He had just retired and moved south to Provo. Jayare Roberts had lots of time on his hands.
At first, he thought he might fill his days by being a spectator. A longtime BYU fan, Roberts went to a Cougar track meet, eager to watch a day of races. But when he got there, the thing that stuck out the most was the event management: It seemed chaotic, understaffed, disorganized.
He wandered down from the stands, finding then-track coach Doug Padilla. He asked a question that changed his life: “How can I help?”
That was 10 years ago. Now Roberts’ schedule is packed with hours of volunteering and part-time work: as security at BYU football; as a “glorified usher” at BYU track and field meets; as a high school track official. He’s one of those people that everyone recognizes but fewer may actually know — people who find fulfillment in putting on sporting events in Utah not for the money, but just because they love being close to the game.
That’s why Roberts, 65, bikes to and from his commitments all over town for hours every week.
“There’s so much need at these sporting events,” Roberts said. “They need people who are dependable.”
Sports events aren’t just competitions — they’re productions. From the prep level to the pros, these productions are put on by a force of people either working part-time or volunteering to collect the tickets, guide people to their seats, run the stats and the scoreboards and generally do whatever needs doing. They are the often-underappreciated, yet ever-reliable cogs in the engines of both major and minor sports within the state.
While the athletes serve as the faces of their respective teams, these people are often the hands — interacting with fans and helping create the experience that they’ve come to love and trust. People like Brent and Dar Larsen, a husband-and-wife duo who usher at Utah football and basketball games, come closer to the ticket holders than anyone else.
Over the years of guiding people to their seats, they’ve also helped break up ruckus in the stands, or occasionally been first responders to medical emergencies. Closing up one night after a gymnastics meet, they came across a woman sitting on the stairs of the Huntsman Center.
She told them her water had broken. The medical staff had already left for the evening, so it was up to the Larsens to call for the ambulance.
“We’re here to help people, and make sure they have a good time and stay safe,” Brent Larsen said. “It’s as much a PR job as telling them where to sit.”
Other roles are less about representing a large organization and more about helping things get done. Where would the Utah Golf Association be without Sherm Hatfield and Garey Chadwick, two men who have served for at least four decades in different roles and now spend their time dispensing knowledge about the rules of the game?
UGA executive director Bill Walker wouldn’t want to imagine such a world.
“They’re really just the godfathers of volunteerism,” he said. “Whenever you call, they’re there to help out.”
It’s not just the people featured in these stories in this collection — the volunteers and part-time employees who make sports work in Utah numbers certainly in the hundreds and reasonably in the thousands. When one takes into account every level of sport, from preps to pros, it’s an overwhelming thought.
Why do they do it? Simply because they love it.
“It’s fun to be a part of a team,” Roberts said. “It’s all about teamwork.”
Here are some other Utahns who work behind the scenes at local sporting events:
In the last high school hockey game he ever played, Kollin Kleinendorst got ejected.
The reason? Arguing with an official.
“That’s what they say: The ones that give the refs a hard time as players make the best officials,” he said recently, about a decade in hindsight. “I guess they were right.”
Kleinendorst, 30, has now been on the other side of such disputes far more often, serving as a part-time official for the last eight years and the last five in the ECHL. Outside of his career as a property manager in Park City, he is one of three on-call local linesman for the Utah Grizzlies.
While being an official in any sport can be a thankless job, reffing hockey is particularly harrowing. At any given time, 10 men are flying around the ice at speeds that reach up to 30 miles per hour; there’s a puck ricocheting off the walls that can knock your teeth out; and when fisticuffs start getting out of hand (which is bound to happen in a sport that glorifies fighting) guess who has to break it up.
“Everything is happening so fast,” Kleinendorst said. “I really learned to hone in on my awareness skills. You can’t take your eyes off the play for any amount of time, or else you’re going to miss something — or get really hurt.”
