By Grayson Zoller
What does it take to make a high school basketball game happen? You might think that it’s pretty easy, that you just have two teams arrive at the same place and compete. But it’s not quite that simple.
That game has been in the works for years before the players step foot on the court. From concession stand workers to scoreboard operators, more goes into your favorite sports than you might think.
It all starts up to four years before anything else is even considered, with two schools signing a contract for four games over four years. Half of these will be home games, and the other two are away games. This ensures that both teams have an equal number of games from which they will make money.
Still before the game begins, it’s up to Delta High School athletic director Grant Zgunda to get the people for the job where they need to be. That includes scoreboard operators, ticket stand workers, custodians, security, supervisors, and three referees to officiate the game. Zgunda hires everyone per game, using software called Eventlink, which allows him to easily set up games.
He also collaborates with the athletics directors of the rival schools to make sure everything goes well.
When it comes to hiring referees, the process has been streamlined with Eventlink. Zgunda can sort by distance and skill levels (if they’re qualified to officiate junior varsity or varsity). They usually make $70-$80 a game. It’s their job to enforce the rules of the game and maintain order within the court. You can recognize these important “players” by their iconic black-and-white striped shirts and black pants.
Once the game starts, that’s when everyone else comes in.
Communications teacher Tim Cleland, who has been operating the scoreboard at home basketball and football games for about 15 years, says that you really have to be paying attention the whole game.
“In basketball, when the game is really close and there’s only three or four seconds left in the game, you have to start [the clock] exactly right and be ready to stop it exactly right,” he said.
Taking tickets is also important to the game. Linda Janney has been taking the tickets at many of Delta’s games for the past two decades. She loves the atmosphere at the games and getting to know the kids, saying, “I’d torment them and they’d give me a hug.”
Then there’s also student videographers documenting every intricacy of the game for the players to later review on film. The game is also often live streamed by a separate team to Zaleski Sports for viewers to watch and enjoy.
Photographers are also present for the Eagle’s Eye newspaper and Deltonian yearbook teams, and The (Muncie) Star Press or other news publications. With that much coverage, not a second of the game is unaccounted for.
But what if you get hungry while watching Delta’s best go at it? Then you’d go to the concession stand, which is currently offering limited inventory and is being run by teachers due to COVID-19.
On top of everything already mentioned, you need janitors, ticket takers, security, coaches, referees, cheerleaders, and of course, fans. So the next time you find yourself at one of Delta’s games, keep an eye out for everything and everyone that makes these events such a blast to attend.
Q&A With Athletic Director Grant Zgunda
Eagle’s Eye: Do you usually make a profit off of games?
Zgunda: “We usually make a profit off of three sports a year. Those sports would be football, boys’ basketball, and volleyball. This year, we lost money in volleyball, broke even in football, and in basketball we’re kind of breaking even.”
Eagle’s Eye: Is there anything you’ve had to cut out to keep costs down?
Zgunda: “No. But [the buffer] we have is dwindling. If the COVID restrictions continue into next year, we might have to.”
Eagle’s Eye: How many sports do we have at Delta?
Zgunda: 19 sports.
Eagle’s Eye: How has COVID affected athletes?
Zgunda: “Everything’s done on a team basis. Football missed their first game. Volleyball missed their first seven games. …we’ve had multiple sports that have lost part of their season due to quarantining.”