Most people think of MLB when you mention the words Spring Training. But we stayed out of the limelight hosting amateur teams during the beautiful spring in FL. This Disney owned and operated event was the most intricate I’ve ever been a part of. It was a beast that few of my colleagues had any interest in tackling. A true marathon.
Picture the biggest puzzle you’ve ever seen then throw in 100 pieces that will never fit. My personal philosophy was “where there is a will, there is a way” and we had to find a way to make all the pieces fit together. It spawned creativity and focusing on every detail.
It was organized chaos. In our heyday, we hosted over 950 HS and college teams for 75 straight days in 6 sports (softball, baseball, lacrosse, track & field, tennis and soccer). The clear advantage for northern teams was spending their spring breaks with us in sunny FL and getting a jump start on their season.
We were dubbed the “scheduling queens” and locked ourselves in a conference room for 5 weeks at 15-18 hours a day, which produced an astounding 20,0000 activities. The kicker is that teams could provide requests to help us in the scheduling process (size of school and strength of program were critical to know) PLUS every state had different rules. These included registration, practices, official games, non-official, scrimmages, pre game warmups, batting cages, weight room, community service and days off. Omg. My personal favorites were those coaches that believed in giving back, as we would schedule a food distribution or sport clinic locally for underprivileged youth.
Every team received their own personalized schedule. In order to achieve this level of detail, we even created our own online scheduling system which was a huge undertaking and highly satisfying. We even had so many schedules to spit out that we had to institute waves of distribution, as the change requests coming in on the back end where so daunting and never ending. We relished the handful of coaches that were grateful and overly pleased with their original programs.
Not to mention scheduling all the officials, referees, scorekeepers, local opponents plus all the complex staff (daily coordinators, athletic trainers, groundscrew, concessionaires, registration staff, merchandisers, golf cart drivers, ticket takers and security personnel).
Being the lightning capital of the world, any weather would wreak havoc on the daily schedule. Rescheduling was nearly impossible as teams all had different arrival and departure dates/times. But somehow, this intricate web of activities all came to life each spring. And through a huge team effort, we crafted a masterpiece that teams religiously returned to year in and year out. We formed strong bonds with coaches from all over the country and nothing was more rewarding than being sent thank you notes and pictures of those teams winning conference and state championships.
Every May 1, we would thankfully put those playbooks on the shelves and schedule much needed vacations to decompress. But before the dust settled, it was time to crank it up again in the fall and mentally prepare for the grind ahead.