I finish up my last ice run on the Zamboni, I wander back out toward the ice
to clean up the gate area and watch the beginning of
the men’s hockey team practice. This is the day that I’ve been waiting for
all year, the day when the men’s hockey coach skates over to the dashers and
waves me in to join in the team practice. I impress him so much that he has
no choice but to give me a scholarship as a left winger ... BAM! That was
the puck hitting the glass and waking me out of my daydream.
I’m happy to say that I have adjusted nicely to my calling as a facility
man-ager, especially since I’ve never played organized hockey in my life.
For me, being a facility manager has opened doors that would have never been
possible before. It has allowed me to bump elbows with celebrities and
athletes that kids grow up idolizing, whether that be college or
As facility managers we often over-look our most recognizable team members,
the professional athletes that fill the seats every night. That’s right;
they are part of the team as well. If you stop and think about it, we are
all professionals working toward the same common goal of helping people
forget about all of their day-to-day worries and enjoy themselves for a few
hours. There are times when we as building personnel get so bogged down with
the details of the building cleanliness, tables being set up in the correct
spot, and pre-game parties that we forget why the fans come to the building
in the first place ... THERE’S A
GAME GOING ON!
Driving expensive cars with tinted windows and stealthily moving in and out
of building back hallways, there are times when players feel untouchable and
reside on a higher level than the rest of us. Even while professional
athletes are put on a pedestal and idolized with merchandise of their own
likeness, many of them are also rewarded with contracts that far surpass
anything that we will ever earn in five lifetimes.
They are still kids and young men, most much younger than many of us. Do you
remember how hard it was to transition into the “real” world fresh out of
school? I remember being scared and unsure of myself. I questioned every
decision I made and was constantly wondering “what if?” and that was without
the added pressure of media requests, daily practices, community service
projects, and a plethora of other activities.
In my opinion the team scouts and personnel should have a separate set of
criteria for grading rookies; oddly enough it is the quality that is most
closely associated with great facility managers, multitasking. Sure they all
have to be great on the court, but they usually have to be great on the
court while balancing a dozen other things that same day.
I was once one of the naysayers, claiming; “If you gave me $6 million I
could deal with all of the distractions with no problem.” I honestly
believed that until just a few months ago when I had the chance to interact
and get to know several of the players on a personal level. These are
players with families and children growing up while they are away on the
road for eight months out of the year, players from countries in Europe that
have little or no experience with American culture, players fresh out of
college who have been separated from their support systems and friends that
have been by their side for 20 years. The players love playing basketball,
it’s what they do and know, but just once in a while I’m sure there is a
thought that passes though their heads about having a career change.
How would you react if someone that you relied on to get your job done more
efficiently or to complete your job was suddenly traded away to another
building halfway across the country overnight? How would you react if you
were told to pack up your life suddenly to move to a country halfway around
I know I sometimes take for granted the fact that I have a fairly strong
hold on what happens in my professional life. For the most part I control my
destiny with where I want to work, and what advancements or turns I want my
career to take. One thing that is glaringly similar between us is the fact
that as both a player and facility manager, the quickest way to advance is
through hard work and seizing opportunities. I have seen firsthand
professional sports careers turned around in the span of a week; likewise I
can point to two or three specific moments that have changed the course of
Next time you are strolling through the back hallway and pass a player
leaving practice, take a minute to smile to him or her and ask how they’re
doing. Chances are they could use a little friendly pick-me- up. After all,
they’re your teammates!
Brad Kolodzaike is
senior manager, event operations for the FedExForum – Memphis Grizzlies.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.