Kleinendorst hails from a family deeply embedded in pro hockey. His father, Kurt Kleinendorst, coaches the AHL’s Belleville Senators. As a kid, Kollin seeped up some insight of the game from his father, which he thinks helped him eventually see with an official’s eyes.
The offiating heirarchy runs parallel to how players advance: Kleinendorst started officiating games at the youth level to make a little extra money, then got noticed by the pro ranks because he could skate (no small part of a good hockey referee’s skill set). Since settling in Utah, he’s become one of the regulars the ECHL asks to work Grizzlies games, helping the league save money by not flying a whole crew to Salt Lake City.
After a brief overseas career, Kleinendorst has left his playing days mostly behind. But he still gears up just like a player — and he’s taken his fair share of hits, too.
“It’s been a really fun way to stay with the game,” he said. “I like being around the rink.”
— Kyle Goon
Brent and Dar Larsen
The job has never paid much.
Back around 1968 when Brent Larsen started working Utah basketball games as an usher, he actually lost money on the deal.
“They paid us for three hours at $3.25 an hour,” he said. “But if you got dinner there, the bill would be 10 bucks.”
But in the 49 years of working his second job, Larsen, 81, could tell stories for hours on end — stories of breaking up fights, of emptying smuggled liquor bottles, of rubbing shoulders with both the rich and the famous. So could his wife, Dar Larsen, 79, who started working games in 1986 after their kids left the house.
For the cynic, who assume that the Larsens were looking for a cheap ticket to watch basketball, think again: It took more than 10 years for Brent just to get a post where he could watch.
“You would start at a door or a gate, and then you’d never see the game,” he said. “I also worked the student section for 10 or 12 years. Sometimes it got a little nasty.”
For the couple’s daughter, at least, one nasty experience was enough. The first game she ever worked, a rowdy Wyoming fan picked her up and carried her down the stairs of the Huntsman Center. She never ushered again.
But Brent and Dar have kept at it, paid dues and became two of the longest-tenured ushers at Utah events. At football games, they work the fourth and fifth floor VIP suites. At basketball games, Brent works the floor: One of his jobs is controlling reporters’ access to the tunnel outside the home locker room.
While there’s been bad times, most of them have been good: big games, wild crowds and memorable wins. But the most valuable keepsake of decades of their part-time jobs has been the many relationships they’ve cultivated through the years. There have been ticket goers and customers who, through years of handshakes and pregame conversations, have become friends.
“It’s been so many years, some of those kids we once knew have grown up and started having their own kids,” Dar Larsen said. “That’s the fun part — getting to know those people.”
— Kyle Goon
Sherm Hatfield and Garey Chadwick
They’re here to help.
That statement may seem obvious when it comes to any volunteer, but it is worth repeating in the cases of Rules of Golf experts Sherm Hatfield and Garey Chadwick. They would rather outline a golfer’s options about how to proceed in a certain situation than enforce a penalty.
And that’s what they wish more golfers would realize about their job description. “When they find out we’re only out there to help them with the rules, it’s a lot better,” Chadwick said.
Chadwick, 79, of Bountiful, and Hatfield, 78, of West Valley City, are longtime friends who have become pretty much indistinguishable from each other when it comes to recognition from golf organizations in the state. They shared the President Award from the Utah Section PGA in 2014 and this summer were named the co-honorees of the Utah Senior Open.
The benefit for those who interview them is they would rather talk about the other guy, anyway.
Hatfield on Chadwick: “Garey is one heck of a dedicated man. He has spent so much time promoting golf on all levels that it’s incomprehensible to Joe Q. Public.”
Chadwick on Hatfield: “The thing about him is he’s so caring and concerned. He’s just such a friend. He’s a hard-working guy when it comes to rules.”
Chadwick has cut back his volunteer workload somewhat, but Hatfield is approaching 50 days on the golf course in 2017. And they can be long days, with players on the course for 12 hours or more. The action tends to come in spurts for a rules official. When they worked at Hill Air Force Base’s Hubbard GC, with few trouble spots, the late Larry Disera once remarked to Hatfield that their job was “about an exciting as watching a car rust.”
