worked with Chris Interial, who was named the Y’s new Sports Director last summer.
“Chris is amazing. I was worried about who was going to come in for me and now I think they might just forget all about Mr. I. Chris is going to take what we have started here and run with it. He’ll make it even bigger and better,” Ken said.
Iverson shared that it has been a tremendous joy to make a difference in his hometown.
“I think the Y is the biggest and best thing that’s ever happened in my life and I think it is the biggest and best thing that has ever happened in Morris,” he said. “It has truly been a blessing.”
On behalf of all the athletes, coaches and staff members who have participated in our Morris YBL program, we would like to thank Coach I for his passion and dedication to the Y and the game of basketball. If you would like to help celebrate Coach I’s last YBL weekend, feel free to stop by Morris Grade School this Saturday. Games begin at 9 a.m. and will continue throughout the afternoon.