Behind The Scenes


the broadcast team at Niagara College had every inch of the OCAA men’s basketball championship covered (Photo by Aleema Ali)

Pulling back the curtain on those putting together tournament weekends


The buzzer goes off, 10 second timeout. He runs to the key, wipes away any moisture he sees on the glossy floor and runs right back to his place courtside. Time’s up and the players are back on a dry surface for the next three minutes of the quarter. He turns to his right and sees the girl keeping score giggling as she slumps into her chair sleepily. He turns to his left and sees his friend ushering late fans into the stands. So many different jobs, none smaller than the next.

For a tournament of any size, no one really knows what goes on behind the scenes. Who sets up tables, cleans up, keeps score and announces? What else goes into hosting a tournament? Do larger schools have an advantage? That’s exactly what will be answered.

Niagara College has a population of almost 10,000 full-time students and a bigger facility to host such events.

It was day number three in early March at Niagara College where six schools went head-to-head for bronze, silver and gold medals in the OCAA men’s basketball championship. Nearly 5,000 people came out to the games in a span of three days for the varsity tournament, a good chunk from Redeemer and Seneca Colleges. With so many people, there were only about 50 volunteers to help. Niagara hosted close to 100 players, and at least 20 coaches and referees over the weekend.

Raymond Sarkis, the intercollegiate coordinator at Niagara, says the students do an exceptional job come tournament or event days, especially the broadcast students. The set up for this particular tournament was extensive, with about five or six cameras catching every angle of the court, as if it were an NBA game. The majority of the volunteers came from the radio, television and broadcasting programs, some of which had worked previous events.

“They do just an incredible, professional job for us,” Sarkis says.

Not only are these events beneficial to the school, but even more so for the students. They get to showcase their work and apply the skills they’re learning from each of their programs, exposing the school in such a positive way.

“It introduces Niagara College and what we have to offer to these students. It is very important,” Sarkis says.

According to Sarkis, the only challenges his school has encountered is filling their stands with people. However, the college has found solutions. They use the local paper and post on their online sites about a month before events take place. For this year’s tournament, promotion started in January.

“We reach out to all the colleges in the region. We invite them and we don’t charge them to come in because we want the seats filled. We want that great atmosphere for the athletes when they’re competing at this level,” Sarkis says.

However, staff and students at Niagara College are no strangers to hosting big events such as these. Sarkis says they hosted the golf championships just last year in October. They also hosted the women’s basketball championship in 2016 and the women’s basketball nationals.

“We are veterans,” he says.

It’s a crew of volunteers that are  responsible for however long the set-up takes and the tear-down at the end of it all. According to second-year broadcasting students Brett Murray and Tommy Bowden, set-up took about three days prior to the tournament. When asked about how long the tear-down would take, both students looked down and said the same thing: “I don’t want to think about it.”

Murray says compared to other events or games they have set up, this one was way more intense.

“Usually we can set up within like three hours, then tear down within an hour. This setup was three days so who knows how long its going to take to tear down,” he says.

Murray says although it’s a lot of work, unpaid and not for any kind of assignment, he still benefits from the experience.

“It’s all about the experience at this point for me, so when I go out into the workforce, I’m ready for whatever comes,” Murray says.

The first game Murray directed was only two months ago, but he did a great job during the three-day tournament.

“It hasn’t been a long road but it’s been an exciting road,” he says.

Although it was a ton of work, he still enjoyed every minute of it.

Bowden says he enjoyed the position as well.

“Yesterday especially was an experience like no other. It’s incredibly rewarding,” Bowden says.

Bowden was also unphased at the fact they were not paid for the work they did for the tournament.

“I don’t think I would enjoy it any more or less. It’s more for the experience. I mean if I was paid and did a bad job I’d probably be even more upset,” he says.

Both students admit that there is always room for improvement with every event they put together. They say they came across a number of unexpected technical difficulties, but in the end they got it together and made it work terrifically.

“Every show can always be better, we always try our hardest to get something done that we can all be proud of,” Bowden says in comparison to past games and events they have helped with.

