By Robert Gundran/For The Sporting Nation
Prospective volunteers gathered at the SRP Project Employees Recreation Association (PERA) club in Tempe, Arizona this past week to prepare for the upcoming NCAA Final Four weekend in Phoenix later this month.
The volunteers were treated to the beginning of the game between Providence and USC on a big screen, plus pizza and refreshments. The two schools were competing for the 11th seed in the East region of the bracket. Midway through the first half, the President and CEO of The Phoenix Local Organizing Committee (PLOC), Dawn Rogers, took the stage. The PLOC is collaborating with the NCAA to help host the FInal Four this year.
Rogers took a quick minute to thank her staff before talking to the volunteers about how much their efforts not only meant to the her and the city, but to everyone involved in the Final Four as well.
“What you do for [the players], their families and their fans is so important,” said Rogers.
CBS 5 Arizona meteorologist, Ashlee DeMartino, and Volunteer Executive Committee Training Chairman, Joseph Hourigan, helped introduce the volunteers to each other through a series of light icebreakers. They helped get everyone engaged and familiar with those close to them early on in the night.
The University of Arizona WIldcats were also the subject of a few jokes. DeMartino refused to refer to them by name, instead opting to call them, “that other Arizona team.”
Hourigan spent the remainder of his time on stage speaking to the volunteers about how important their role is during the tail end of the college basketball tournament.
“We really appreciate you all being out here, we couldn’t do it without you,” said Hourigan.
The volunteer conference was more than just about telling the volunteers what to do and where to be, it was about establishing overall goals that for the community at large. Sustainability Committee Chairman Colin Tetreault stressed the importance of sustainability during the Final Four. Tetreault set a lofty goal that he challenged the volunteers to reach.
“We’re shooting for zero percent waste,” said Tetreault. “We want it to go into recycle and compost.”
Hourigan outlined some basic dos and don’ts for the volunteers. This included instruction on use of cell phones, showing up to shifts on time and not abusing their privileges as volunteers.
The discussions for volunteers wasn’t all light, as Phoenix Police Department Sgt. Joseph Hallums took the stage to warn people of potential threats while providing information regarding security of the Final Four. He stressed that while police officers would be on every corner, the volunteers should also be on the lookout for suspicious activity and alert anyone if they feel uneasy about something.
“There’s lots of people who want to bring negative attention to these events,” said Hallums.
The NCAA and PLOC alone aren’t able to take care of the huge amount of manpower required to smoothly run and operate the biggest weekend of college basketball Arizona has seen. The turnout for this volunteer training session ensured that they’ll have more than enough staff on site at the different venues to ensure that Arizona’s first time hosting the Final Four will be a success.
Events to be staffed by local volunteers include a dribble event for kids, the fan festival at the Phoenix Convention Center, a music festival and the Tipoff Tailgate Party at the University of Phoenix Stadium, where the basketball games will be played.