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A flying start

Sun., June 28, 2009

tourney inspires team spirit among perennial volunteers

Family ties brought one group of Hoopfest court monitors together – they include a father and daughter and two sets of sisters – but it’s the de facto family they’ve formed on downtown Spokane basketball courts that has kept them coming back year after year.

As Hoopfest draws near, the e-mail banter among the group intensifies with “reply to all” messages flying from Western Washington to British Columbia to Spokane. As the messages fly, the sibling rivalry grows between the sets of sisters, said Michele Clarke, of Richland, who volunteers with her sister, Renee Volz, of Elma, Wash., near Olympia.

“We’ll start calling flagrants and technicals on each other,” Volz said. “That goes on until around August.”

“(We) have this bond, but we only get to see each other once a year,” said Bev Stamper, of Fort Spokane, north of Davenport, who volunteers with her sister, Kathy Wilson, of Spokane.

They came together, along with Peter Howie and his daughter, Samantha, of Nelson, B.C., after being assigned to courts overseen by court marshal Randy Schwaegler. Over the past six years, Schwaegler has turned the group of court monitors into a far-flung family as they referee games in the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament. The Main Avenue monitors were among those on 449 courts, playing host to more than 6,400 teams with 26,000 players in this 20th annual event.

The monitors volunteered about 14 hours under the blazing sun on Saturday and will do another eight to 10 today.

On Friday night before the games begin, Schwaegler takes everyone out for hors d’oeuvres, and on Sunday morning, he brings doughnuts. He’s sponsored the young sons of one of his court monitors in quarter midget car racing. He’s visited Clarke for wine tastings in southeastern Washington and golfs regularly with Howie.

“I do it because of Randy,” said Stamper, who began volunteering six years ago and says she was lucky enough to land on one of Schwaegler’s courts. “He’s kind of like the perfect boss, that’s what Randy is.”

“I just think they deserve it,” Schwaegler said of the extra effort he puts in. “It’s my way of saying thanks for helping out.”

Howie and his daughter began volunteering about five years ago. This year, Samantha couldn’t make it, so Howie brought his wife instead. The group welcomed her with open arms at the traditional Friday party.

“The ladies last night, they were awesome with her,” Howie said. “It was the first time they’d met her and it was like they’d known her for years.”

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