Standing before a sizable crowd that included his peers, faculty, staff and New Haven locals, varsity football linebacker Cole Harris ’05 attempted to dislodge a basketball wedged above the rim in John. J. Lee Amphitheater. He propelled himself off the ground and hit the ball, which got stuck during a halftime mini-basketball game played by Elm City youth. Nothing happened. Again, Harris jumped, but the ball would not budge.
“I tried to be all cool and jump up and knock it out, but it didn’t go anywhere,” he said.
Defeated, Harris, who works as a sweeper during home hoops games, walked away from the basket. Much to his surprise, he was upped by an elderly gentleman who knocked the basketball loose with one springing swat. Harris turned to the crowd, only to see it laughing.
“I wasn’t embarrassed,” Harris said. “It was cool. Everybody was laughing.”
Harris has learned the hard way that working for the Athletic Department is certainly not all fun and games. While most Yalies can sit back and enjoy sporting events, others are working hard to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
“Students do everything from recording game statistics to marketing,” Assistant Athletic Director of Varsity Sports Ryan Bamford said. “It gives students [the] opportunity to be with their peers and promote athletics at Yale — Students are instrumental in running our events and making our events successful, and we’re very lucky to have them.”
Many of the students who work for Bamford and company play varsity sports, as the Athletics Department is mindful of the difficult schedule student-athletes often have and attempts to work around it. Common jobs for Yalies working for athletics include ushering fans, acting as ball boys or ball girls during field hockey, lacrosse, soccer or football games — which entails ensuring an extra ball is at hand at all times, fetching fouls and keeping the balls clean — recording statistics, announcing, and sweeping the court during basketball games. At other times, these students are asked to perform any odd-job that may arise.
“My job at the track meet was as the parking attendant this one time, so I had to stand in the lot and tell people which lot they could go into,” said Brady Clegg ’04, who is a defensive end on the football team. “But when they parked I had nothing to do so I just stood there. It was a really intense job, really high pressure. You don’t know what will happen next, although you do because nothing ever happens.”
Some tasks these student-workers are given may seem menial, and Yalies performing them may make light of their work, but they actually have an effect on the games and crowd safety.
One of the most important jobs is ushering, which includes a component of crowd control.
“There were some instances at basketball games where kids are doing dangerous stuff like running on bleachers,” Chimaobi Izeogu ’07 said. “Actually a kid fell one time while he was running up and down bleachers and he hit his head on the beams — There was another scenario where three girls were playing basketball in the Amphitheater on the top level, and I had to approach them and tell them to find a seat. Basically, we’re making sure people aren’t doing dangerous things.”
Staticians also have an extremely important job, as many of their reports are fed to the Ivy League Athletics Department, which determines weekly and postseason conference honors based on stat totals.
“Taking stats is so different than just going to a basketball game or field hockey game and just watching, because you have to watch everything so carefully,” Emily Field ’05 said. “It was really difficult for me at first. After each goal was scored I would tap the person next to me and ask them if they had seen who had made the assist. It’s really hard for just one person to see.”
Working the scoreboard can also prove to be a difficult task, especially before the electronic system was uniformly instated this year. In the past, baseball scorers had to cope with the manual scoreboard.
“This year was first year for the electronic scoreboard,” varsity men’s basketball guard Basil Williams ’04 said. “The manual one was condemned — there were holes in the wood floor panels, and since it tends to rain a lot in New Haven, the ladder to get up there gets slippery. And it’s about ten degrees colder there than on the field, and you’re in there all alone.”
But even the electronic scoreboard has challenged some. Jen Robertson ’04 noted that one false push of a button can lead to a major mess.
“One person couldn’t figure out how to erase the score without erasing the whole game, and then put the score up to like 99,” Robertson said.
And while students working for the Athletics Department love their jobs and their bosses, some have found that dealing with officials from other schools is not necessarily as easy.
Field, for example, said she traveled to Dartmouth with the women’s lacrosse team to record statistics but was forced to leave of the press box by one of Dartmouth’s coaches.
“She was going to be coaching the team from the press box with a walkie-talkie and she kicked me out,” Field said. “She was rude and pretty intense about it. She was like, ‘I don’t want any Yale people up here while I’m coaching!'”
Although all Athletic Department employees do their fair share of work to ensure that games run smoothly, stats are recorded correctly, music plays, the Web site displays accurate information, and scores go up, it seems as though the workers who garner the most attention are the sweepers for basketball games.
“Sweeping is the most strenuous job you could possible have,” Clegg said. “You get out there during the time-outs and at halftime and make sure you clean for the team. They rely on you. Without sweepers, the game really can’t go on because the dust can ruin a whole game. Without sweeping, I don’t think I’d be the man I am today.”
Dedicated and devoted, sweepers sit on the sidelines, with bated breath and bristle-less brooms, waiting for a break in the game to clean the floor. Sweepers are always prepared to make the utmost sacrifices for the sake of the game.
“Once, [when] my broom was broken I had to manually break off the top of the broom and sweep the pile on my hands and knees,” said Dicky Shanor ’05, an offensive lineman on the football team.
Without these student employees, games certainly would not run as smoothly or be reported on as effectively. Always there to prevent disaster, students working for the Athletic Department are dedicated and said they enjoy the work that they do and the atmosphere in which they work.
“There’s never been a disaster while I’ve been working,” said Jared Holst ’07, also an offensive lineman. “I must have done one damn good job, however menial it was.”