Indianapolis trainer at the center of March Madness
"March Madness" is not over in Indiana, even though the Hoosiers were eliminated from the NCAA tournament. Indianapolis is hosting the Midwest rounds of the "Sweet 16" and "Elite 8" at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The tournament relies on scores of volunteers, including Ralph Reiff. Reiff is an athletic trainer for St. Vincent Sports Performance. But during the tournament, he's in charge of medical and team services. That means being ready for emergencies, but mostly tending to a host of other things.
Reiff says they include, "what goes on the court, the anti-slip element, towels, practice and game balls and how we sweep the floor and take care of that."
Reiff and his team of eight also set up the locker rooms, oversee laundry services and catering. A big responsibility is ensuring players are hydrated and there's a protocol for everything.
"Fluids, for example, are managed appropriately from the various containers and what products are used because there's always the possibility for drug testing with the event," he said.
Reiff knows the rules well. He's volunteered for every major basketball tournament the city's hosted since 1980, when the Final Four was held at the old Market Square Arena.
"It was Louisville, Purdue, UCLA with Larry Brown and Iowa. I was just a young kid out of the University of Indianapolis and I had the chance to work with my mentor, David Craig (athletic trainer for the Pacers)," Reiff said.
Reiff was hooked. He later worked games at the Hoosier/RCA Dome and the 2010 Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium when Butler University played. Despite providing support at all those tournaments, he's never seen much action on the court.
"I pay attention to the operations, what's happening on the benches and around the stadium...versus the Xs, Os and scoreboard," he said.
The volunteer job involves long days and no pay, but Reiff said he wouldn't miss it.
"It's the adrenaline, it's the pride to be part of supporting it," he said. "I love to see the smiles on the faces and tears in the eyes, to know I had a part in that, a hand in making (the athletes' time here) as comfortable as possible."
Asked if he had a favorite team, Reiff, who served as head athletic director at Butler for 18 years, smiled.
"My team isn't playing anymore. Butler went home last week," he said.
Even hours before tip-off, Reiff was all energy.
"It's buzzing already," he said. "and there's no one in the stadium except us and one team in a closed practice."
That would soon change with Reiff making the rounds and making sure each team had what it needed.