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He's a fellow who keeps intramural sports running

Clumps of spectators people the sidelines of an intramural football game at Florida Atlantic University's Henderson fields. The onlookers stand around the field leisurely chatting and occasionally looking on as their fellow students drench themselves in layers of sweat. Players gallop up and down a hill, marked to look like a football field, trying to catch a whizzing pigskin.

This is the stage for Ben Gerstner’s three favorite afternoons of the week. An FAU student by day and a university employee by nightfall, Gerstner is a senior in the criminal justice program and an intramural sports supervisor.

Gerstner says his job is to have fun and keep people safe. He manages about 20 referees and oversees hundreds of student participants.

Gerstner wants FAU’s intramural programs to exemplify the fun that students can have on campus. He recently sprained his ankle, but that didn’t stop him from running onto the field to work as a back judge, making calls with a dynamism that even Richard Simmons would admire.

Gerstner moves with alacrity when he gets on the field. His neatly shaved head and athletic build give him an emphatic authority that no one wants to question. He presses his whistle gently between his lips before each play, and his black shorts dangle from his hips to his knees.

His whistles are crisp and he throws his signals with forceful assertion. Gerstner swaggers across the field, casually swinging a stopwatch around the tip of his index finger as he waits for a play to begin. And when a play finally does begin, he stands firmly and attentively throwing signals that accompany a forceful voice.

Kate Quinlan, coordinator of intramural sports, says that she hired Gerstner about a year and one-half ago as a referee but promoted him to supervisor within a year. Quinlan says she noticed “rare” qualities in Gerstner, praising the mental and emotional strength he exhibits on the playing fields. She describes him as a “good kid” with a great personality and an admirable work ethic.

Steven Wiley, Gerstner’s co-supervisor, says he sees Gerstner every day and he always goes the extra mile. Wiley says he sees Gerstner spend his free time doing program paperwork for hours on end, something that Wiley avoids at all costs. Wiley says that Gerstner’s willingness to do piles of paperwork, what Wiley calls “the low point of the job,” proves Gerstner’s commitment and speaks volumes about his work ethic.

Wiley finds Gerstner’s positive attitude contagious and thinks it shows on the field.

“Gerstner can throw a kid out during a game and then three hours later you can find him talking up a storm with the same kid,” Wiley says.

Gerstner, who grew up in Warwick, N.Y., says he worked as a volunteer firefighter and completed a year of community college before enrolling at FAU. He says he got involved with campus recreation because of his love for sports.

Gerstner says that he learned very quickly that “people can get pretty crazy out here.” He explains that students get really competitive in the heat of the moment, and sometimes he has to calm them down. Gerstner’s job entails everything from breaking up fights on the field to “playing nurse” and calling the ambulance when someone gets hurt.

Jeremy Dorrington, one of the referees who works for Gerstner, says that they were hired at the same time but that he knew Gerstner before they had started working together. Dorrington says they met three years ago at a sorority party where he saw Gerstner’s extroverted nature in action for the first time. Dorrington maintains that Gerstner is, “a real likeable guy, everyone knows who he is because he makes sure that he meets everyone in a room.”

Dorrington says that Gerstner communicates in a way that motivates him to do a better job and notes that he views Gerstner as a really good manager and role model.

As Gerstner’s eyes scan the patches of dirt that blanket the fields like a quilt passed down from one generation to the next, he mentions that he would like to see better fields. He says he loves the idea of adding a new sports complex and swimming pool because it will open an opportunity for intramurals to add myriad new sports to the program, from futsal (an indoor variant of soccer) to water polo.

He believes that more facilities are needed because of an ever increasing interest in intramurals. He notes that most of the participants live on campus and that with the addition of more than a thousand residents at Innovation Village the intramural program will get even bigger.

Gerstner describes intramurals as a great place to meet new people and have a good time. Typically his parting shot is, “Come out and play intramurals!”




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