By Cait Kemp
As the new semester kicks off, students are eager and excited to finally be back on Alden Street and return to classes and activities. A handful of students are already settled in and have been on campus an extra five days.
The 2022 Spalding Hoophall Classic presented by Eastbay was back at Springfield College from Jan. 13-17, after a year-long hiatus due to COVID.
This event, put on by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, heavily involves Springfield College students and provides them an opportunity to get a real look at how to plan and organize a professional event.
The Sport Management program has the privilege of gathering about 90-100 students to work the event. Their roles vary from volunteers, liaisons and supervisors who all have vital responsibilities to ensure the success of the event.
Junior Sophia Bucal was one of two head supervisors this year, and her experience gave her a chance to be involved in event planning, which helped her to see a similar path for her future.
In 2020, as a freshman, Bucal was on the staff as a volunteer. She was a part of the media crew and also an usher, working in the bleachers to help file people in.
The 2020 Hoophall Classic brought in some big names, with schools like Sierra Canyon making the trip all the way from California to play. There were huge crowds piled into Blake Arena, something nobody is used to seeing anymore with COVID.
“It was definitely harder, as a first-time volunteer in events working a huge event like that,” said Bucal. “I never expected I would be able to work that event until I got here.”
As head supervisor for 2022, Bucal had many responsibilities over the weekend. She and her co-supervisor, Grady Short, had to train all of the staff, which dwindled to around 85-90 students after issues with COVID. The lesser manpower made everyone’s jobs a little harder, but with good communication, they were still able to maintain a smooth experience.
Sophomore Aidan Reilly had the opportunity to be a liaison, where he was responsible for certain teams over the course of the event. This included greeting them and leading them to where they needed to be.
It was his first year at the Hoophall Classic, and he worked through the new situation of making sure everyone, even the coaches, listened and followed him.
“It’s tough to tell a 45-year-old man that they have to stay with you, a 19, 20-year-old… that was a difficult thing, trying to over-head those guys. All the coaches were amazing, they were so respectful, so they all understood that we’re all still kids and this may be the first time we’re working such a big event,” Reilly said.
Junior Cole Crynock dealt with similar trials and tribulations when bringing teams up from the locker rooms to the court. Many games went over their allotted time, causing several games to be backed-up, so teams were ready to get onto the court before they were actually able to.
“The biggest challenge was definitely making sure teams were on the court at the right time… there were times that teams wanted to go on the court, but there were still six minutes left in the fourth quarter, and you just can’t have them sitting up there for that long,” said Crynock.
He had to keep the teams calm waiting for the game, while many players and coaches were just itching to get on the hardwood.
Crynock learned from the hands-on experience, being able to take away things that students may not get from sitting in a classroom.
“I found it was a lot of on-the-spot problem solving. A lot of the stuff you learn in class is like communication, whether it’s like marketing, stuff like that in the classroom,” said Crynock.
“But a lot of the event operation stuff is on-the-go thinking and problem solving, which is something that I feel like you can’t really prepare for in the classroom.”
As a supervisor, Crynock was stationed downstairs where the locker rooms and media room were located.
He set up the locker rooms and helped teams to get there, and brought players and coaches into the media room to keep it organized and calm, as many media representatives crowded the space.
Bucal also recognized the opportunity to learn how to make decisions on the fly. It was a whirlwind of an event, and sometimes there wasn’t time to discuss with others or make sure a choice is right. She felt that going with your instincts and trusting yourself was a huge takeaway from Hoophall.
“You learn how to problem solve on the spot…at the time you might think it’s the best decision and you’re just going to have to go with that,” said Bucal.
The Hoophall Classic is a unique opportunity for Springfield College students. With the tight-knit community, students get chances for valuable experience that people at larger colleges might not have. It gives the Sport Management students a real look into the industry.
“This event is a huge learning experience. There’s a lot of people that don’t get to have this type of experience and get to work with such a high-profile event at a young age, so just being able to work directly with the special events and the Hall of Fame kind helps me know what I want to do within the next couple of years,” said Bucal.
Springfield College offers this idea of hands-on experience not just in Sport Management, but in all of its programs. The connections Springfield has to the Hall of Fame and other organizations serve students in their academic journey.
Bucal also took the chance at Hoophall to network with people, something that might not seem like a big deal now, but is extremely important as students get closer to graduation.
“Whether you’re a head supervisor, supervisor, liaison, volunteer, you can introduce yourself to anyone and you make connections that way. People are going to remember who you are,” said Bucal.
“Since it does take place at Springfield College you are already going to stand out. You don’t realize how many people have gone to Springfield College, so that sets you apart from other people.”
The 2022 Spalding HoopHall Classic was a huge success, and the Springfield College Sport Management program deserves much of the credit.
Photo Courtesy Springfield College