Another job is announcing. A radio and television presentation student Brodie Spies has a long track record of announcing since he was just 12-years-old. He started off with lacrosse and hockey and continued with both sports plus whichever sports he was asked to announce. Spies enjoys his job very much. And bonus, he gets paid to it, as do all the game-day staff.

“It’s what I love to do and its hopefully what I can make my living on,” Spies says.

When it comes to switching from different games and events, Spies is versatile enough to adhere to specific audiences and the energy they bring.

“You’ve got teams coming from all across Ontario. Redeemer is notorious for bringing their fans from home. Definitely a lot more energy to play with and it definitely gives me a lot more freedom to kind of talk and get people into the game because that’s what my job is; to get people enthralled with the game,” he says.

One could think all that could get overwhelmingly stressful, but with Spies’ experience and skills learned at Niagara, it’s like a piece of cake for him now.

“At first it got really overwhelming just cause’ it was learning everything. And then you get more added on as the season goes on. And then the championships come up, then you’re like okay we’ve got to worry about presentations, fast-paced basketball because this is the provinces best, so it’s the best of the best,” he says.

A more stressful job would be working the shot clock, especially for such a fast-paced game like basketball. A second-year sports management student Lindsay Terrill had the pleasure of doing it for all the games during the course of three days for the tournament. But just like the other students, she loves her program and doesn’t see it as a job at all.

“I’m loving it, the profs are really great too which makes it 10 times better. I love sports so it’s perfect for me,” Terrill says.

Although she’s experienced, she admits the shot clock can be very stressful to handle.

“Shot clock was pretty intense because you have to be so precise about it. You have to know your stuff about basketball and everything else. The refs are always on your side which is good too. Once you get the hang of it it’s pretty good,” Terrill says.

When it comes to handling the intensity of the games and keeping up, Terrill admits when she started out it was not easy and she upset everyone from the refs to coaches. However, she’s been working the shot clock since the season started in September and has gotten better and better.

“I’m pretty good with it to be honest. Refs call you out and stuff, but no one really takes it out on you except some coaches get mad but we know that its all in the game,” she says.

Terrill talked about her worst day back in the fall, which was her first day working the shot clock. She says the scoreboard was a mess and everyone was frustrated with the job they were doing, but of course you can only learn from the mistakes made.

“You learn something new every game. [There’s also a] good team behind the bench,” she says.

It would seem that smaller colleges would have larger challenges due to their size. However, Fleming College in Peterborough only faces a select few with a population of just over 5,000 full-time students.

Fred Batley, the athletic coordinator at Fleming College, says the college has hosted a variety of events including the national cross-country championships, national curling championships, provincial and all-star games. In 2017 alone, they hosted two big shows: the men’s soccer provincials and women’s rugby provincials.

He says the only challenges they face are sponsorships and getting students to volunteer on some occasions. Batley says it’s easier to get gifts than it is dollars when hosting.

“When you host provincials, it’s really up to you to get all the awards. If you want to give them a bag or give them a shirt or a gift on top of either the certificate or the plaque, that’s one thing where we as a host have to go out and get them from local sponsors,” Batley says.

In terms of reeling in fans and volunteers, Batley says it depends on when the event takes place. For example, the men’s soccer tournament was during the strike back in the fall and that brought its own challenges, but students still volunteered despite the strike.

“They were committed totally to it and it worked out really well for us,” Batley says.

Being a smaller college, Fleming is still able to benefit from hosting such big events.

“You get automatic entry as a host, it allows you to showcase your college, your facilities, it helps with recruitment, awareness and getting involved with the community. After hosting a national you’re bringing athletes from all over Canada, it’s great for that. Exposure as well and good for the economy,” Batley lists.

Hosting large events like the OCAA men’s basketball championships, colleges take the chance to showcase their students’ abilities and what they’re learning at each of their colleges.

Not only is it great experience for them, but it helps them build skills they can transfer to real-world jobs. Both Niagara and Fleming, despite the school size difference, are capable of not only hosting large events and tournaments, but are successful in doing so.

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