Devotees of college basketball turned their eyes toward Dallas this last month as the March Madness games kicked off to determine the women’s NCAA championship for 2023. Among the many workers and volunteers for the games were several student athletes from the University of Dallas.
Louis Christifano, a junior business major, currently plays shooting guard for the men’s basketball team as #25. Christifano said that he didn’t know exactly what to expect when he volunteered for the March Madness games, but he had a good time when it came.
“I was part of the band and cheer check-in so we would go set up underneath where the band and cheer people would come in,” said Christifano. “We were responsible for making sure they had everyone they said they were going to have and checking them off on the list.”
Caroline Croft, a freshman biology major who plays as a point guard on the female basketball team, also volunteered for the Final Four games for Division I and the championship games for Divisions I, II and III. She was particularly struck by the way the event was managed as a whole.
“Everything really comes together and all that actually goes into making these games happen. There are a lot of different technical pieces,” explained Croft.
Croft was in charge of making sure that all the balls were provided for the players during warmups, helping clean the court before games and during breaks and providing water for the referees.
Bridgette Alpar, a senior business major, played soccer both as a forward and outside midfielder in the women’s team. She said that aside from the band and cheer check-ins, there were enough odd jobs to keep them busy all day. One of her favorite parts of the experience was standing in the LSU locker room while the team was celebrating their championship victory.
“We’re in the background of one of their player’s videos so now we have that memory,” Alpar shared.
Another stand-out moment was when she saw Caitlin Clark, a professional basketball player and role model. Alpar was close enough that she could have reached out to shake her hand and say hi.
Another longtime follower of women’s basketball was Croft, who was able to watch Clark compete live while volunteering. This volunteer experience has given her a new respect for the management of a basketball game.
“Especially being a basketball player myself,” Croft said. “It shows you all the work that goes into these games and how much more appreciation there should be for all the people who help out.”
Croft suspects that women’s basketball has grown a lot more in viewership and popularity in the most recent years, and Christifano is hopeful this momentum doesn’t stop for professional women’s basketball.
“I know these are some of the highest viewed basketball games of the year,” Christifano said. “So hopefully it keeps growing.”
Christifano explained that this volunteer opportunity was a great way to spend time behind the scenes around a lot of great coaches and professional players.
Alpar, although not a basketball player, shared this perspective and encouraged other fellow student athletes and students to sign up for any other similar opportunity.
“Sure, you’re not getting paid, but it’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Alpar said.