Holiday basketball tournament volunteers keep coming back

By Audrey Williams

December 26, 2012 Updated Dec 26, 2012 at 11:45 PM CDT

NORMAL, Ill. -- For many families, the week between Christmas and New Years isn't a time for returning gifts, it's a time for Holiday Basketball Tournaments.

For 34 years, teams from across the state have descended on Bloomington-Normal for the Holiday Classic.

This year, 32 girls and 32 boys teams make up one of the largest co-ed holiday tournaments in the nation.

More than 100 volunteers, including a 40-person committee, make it all happen.

"People just love High School basketball; they love doing something for this community," said Dave Oloffson, Tournament VP. "We've got a lot of knowledge and experience on this committee."

The volunteers do everything from running the scoreboard and the clock to keeping the scorebook.

Derek Sieg has been a part of the tournament for the past 13 years. He says many years ago when it was the Illinois State Classic his parents were volunteers.

"It's really about the kids," said Sieg. "That's why I got started in it so many years ago watching my parents do it the same way. It's what I wanted to do and when I got a little bit older and saw that opportunity. I thought that's something I want to do to give back for all the things that people did for me when I was in High School sports."

Sieg says every volunteer has stories to tell for their time at the Classic. He says one of his favorite memories came when he was helping with the Special Olympics Shootout portion of the tournament last year.

"Had kid who had had a rough day playing basketball in the Shirk Center and came out and was pretty fired up, wanted to do well in front of the big crowd," recalled Sieg. "Hits a three-pointer at one end goes down to the other end, hustles and gets a tipped pass out of bounds and I announce that he's just having a great day. He just turned a looked at his coaches and says, 'Yes. I. Am.' The whole crowd heard it and just went crazy."

Whatever the reason or the position, volunteers will continue to be just as important as the players and coaches for years to come.

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.