Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Lauren Sokol, Journalism Major and Sports Management Minor 2012

On Thursday, March 31st, Annie Marum, Alison Ceppi, Taylor Heinlein, Jeff Robin, Cody Wingert, and myself departed from Phoenix to begin our Final Four adventure. Upon arrival, the six of us checked into our hotel, changed and went to Bracket Town to meet with Mark Heatherman. Heatherman is the director of association services for the National Association of Basketball Coaches and was one of our main contacts while we were in Houston. Heatherman told us a little bit about the different NABC events we would be working at while we were in Houston. That evening, the six of us worked at the Nike/National Association of Basketball Coaches Welcome Reception. At this event, we were put in charge of greeting the guests as they were walking in and collecting their tickets. After the reception we were asked to come to the NABC staff meeting. After the meeting wrapped up we headed back to the hotel and were anxious to get some sleep knowing that we would be waking up in just a few short hours.

On Friday morning, we met Heatherman at Bracket Town to get our assignments for that day. Annie Marum and I were assigned to work in the hospitality suite for the coaches’ wives as well as the luncheon for the wives. Cody, Alison and Jeff worked for the Trade Show put on by the NABC at the convention center. Taylor worked at the clinics and speaker sessions for the coaches and players.

After we were all finished with our events, we walked over to the Minute Maid Stadium to help with the 2011 Coaches’ Huddle 3. This event was put on to reaffirm the fight against cancer as part of one of the many events put on by Coaches vs. Cancer. Cody, Alison, Annie, and I were seated at a table towards the entrance checking guests in and handing each guest a small basketball and pen for autographs.  Taylor and Jeff were seated at a separate table near the entrance and they checked in the coaches and had them sign basketballs that would be auctioned off later in the evening.  Being honored that night was University of Missouri’s basketball coach Norm Stewart. Stewart is one of the organizations founders. We were able to watch Stewart’s speech and at the end of the event we all had the opportunity to talk to him and take a picture.

SMA Students at NCAA Tournament

After the Coaches Huddle, Alison, Cody, Annie, and I went back to the hotel to get ready for the night. Taylor and Jeff went to straight to a Learfield event, but met up with the rest of us later that night. That night we all attended the Bricklayers Ball at the House of Blues. This was a private party and had a guest list that blew us away.  At this party we were able to network with some head honchos in the sports industry.  These head honchos include Troy Miller, owner of Division ONE Sports, Dave Hirsch, the vice president of communications with the Pac-10, and Scott MacKenzie, founder of U of A’s Sports Marketing Association.  It was so much fun to be able to meet so many amazing people and have a normal conversation because it was in a more relaxed environment.

Saturday morning we were right back into business mode.  We worked at the Fight Cancer in Style Luncheon. The luncheon was originally created five years ago as a way to say thank you to the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball coaches’ wives. At the luncheon, Taylor and I were getting people to sign up and join “Choose You“, a new movement directed towards women from the American Cancer Society. At the luncheon we were able to sit inside and listen to the presentation. The speaker who really touched the audience the most was Cheryl Rose, husband of BYU’s head coach Dave Rose. Cheryl spoke about how cancer has affected her life. Cheryl’s speech was absolutely incredible and I don’t think there was one dry eye in the audience.

After the luncheon Annie and I headed off to Reliant Stadium to watch the semi-finals games. Taylor, Cody, Alison, and Jeff went down to Washington Street to watch the games. It was such an amazing experience to be able to view the games and be around all the fans. The only thing that would have made it better is if the Arizona Wildcats were there.

Sunday evening we were invited to attend the annual Guardians of the Game award show hosted by the NABC. Each year the NABC awards coaches from all levels for outstanding achievements and contributions to the game, the student-athletes and society. The miniature ESPSYS was an amazing place to be. We were able to sit in the audience and witness the awards of the night be presented to basketball greats such as Jimmer Fredette from Brigham Young, Nolan Smith from Duke, Kemba Walker from Connecticut. The NABC coaches that were honored were Coach of the Year Steve Fisher and Norm Stewart.

We were also fortunate enough to have the once in a lifetime experience of sharing a table with Steve Fisher and his wife Angie. It was truly an amazing night. Some were able to get pictures with the players and coaches, but the one that is already framed is Jeff Robins picture with Mr. Jimmer Fredette.

Monday we met with Chris Hayek for lunch. Chris is the group manager at Shell Lubricants. Chris was able to give each of us different advice regarding our future goals and talk about his career and the path he took to get where he is now.

The trip was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us. We were able to network with so many people, maybe even some potential bosses in the future. We all gained so much from the hands-on experience. I speak for all of us when I say this; we appreciate everything that SMA did to help make this trip possible. All of us were able to truly experience March Madness.

Want to see more from their trip?

Want to read more about their trip to the Final Four?