A memorable Final Four: ’Berg student volunteers bring home valuable learning

A group of 25 Sport Management majors had the experience of a lifetime when they volunteered at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four Tournament in Cleveland last weekend.

According to their professor, Kayela Tidrick, the opportunity gave the students a taste of the intense process that goes into hosting such a large-scale event.

According to the students, it was challenging, chaotic, overwhelming, stunning – and totally worth it!

“Once we walked in, I was stunned by the atmosphere and hospitality. The feel just made the event very fulfilling,” said freshman student-athlete Cam Dings, one of the Heidelberg volunteers.

Cam explained that the ’Berg volunteers had to complete online training, a background check and select the area in which they wanted to volunteer. The students helped with everything from check-in and on-court demonstrations to the Kids Zone (Mascot University) and shot challenges. He chose the shot challenge, where participants ran through cones and tried to hit three-pointers in 10 seconds.

“My job was to distract the person shooting while others rebounded their missed shots,” he said. I took pride in this because most of the girls who came up for the event were wearing either Caitlyn Clark or Paige Buecker jerseys and I wanted those people to feel like they were in the big moment, trying to win the game just like their role models do on TV.”

It may sound easy, but yelling and hyping for five straight hours proved to have consequences. “But I woke up the next day with no voice and soreness like I just got out of practice.” There were also perks. The volunteers received a Final Four shirt and a bucket hat which Cam described as “the coolest gear that you can receive.”

Some other perks were less tangible. Kayela’s goal – in addition to learning about everything involved in hosting a huge event – was to allow the students to make connections within the industry and be a part of something truly special.

“We were among the 900-plus volunteers over the four-day event,” she said. “I think they also got to see what was so special about what is happening in women’s sports.”

But most importantly, the students now also have a better understanding of the impact of networking and of the career opportunities that could open up for them. And connections to help them get there.

“This large-scale event is just one of many avenues their careers could go,” Kayela said.

Cam also witnessed the big picture – the historical impact of women’s basketball. And it was a cool experience.

“The women’s national championship ended up drawing a larger viewing (audience) than the men’s national championship, which is the first time in history this has happened. To be a part of that is not only impactful to me but for women’s basketball and young girls looking up to these players, hoping to one day being in that position. …

“The Women’s Final Four did not disappoint,” Cam said.

For a variety of reasons, for 25 Heidelberg students, it certainly did not!

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