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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Without them, it wouldn’t happen’: As Hoopfest registration grows, longtime volunteers call for more help

By Luke Pickett The Spokesman-Review

The 35th annual Hoopfest is just around the corner, and organizers are seeking dedicated volunteers to help ensure the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament runs smoothly.

This year, Hoopfest has grown by roughly 500 teams to 4,700, according to officials, the highest registration totals since 2019.

“We’re starting to see those numbers creep back up, which is a good thing,” Hoopfest Director of Staffing and Volunteers Chad Smith said. “Of course, that means we need more volunteers.”

Doug Goldsmith, who’s played or volunteered in every Hoopfest, will tell you that having an annual event with Hoopfest’s magnitude is no easy task. Before volunteering as a court marshal, Goldsmith participated in 11 Hoopfests with his three sons, emerging victorious in their bracket for nine of those years.

“We had a great run,” the 72-year-old court marshal said. “It was just that I was getting too old, and that’s what I told them.”

After over 30 years of playing basketball, Goldsmith couldn’t quite get himself away from the game. So he’s spent the last 25 years refereeing local high school, middle school and AAU basketball games.

During his early years as a referee, he met the late Chuck Filippini, a fellow referee and longtime Hoopfest area administrator. Filippini then convinced Goldsmith to join his Hoopfest staff in 2006.

“We put the fires out,” Goldsmith said about court marshal duties. “If we have eligibility issues, we deal with them. If we have fights, we deal with them.”

With so many teams competing, it’s essential to have a system in place to address any disputes or concerns that may arise during the games.

“Marshals do everything they can to keep (Hoopfest) running smoothly,” Goldsmith explained.

But that’s just one of the necessary parts of the process that makes up Hoopfest.

“The volunteers are the backbone of this thing,” said Goldsmith. “Without them, it wouldn’t happen.”

Smith anticipates he’ll need around 150 additional volunteers to sign up for a court monitor position. Monitors are the official Hoopfest representative for each court, Smith says.

On youth courts, a court monitor calls the fouls. In the high school and adult divisions, players are responsible for calling their own fouls, while court monitors ensure that games are conducted punctually and safely.

“It looks like we’re going to have about 375 playing courts this year. We’d like to have about 500 court monitors,” said Smith.

The ten to 15 percent increase in team registration, expansion in the number of courts and the loss of several veteran Hoopfest volunteers over the years equates to a need for more assistance from the younger generations.

“A lot of the guys that have been (volunteering) for 15, 20, 25 years, are starting to retire out,” said Smith. “We would really like to attract younger volunteers to ensure that this tradition carries on.”

Prospective court monitors can sign up on the Hoopfest website, The application offers response choices based on the age and gender a monitor prefers to supervise, along with their level of basketball knowledge.

A general volunteer tab can be found on Hoopfest’s homepage for those who would like to volunteer in other ways.

If having a front-row seat to the largest city event of the year isn’t incentivizing enough, Hoopfest offers special gifts for monitor volunteers.

“For years we had Nike gear,” Smith said. “Now we’ve got a combination of Under Armor and Nike gear that we give away to those court monitors.”

Since a monitor position requires two days of work, the rewards include a T-shirt, hat, shorts and shoes.

Hoopfest volunteering is a great option for students in need of service credits and for individuals who enjoy friendly outdoor competition.

“It’s just awesome being down there,” said longtime court monitor volunteer Sharon Hedlund. “You’re witnessing the players, plays and sportsmanship up close and it’s just always been a lot of fun.”

Hedlund first volunteered at Hoopfest in 1995, following a couple of years as a spectator. She remembers how even then, plenty of hecklers in the crowds shared their feedback on how they would call the game better.

“You want to be part of it,” Hedlund said about her thoughts as a Hoopfest spectator. “You want to experience the actual process.”

In what will be her 27th year as a court monitor, Hedlund says ensuring a good experience for the players is what is most important.

Now that registration is mostly set and numbers are up, Smith hopes that might lead to a surge in those looking to volunteer.

“You get to see some great basketball, and you’re front and center to the action that’s happening around you,” Smith said. “It’s just a really exciting opportunity. We try to sell it as a lot of fun, and it usually doesn’t disappoint.”