TWU alumna finds dream assignment in Final Four tourney
Don’t pinch Courtney Randle-Gaines. She doesn’t want to wake up from the wonderful dream she is having.
The Texas Woman’s alumna grew up playing basketball and averaged 18 points a game her senior year with the LSU Shreveport women’s basketball team. She grew up a staunch University of North Carolina fan and found herself frequently rooting for the Tar Heels in the NCAA basketball tournament. She is now experiencing March Madness in person at the 2023 Men’s Final Four in Houston, one of the largest sporting events in the country.
For the last 10 months, Randle-Gaines has been working as a volunteer coordinator for the 2023 NCAA Men’s Final Four’s Houston Local Organizing Committee (HLOC). The HLOC works in conjunction with the NCAA and acts as a liaison between the city, media and community partners as well as other groups.
“I’m super excited,” Randle-Gaines said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment because the Final Four doesn’t come to Houston every single year.”
Fans watching the 68-team tournament may not realize that the Final Four event rotates to a different city every year, and that people are working behind the scenes, sometimes years in advance, to put on a successful event that is watched by tens of millions of people.
“It’s a very small group of us working this event,” Randle-Gaines said. “We all have the same goal of trying to pull off this great event and showing Houston in the best way possible.”
Although the main attractions are the two semifinal games and the championship game, the NCAA has added several events to enhance the Final Four experience for fan-goers and the local community.
That’s where the volunteers come in. More than 2,500 volunteers are assisting at these community events, including the Final Four Fan Fest Presented by Capital One and March Madness Music Festival® Presented by AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola.
The volunteer registration website for the Final Four went live in November and that’s when Randle-Gaines’ job started ramping up. Volunteers were asked to commit to three, four-hour shifts and attend an orientation in March.
Randle-Gaines helped train volunteers on their roles, ranging from being a part of the Green Team, which is focused on recycling and donations, to the Street Team, which helps fans get where they need to go. The first people that fans will probably see in Houston will be the volunteers in their blue bucket hats and polos.
Another one of her responsibilities was university student volunteer recruitment. Randle-Gaines reached out to university groups to find volunteers and encourage them to volunteer together at the Final Four. Volunteers were selected from all over the country, including Florida, Virginia, California and Ohio.
A big part of Randle-Gaines’ job is making sure volunteers enjoy themselves.
“People are the best and the most challenging part of the position,” Randle-Gaines said. “We want to make sure the volunteers have a great experience and sometimes we can’t please everyone.”
Some of what she has learned goes back to her marketing classes at Texas Woman’s. Gaines graduated in 2015 with a master’s degree in kinesiology with a sport management emphasis.
“I remember I had a course in marketing and it talked about how to get people interactive with your events,” Randle-Gaines said. “I feel that prepared me for working with volunteers. You have to be able to market to the volunteers because you want them to be excited and feel part of it. You have to make sure you are giving them all the information so they can be successful in those roles.”
While Randle-Gaines has the unique opportunity to be working at the Final Four, she won’t have time to watch the games. She’ll be working alongside her volunteers outside NRG Stadium, but she is hoping to find time to pop in and catch a glimpse of the action.
“I’m over the moon about the experience,” Randle-Gaines said. “This is my first large event that I’ve done from start to finish. I’m excited to see it all pan out and have that full-circle moment.”
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Page last updated 9:28 AM, March 29, 2023