BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
It didn’t take long for Chuck Kasper to be in the thick of things at this year’s National Junior College Athletic Association tournament in Danville. Kasper is among the almost 300 volunteers helping out at the annual tournament, which is happening at Danville Area Community College for the 20th straight year.
Working as a host for this year’s tournament, Kasper — an admitted high school basketball fan — was on the floor with his team, Central Community College — Columbus out of Columbus, Neb. He handed out water to the team during timeouts and was there for coaches following the game.
“I’ll offer if they need anything,” he said. “Sometimes I go out for lunch with them or dinner.”
Hosts are the local guides and assistants for the tournament’s 16 teams and coaches for the week, starting with getting the team to and from the DACC campus.
Kasper said he helps the coaches with any questions they have or requests, including setting up a location for the team to practice between games.
He even had last year’s team he hosted out to his home for a barbecue.
No matter where the college is located, Kasper starts his work early by taking the time to contact the college as soon as he finds out which team he will be hosting each year. He gives them his contact information and introduces himself when they reach Danville.
In between the hosting work, Kasper keeps up his daily job as a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual in Danville.
Kasper can thank his wife for his involvement in the tournament. She began working 17 years ago for the Danville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, putting her in the middle of working as part of the tournament every March.
After a few years, he simply decided to follow her lead.
“I figured if she was going to be out there all week, I would be too,” he said. He’s now been a host going on 10 years and says he has no intent on quitting.
Kasper is one of many hosts that help out the tournament, but the teams he takes on in assisting are special.
As a native of North Dakota, he requests tournament teams from that area. For this year, he has a little more connection with the team. He worked in Nebraska about 30 miles from Columbus, Neb., for several years before moving to the Danville area.
While some of the team members are quiet, a few days are just enough time for Kasper to get to know a few of the players on the team during the tournament.
It’s hard not to support the team he’s hosting during the tournament.
“You get involved and cheer for your team,” he said.