Aaron Goodwin is celebrating his two-year anniversary as the Madison Area YMCA’s Associate Sports Director. He has lots to celebrate—the first being that he loves his job.

Coaching the Lady Gators travel basketball teams U12 and U14 is a true highlight. This spring, he is welcoming the Y’s first Lady Gator U11 team. “The Lady Gators is what gets me up in the morning,” says Aaron, who has taught every sports class that the Y offers. He played an integral role in revamping the Y-Winners basketball program. Instead of games on Saturday only, players also have practice once during the week to improve their skills. Kids are returning to the program every year, and more are signing on. “We had 160 players last session. That’s up from 100 the year before,” he says.

Another highlight was initiating last year’s visit by the Jr. NBA to the Madison Area YMCA. NBA rookie players took part in a clinic for 60 kids between 7 and 13 years old. “The big-name attendee was Kevin Knox of the NY Knicks,” says Aaron. “All the players were great with the kids. It was a positive experience for everyone involved. The beautiful part was that not everyone was a basketball player and they still had fun.”

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Aaron grew up in the Y starting as a 5-year-old camper at the South Mountain YMCA in Maplewood. “I did almost everything at the Y. I learned to swim and play my favorite sport, basketball,” he says, adding that he credits the Y with helping him transition from kindergarten in a private school to public school for first grade. “I had friends in public school because I had met them at camp—and I’m still friends with them. Aaron attended Y camp through 5thgrade and then transitioned to Teen Adventure Camp in middle school. He attended sleep-away camp at Fairview Lake YMCA during his preteen years. 

At 13, Aaron became a Y Counselor in Training. “It was the first time I was given some responsibility,” he says, adding that he landed his first job at 16 as a junior counselor and returned for the next five summers to be a camp counselor. As he got older, he also worked at the Y’s afterschool program in South Orange.

Aaron also played on the South Mountain Y’s travel basketball team during middle school and some of high school. “We beat the Gators twice,” he says with a grin. 

During college, Aaron worked at the Wayne Y’s Welcome Center and at the West Essex Y where he taught sports classes and basketball clinics and helped bring back the basketball league. “To see these kids getting better, asking questions and starting to love the game was an amazing experience,” he says.

After graduating from Montclair State University with a BA in Economics, Aaron applied for jobs in the business world, went on multiple interviews and was offered a position that would net him a $10,000 bonus upon completion of his training. His parents thought it was a slam dunk. Aaron wasn’t so sure. 

At around the same time, a staff member at the West Essex YMCA suggested that he consider a YMCA career. Shortly after, Aaron interviewed for his current position. “I felt that I could have a future with the Y. It’s more than a job,” he says reflecting on his decision. “I believe in the Y’s work in youth development and social responsibility. I’ve seen the good that the YMCA does for the community, and it feels great to be part of it…and I really enjoy what I do.”