NORWICH – If you’re looking for Cindy Hughes this weekend, you’ll probably find her keeping score on Court Q. The Norwich mom is one of nearly 250 volunteers who will be devoting their time and energy during this weekend’s Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament.
“I really enjoy it,” said Hughes, whose son Derek, a Norwich High School student, has been competing in the tournament since he was 7 years old. He’s now 17.
For Hughes and many of the other volunteers, the event is about more than just basketball. “It’s a way for everyone to come together and do something for the community,” she explained, a sentiment which is echoed by fellow volunteer Pat Newell.
“Everything that comes out of this tournament is a positive for the community,” said Newell, who will be one of the “GusBusters” officiating this weekend.
There is no doubt that the thousands of volunteer hours donated by Hughes, Newell and others like them are one of the keys to the success of the tournament, which is now in its 14th year.
“It’s all the volunteers that really make this go,” said Julie Wallen from the Norwich YMCA. “Without all of them, there is no way this event could even take place.”
This weekend, these dedicated individuals will play an important role in the overall experience of the nearly 1,700 players on the 424 teams which have registered for the event. They will also have an impact on the thousands upon thousands of spectators who will watch the well over 1,300 games played over the course of the weekend. And their efforts will also help the community as a whole, as those visitors will no doubt patronize many local businesses during their sojourn in Chenango County.
Even though the tournament doesn’t officially start until Saturday, Wallen explained, volunteers started working on Thursday to assemble the baskets used during the event. Four volunteers joined YMCA personnel to set up the hoops on Thursday. Gary Brightman, one of his employees Jay Bauman, David Carson and YMCA member Bob Jeffords donated their time to the cause on Thursday morning. “There is no better volunteer in this community than Gary Brightman,” said YMCA Sports Director Tom Revoir. “He volunteers at every event in the city.”
Then on Friday morning, East Main Street and several small side streets were blocked off to allow for the courts themselves to be set up. Once again, much of the work is done by volunteers. At 4 p.m., registration began. Yep, more volunteers.
It’s all hands on deck on both Saturday and Sunday, with scorekeepers and GusBusters taking up their positions on each court. According to SuperBusters Steve Benenati and Bob Tenney, these are two of the most important groups of volunteers.
“We revere you,” Tenney told a group of these volunteers at a meeting/training session held at the Y on Thursday night.
There are other volunteers, too, working diligently in the background. While they may not be as visible as the GusBusters and scorekeepers, they play an important role as well.
“Water runners are a big thing throughout the tournament,” Wallen said, because they help keep everyone “well watered” during the course of the event. Garbage removal is another important function of volunteers, she added. And even after-hours, there are volunteers on hand. From 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., there are individuals who patrol the area to ensure the security of the equipment.
And when the final games are played on Sunday, teardown begins.
“As soon as each court individually ends, we swoop right in and tear down the court,” explained Wallen. This includes removing the taped boundary lines, lowering the basket and preparing it to be loaded onto a truck to be shipped out.
Volunteers don’t receive any financial remuneration for their efforts, but they do get Macker “goodies.” Every volunteer gets a T-shirt, she said, and GusBusters and scorekeepers get hats as well as the supplies they need to do their job. Those who volunteer for the entire weekend also get “premium” merchandise, which varies from year to year. This year, they’ll get collared golf-shirts supplied by Mid York Press.
Of course, the volunteers don’t do it all alone. There is the hardworking crew at the Norwich YMCA who spends months coordinating the annual event as well as the Macker staff who lend their expertise during the tournament, but even they recognize the importance of all those who volunteer.
So, have you thanked a Macker volunteer today?