The best two words in sports.
As an athlete, you go to bed thinking about tomorrow’s game. As a coach, the preparation never stops.
Officials ready themselves to be in preparation mode when the day arrives.
And the ball goes up, points are scored, fouls are called and dozens of other incidents and accidents occur along the way to produce a final score before someone flips the light switch to turn out the lights and finds keys to lock the doors.
But what about those who aren’t playing? Those who help make the game happen?
That’s a different story all together.
The checklists to prepare for a Maritime Women’s Basketball Association is heavy and usually doesn’t have final check marks on it when all is said and done.
‘Most of us have been around the block and understand what it takes to put on a show, but there is always worry and concern to ensure when the curtain goes up, showtime is ready,’ said Brad Janes, the general manager of the Fredericton Freeze. ‘It’s tough to enjoy games in your own building. I’ve always said it’s much more fun to go on the road and just show up. But all of us involved in this league love challenges. Game day set up is more than an hour.’
On game day, much has to be prepared.
Gym schedules are booked far in advance, most floor time confirmation were done three months ago and blocked off for three-to-four-hour periods depending on the venue.
None of the six MWBA teams own their buildings, so you’re renting.
It’s truly a volunteer show.
‘We have an amazing group of volunteers with us and we are all there a few hours ahead to get it all together,’ said Shannon Parlee, the general manager of the Moncton Mystics. ‘Our home games are pretty elaborate and there’s a lot going on. From a stacked canteen, merchandise table, halftime shows and 50-50 which is always used to support a cause.’
Moncton has always drawn large crowds for its home games at Harrison Trimble High School.
That is another part of the planning process.
‘Our stands are almost always near capacity, so there is always planning for those seating arrangements, too,’ Parlee said. ‘Putting on a game can be stressful, but it’s rewarding at the same time.’
What goes into game day set up?
From the rental confirmation to ensuring three referees are good to go takes care of much of the front end.
Minor officials must be booked, usually three on the scoreclock, scorebook and shot clock. Public address announcer, music operator are in the mix.
Livestream feeds with Aurora Productions in New Brunswick and Maritime Athletic Profiles in Nova Scotia need their space for production boards, cameras and more.
Play-by-play and colour analysts need their locations pinned down.
Locker rooms have to be set up, an area for referees needs to be planned.
All partnership signage has numerous rules, expectations and placement of Corex pyramid signs from founding partners Medavie and Royale along with MWBA partners NB Dairy Farmers of Canada and Cushman Wakefield Realty.
Then there are local partners who are the backbone of all six franchises.
As Parlee said, all of that, plus whatever each team wants to do from canteen to merchandise and more.
Scripts are written for the public address announcer and halftime shows and giveaways are planned, many times working with local minor basketball programs to have them in the gym for their moment in the spotlight sun.
For Mark Forward, he wears multiple jackets with the Halifax Hornets when the team opens the doors for game day at Mount St. Vincent University.
He is head coach and co-general manager of the Hornets with Janice King.
Double, triple, quadruple duties.
‘Oh, the checklist is long, it’s checked all the time and you just try and keep up on some game days,’ said Forward. ‘There are numerous announcements, sponsor signage, volunteers, taking care of visiting teams, set up the gym and tear it down after.’
The confirmation list is long.
‘So much is involved when it comes to confirming officials, webcast, player of the game items, game day operations, warm up music, physiotherapist staff, medical kits, cash for floats and more,’ he said. ‘You always know there is going to be something missed, but our crew is incredibly capable of making moves on the fly. We always wrap up with staff and volunteers to ensure nothing is missed for the next game. Then you start all over again when that next game arrives.’
For teams hosting six-team weekend sessions, everything is magnified where you’re looking after over 70 athletes, coaching staff and visitors.
Fredericton hosted all six teams May 13 and 14 and Halifax Thunder does the same June 3-4 at Saint Mary’s University.
‘There is a lot that goes into hosting, but if you can find time to sit back and enjoy what the athletes are bringing to the floor and what the teams are doing in their communities, it’s a rush that is all worth it,’ said Janes. ‘We all have help and that help is invaluable. At the end of the day, each and everyone of us that is involved in setting up for games has done this countless times from youth to provincials to nationals to the MWBA. We all love it even though it may cause stress at certain points. It’s adrenaline that keeps us moving forward.’
There are four games to prepare for this weekend, beginning Thursday in Fredericton when the Freeze hosts Moncton at 7:30 p.m. at Fredericton High School.
The Hornets host Thunder at MSVU on Friday at 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Thunder slides into Windsor to face the Edge in a 1 p.m. clash at Avon View High School.
Windsor visits the Hornets on Sunday at 4 p.m. to cap Week III of the regular season.
– Plenty goes in to planning an MWBA game to attract spectators and sponsors (Pettipas Photo)