Volunteers keep Summit League tournament running smoothly

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - While the Summit League tournament's organizers keep it a well-oiled machine, the volunteers each year keep things running smoothly for everyone involved.

Between participants, coaches, athletic directors, bands, dance teams, cheerleaders, their families, the media and many others -- the organizers rely heavily on volunteers to be the friendly faces that handle it all.

This year, the tournament has about 160 volunteers, about 55 per session, according to Sioux Falls Sports Authority executive director Bryan Miller, and many of them keep coming back to dedicate their time to the event year after year.

"I'm just thrilled to death to be involved with it every year," Morgan Mendelson, a volunteer in his 10th year with the Summit League tournament said.

Mendelson said he's retired now, is a big fan of basketball and loves giving back to the community that gave so much to him, so it's a perfect fit. He's watched the tournament grow and change each year.

"Moving into this facility, seeing the growth of the tournament, the growth of the attendance of the tournament, the enthusiasm that the community has shown for this event and how we all open our arms for this particular event is ... I'm happy to be a part of it," Mendelson said.

He's not the only veteran volunteer. You can find them all across the Premier Center, Convention Center and the Sioux Falls Arena throughout the weekend, their name tags say, "10 years of service."

Miller said about 30 volunteers are in their 10th year with the tournament. Another volunteer who's put in a decade? Linda Hengevald.

"It's gotten very organized and I just think there's so many people, it's just gotten to be so much more than it was in the beginning and it's very nice," Hengevald said.

Both Hengevald and Mendelson agree ... there's one thing that keeps them both coming back each year.

"I enjoy the people, some of the parents because their child has been on the team for awhile, we get to see them again," Mendelson said. "We get to meet new people who, it's their first time in South Dakota, their first time in Sioux Falls."

"The people, yeah," Hengevald said. "We're so welcoming and that's a big part of the tournament."

"We become the face of the city for them other than whomever they may have met when they checked into their hotel," Mendelson said.

Hengevald and Mendelson have different roles.

"Myself and another gentleman work what we call the 'Team Will Call table," Mendelson said. "So if there's special people that the university is leaving tickets for we take care of that."

Hengevald works a check-in table for media, bands, cheerleaders and dance teams.

"I love seeing all the people," Hengevald said. "[The] band directors and the coaches and they've always been so fun."

And they're always looking for more help ...

"Volunteer," Mendelson said. "We can always use more people and it's a wonderful experience."

"Try it, even for a couple of sessions," Hengevald said.

To be a volunteer for the Summit League tournament, you don't have to commit to every session throughout the weekend, although Mendelson and Hengevald said they both do and enjoy every minute of it.

Mendelson said he also likes running the Will Call table throughout the weekend because he and his partner can keep it organized, they have a system and nothing slips through the cracks since they don't have to relay messages to other volunteers who might be taking over for another session.

While both Mendelson and Hengevald live in Sioux Falls, as many of the weekend's volunteers do, they said they've made friends with other volunteers from across the country who also come to volunteer for this weekend because they love being a part of it so much.

If you're interested in volunteering for next year's Summit League tournament, or any other events organized by the Sioux Falls Sports Authority, there's a link to sign up under "related links."