Pulling the Strings: A Behind the Scenes Look at Marist Athletics’ Event Staff

Whether you are at a basketball, soccer, or football game, the Marist College athletic department takes a lot of steps in ensuring that the games run smoothly. Anything you could think of in relation to a game’s cosmetics or behind-the-scenes operations, the event staff has it covered. From playing the pre-game music, scanning tickets, ushering sections, and so many more tasks, each worker plays a pivotal role in a game being successful, all while balancing being a full-time student. 

Darren McCormack, the Associate Athletic Director for Facilities and Operations, is the human control center for the event staff-student workers. Hired at Marist in 1997, he employs the students and assigns them to positions at games where he feels they would be the most beneficial based on their expertise on a sport. He makes sure that each worker is happy because if their spirits are high, the job will be well done.

One of the key elements to making sure that an event runs smoothly is the amount of people working. McCormack says that “a football game requires more people than say, a tennis match.” This is because, at a football game, aspects like ticket scanning, having a ball person, operating the scoreboard, ushering, and various other tasks are all necessary to allow the game to flow from a fan’s (and player’s) perspective. Tennis only needs a few student workers, simply because the games are smaller and there is no admission charge at those events. 

How does McCormack decide who gets to work a certain game? The process seems daunting, but because he has been doing it for so long, he has it all under control. 

“The student staff gets assembled through a number of different factors,” he says. “Student availability, experience, and talents of the students available also plays a role. My goal is to put together the best event staff list that I can for a game.” McCormack receives schedules from each student at the beginning of the season and has them fill out their availability throughout the semester, so that way, everyone’s schedule is planned around their classes or the weekends they leave. Two to three days prior to the actual event, McCormack sends out a list of who is on the clock for the next upcoming game and is flexible if people’s schedules have changed. 

So what does an average day look like for an event staff worker? Well, it depends on the game. If it’s football, student workers can expect to be there for four or five hours, but with a soccer game, they will probably work only two. The students arrive at various times depending on their position, but they all have to be there at least an hour before the start of the game. If they are working a gate, it is an hour and a half early, because the fans arrive early (especially those most rabid). Then the game starts, and afterwards, they are responsible for cleaning up the field. Pylons, yard-line markers, and corner kick flags all get picked up by students and carried to storage. Chairs and red jackets that read “event staff” on the back get returned to their hangers, and the day is done. 

“Some students have good experience in a particular sport, and that enables them to do a better job in working that particular sport,” McCormack continued. “Students that have more availability than others and that is helpful in trying to have a consistent staff. As the students work the games, they build up experience and know how to handle situations as they come up.” Every event staff worker should be comfortable working in any position, and he knows who he can depend on for the bigger positions, such as the scoreboard or the table. 

Some of the situations that the workers have to face are technical issues with running the scoreboard or telling fans that they cannot walk around the backstop at the softball field to get to the other section, even though it would be quicker. The goal all around for event staff though, is to make sure that the sporting events happening at Tenney Stadium, McCann Arena, and all the other sporting complexes are run smoothly and that the coaching staff and athletes have nothing else to worry about but the game at hand. 

“The event staff student workers are extremely crucial… we couldn’t run an athletics competition without them,” McCormack notes. 

On the surface, it might look like some jobs are easier than others. Some students get to sit at the players gate, some get to sit outside the locker rooms, while some are on the field as ball people or sitting at the table writing down penalties, keeping track of substitutions, and radioing to the press box on who scored a goal or an assist if they are unsure.  However, McCormack says that there are no “easy” jobs and each task comes with its own challenges. 

“The hardest job might be the scorer’s table positions in soccer and lacrosse,” he said. “These students are right in the middle of the action, dealing with coaches on the sideline who are always yelling, and have officials on the field who depend on them. It can be tough at times, but it’s also a very exciting job.”

Marist College might be a tinier hub of athletic activities, but there is still a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into making sure that all of these games run smoothly. McCormack, the athletic department, and the entirety of the event staff have a somewhat tedious job to do, but it’s definitely worth the front-row seat. 

Edited by Amelia Nick & Bridget Reilly

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