For this role I volunteered with the Women’s Final Four at the convention center. I was a practice assistant and this role really just consisted of setting up the practice courts for each team to use the space. They rotated every 90 minutes and we would bring them new basketballs, waters, gatorades, protein shakes, and coolers with ice. We also would remove the last team’s practice gear and sanitize everything. This was a unique experience as this was in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic and part of the “bubble” that is the NCAA tournament. We were not allowed to be within 20 feet of anyone involved in the tournament and so we did most of our work behind the scenes. We also took extreme sanitation measures like cleaning off individual gatorades and waters and wiping down all surfaces and coolers between use. While it was not a “critical” game operation I did feel happy to know I was playing a part in the success of the tournament and also keeping everyone safe with our sanitation measures. This was a great opportunity to be an ambassador for the city of San Antonio and provide top resources and experience for all the teams as they practice for their tournament games.
For this experience I volunteered through SATA, San Antonio Tennis Association, on San Pedro with a few different impacts. My primary role was teaching tennis to the homeschool children as an assistant coach. This was a valuable experience to me because I am not a strong tennis player so I had to adapt in both coaching and tennis skills. They gave me complete freedom and minimal instruction to run my class and so I was able to refine my coaching style and what I wanted to achieve. I would run through drills but also put a lot of time into having fun and making it an enjoyable experience. Something I always hated growing up was when youth sports were so skill focused and took the fun out of going. I also got to do some work with students with exceptionalities through SATA and Morgan’s Wonderland. I taught pickleball and tennis at the new Morgan's Wonderland facility for a demo weekend and that was a unique opportunity to learn new skills. Wheelchair tennis requires many different coaching cues and techniques like approach angles and rhythm to return balls. Overall, this was a really fun volunteer experience because I got to challenge myself. I typically do not like being a coach because it takes a lot of confidence and “woo” to be a great coach. I have both of those skills when I need to, but certainly prefer to be a quiet assistant rather than the leader. I was able to practice communication, leadership, and management skills in keeping the children organized, engaged, and entertained.
For the Spurs game, I volunteered with Silver and Black Give Back to sell Fiesta shirts and medals. We were positioned throughout the concourse with a table and all of the medals and shirts that were were selling for the game. We sat at the table approximately two hours before tip off through the end of halftime and sold merchandise. We used cash payments and POS sales through an iPad for customers looking to use electronic payment. As supplies ran out at various tables throughout the arena, I would be in charge of communicating with Kelly to move shirts of various sizes to those areas. All of the proceeds benefit SBGB and their different programming and this is one of their largest fundraisers of the year.
Being a charity organization, they are dependent on fundraising to accomplish all of their goals so it is essential that they do a good job promoting and executing programs like this. With such a small staff, volunteers are critical to their operation and getting as much fundraising done as possible. They simply do not have the staff to set up tables all over the arena for every game so volunteers like ourselves help keep everything running smoothly. Besides our class who was there for school credit, there were many volunteers who were adults who did it purely to help out with Silver and Black Give Back.
Using this experience going forward, there were many things I took from this experience that will help me in my career. First and foremost, the challenge of making sales and being a “salesman” in what you do is critical to being successful. At first, we would passively wait to be approached by fans looking to purchase gear. We soon realized, fans were not going to initiate the sale unless they were extremely interested in what we were providing. We soon started initiating conversation and promoting what we were selling. We found a lot more success with this approach and saw our sales increase tremendously. Even if they didn’t buy anything, drawing in fans to our table and explaining our operation did a lot more for our sales then hoping fans would come to us. I also gained a lot of experience operating point of sale equipment and managing credit card payments. There was a lot of customers trying to purchase through this method and keeping up with signatures and typing up orders was a useful skill for me to learn going forward. I also learned from the adults who volunteered with us the power of service and that just because you aren't a student or are fulfilling class credit, doesn’t mean you cannot help others in need. I plan on using that lesson in the future and continuing to participate in service and helping others for good.
Westwood One Radio Row Ambassador- For this opportunity, we worked with Westwood One as ambassadors for a bunch of high profile athletes, coaches, and analysts. We made sure they stuck to their schedules and got in and out of interviews on time. More importantly, we were hospitable to them and made sure they had a great experience with radio row. The biggest takeaway for me was that athletes and coaches, even though they are famous, are still just regular people that enjoy building new relationships. I was able to chat with a lot of big names in the college basketball world, but when it came down to it, we usually didn't even discuss basketball. Being friendly and caring about what you do is essential in this industry and I saw first hand how effective it was during this opportunity.
For this volunteer opportunity, we were working directly with the Fan Experience team in a role that was similar to a walking help desk. We were armed with information about security, stadium directions, parking, services, and anything fans would potentially need for their gameday experience. We walked around the fan fest for the majority of the time going down the streets with a huge sign so that all the fans could ask questions. We also carried around gear so that we could interact and hand out glasses and koozies to fans. Finally, our responsibilities included guiding fans out of the stadium and facilitating Uber and Lyft pickups. My biggest takeaway from this role is that the little things are very important in the sports industry. Most people wouldn’t think a small team of volunteers handing out little gifts and being friendly with fans would be a big deal, but the VAB was very passionate about our participation and friendliness. I also learned that the industry is quickly changing and you have to be able to adapt. We would get texts and would have our supervisors call on us to quickly change what we were doing or assist in other ways and you have to be prepared and committed to do so.