NEWS | June 23, 2014

Airmen make softball possible behind the scenes

By Senior Airman George Goslin Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Intramural sports are a big part of morale on military installations. They build camaraderie and enhance teamwork and allow service members to take part in something other than the day-to-day grind of their daily jobs. But there is a lot of work required to keep intramural sports going year around.

The person in charge of that mission is Staff Sgt. David Johnson, 628th Force Support Squadron sports program director. He is responsible for maintaining the record books of games and keeping the schedules, scores and statistics for the teams. He is the point of contact for all Air Base sports programs and spends his day making sure intramural sports go off without a hitch.

It is currently softball season, and Johnson works long days ensuring the teams can play. A typical game day for him starts at 5 a.m. on the softball fields.
"I try to get out there early to beat the heat and get a head start on the field maintenance," said Johnson. "There's a lot to do to prepare the fields for games, and it can take a few hours."

He starts by watering the dirt to soften it up. This is done for a variety of reasons, but mainly safety. The softer dirt allows the players' cleats to dig in for more stability and prevents the dirt from being sun-dried into hard clay, increasing the likelihood for player injury. Johnson then inspects the field, checking for holes and divots created from previous games and repairs them so they don't hinder future games.

His morning ritual continues as he moves the bases and home plate and rakes the infield. He uses a tractor with a rake attached to make multiple passes over every inch of the infield to further soften it for the game later in the day. He then re-chalks the lines and inspects the outfield, making sure that it is all in playable condition.

With multiple playing fields, the entire process can take Johnson a few hours to complete by himself, so he has started training other Airmen to assist or even take the responsibility when he's not around.

One of those Airmen is Staff Sgt. Lakan Ello, a fitness specialist with the 628th Force Support Squadron.

"The training is laborious and softball is just one of the field tournaments that we offer throughout the year," said Ello. "The sports program can be demanding, but with the training I have received and the experience in preparing and organizing the games, I will have all the skills to run the program in the event of Staff Sgt. Johnson's absence."

Even with the extra help, Johnson's days are still long. Games are constantly being played and Johnson is responsible for making sure the schedules are created and flexible and the scores and statistics are accurate. He completes them as soon as possible, making sure the books are current and up to date.

He finishes up his day by going to that night's games to be on hand for any issues the teams bring to his attention. Often he doesn't finish the day until 8:30 p.m. Even though the days are long, they are also rewarding.

"I love my job. I'm not the person that likes to sit behind a desk all day," said Johnson. "I love sports, so this is the perfect job. I put my music on when I'm out there working and it's like I'm in my own world. At the end of the day, the coaches and players come up to me and show their appreciation by saying thank you, and it's rewarding when people know how hard you've worked to make it happen."