Other courses, Hatfield said, have “hot spots where the trouble is never ending.”
The Rules of Golf are complex, yet Chadwick is surprised how many players lack fundamental knowledge, such as their options after a shot goes into a water hazard. That’s OK, though. Those opportunities to explain the possibilities make their jobs worthwhile.
— Kurt Kragthorpe
One day during eighth-grade gym, Chris Healy’s teacher kept the basketballs on the rack and instead handed out paper and pencils.
The lesson on how to keep score turned out to be life changing for Healy.
All these years later, the Bountiful native still uses it almost every day, as a part-time gig has become a full-time obsession for the sports-loving numbers fanatic.
“Initially it was the love of the game that got me doing it,” Healy said. “But now I’m so used to doing stats that just trying to sit and watch a game without doing, you’re almost bored.”
Healy has run the scorebook for the Utah Jazz for the past 17 seasons. He arrives at the arena around 5:30 p.m. most game days, collects the active lists, fills out the scorebook, inspects the game clocks, and then spends the rest of the night tallying statistics and fastidiously checking to make sure his book aligns with the stats on the arena computers and scoreboard.
He receives $50 and a free meal for his efforts, but that’s not what keeps Healy coming back.
“You don’t do it for the money,” he said. “I look at it as an opportunity cost. I’m sure what Mr. Huntsman is paying for great seats right across from me is quite large.”
But even the court-side view doesn’t reveal the whole story. Healy deals in numbers constantly. He works as an accountant by day. Forty-one nights a year (not including preseason, postseason and summer league games), he is front row for the Jazz. And on his free nights, you might find him at a University of Utah volleyball match, or a football or basketball (men’s and women’s) game. Oh, he also tracks statistics for his alma mater, Bountiful High, and for a friend who coaches volleyball at Skyline High School.
“During basketball season, you can have four, five, six days of games a week,” he said. “If it works out perfect, you could have seven.”
Healy says he’ll keep filling up scorebooks “for as long as they’ll have me,” though he might scale back on some of his obligations. His wife would like him around a bit more, he says, and his 6-year-old son has just started playing soccer.
“They don’t keep score,” Healy said, “but he knows exactly what it is because his dad is keeping score.”
— Aaron Falk
Upon retiring from his career at the LDS Church’s Family History Library in Salt Lake City about 10 years ago, Jayare Roberts moved to Provo and began contemplating what he could do to stay busy. His children had moved out of the house, so he looked for other ways to stay involved with young adults.
Roberts, now 65, stumbled into his post-retirement career. Attending a track meet at BYU, he almost immediately noticed it was a bit disorganized. So he approached BYU track coach Doug Padilla and asked if he could help. Padilla sent him over to the shot put area, then asked him to return the next day and measure long jumps.
“Then I was hooked — hooked on volunteering,” Roberts said. “I became a certified official so I could be a better volunteer.”
These days, Roberts can be found all over BYU, a recognizable face known not only by fans and media, but also coaches Kalani Sitake, Dave Rose, Heather Olmstead and many others.
And new and jobs just keep popping up. After visiting the school’s Legacy Hall — the school’s athletic museum and Hall of Fame — to pick up a calendar, he quickly discovered they needed help there, too, so he started giving tours of the Student Athlete Building, where the hall is located. Roberts also can be found helping out at soccer and volleyball matches, gymnastics and swimming meets, football practices, rugby matches and much more.
And he doesn’t just volunteer to help run BYU events; Roberts has also helped at many high school track and field events, including the state prep cross country meet in Salt Lake City.
“It renews my faith in the younger generation,” Roberts said. “I love being around young people.”
And he does it all for free.
“It is just a joy,” he said. “I look forward to it every week.”
— Jay Drew