By Joelle Fisher
All sports fanatics’ favorite time of year, the infamous month of upsets and ruined brackets, has crept upon us. March Madness is now in full swing for Division I NCAA basketball teams and their fans.
Although watching the games on television is entertaining on its own, a few of our students and faculty were able to experience it live by volunteering at the games that took place in Detroit, Michigan this past weekend.
“P.J Gradowski, director of athletic communications for Detroit Mercy which was the host institution for the weekend, reached out to a number of schools in the area for volunteer help because there were so many jobs to fill,” said Zach Russo, assistant sports information director.
“When you see an email like that in your inbox, you don’t wait to say you’re able and willing to help in any capacity,” added Russo.
Kaitlyn Neiswender (‘18), Harrison Lalone (‘18), and Emily Jodway (‘19) were all selected to join Russo at the event based on their current jobs within the athletic department. Due to other responsibilities, Jodway was not able to join the group in volunteering.
“Before this event, I had never worked in a D1 environment and I quickly found that it is a completely different experience than the DIII environment that I am used to,” said Neiswender.
“I am still not entirely sure if I want to work in a D1 or DII type environment, but experiences like this help me to figure out what type of athletic organization I work best in.”
Teams such as Syracuse University, Michigan State University, Butler University, Bucknell University and Arizona State University all competed for their NCAA opening round games at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
“I loved being in such a fast-paced environment and seeing how much work goes on behind the scenes to put on such a large athletic event,” said Neiswender.
“Compared to a DIII environment where each person does a wide range of jobs, during this event everyone had a very specific and important role,” added Neiswender.
A typical day for the crew began around 10 am and did not conclude until midnight. Neiswender and Lalone shared the responsibility as Press Row Manager in which they were required to deliver box scores, play by plays, and starting lineups to various organizations. Russo worked as the Upper Media Manager to ensure all media members had the information they needed to do their job correctly.
“There’s so much going on and so many people to tend to that it’s important to remember your purpose for being at the event and the expectations of the event itself,” added Lalone.
The group came back from an exhausting weekend with many lessons learned and memories made.
“We all volunteered for this; we weren’t paid, just given a few mementos and the experience of having done it when it was all over,” said Russo.
“You never stop learning, and most learning isn’t done in the classroom, so it’s important to get out and experience different things, especially things most people don’t get to experience,” said Russo.
The athletic department hopes that its students and faculty can continue to have unique and rewarding experiences such as this in the future.
“Being able to say that we have worked for the NCAA Division-I National Championship tournament is something that some long-time professionals cannot say,” said Lalone.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities that Alma’s athletic department gives me.”