Before the players play, the coaches coach and the whistles are blown, there is one constant at a Malibu youth sporting event. Longtime Malibu resident Sandy Banducci welcomes everyone who comes to a game with a sincere hello—or even a hug if you are within arm’s reach. As a recreation assistant for the City of Malibu’s Parks and Recreation Department, Banducci relishes her role in the Malibu community, and specifically with the youth.
“Sandy is the face of the community. She is the most friendly, outgoing person in Malibu,” said Amy Crittenden, the City of Malibu’s recreation manager. “She helps out in ways that no one else can.”
Banducci and her husband of 48 years, Russ, met as students at UCLA. The Bruin duo used to help feed classmates Lew Alcindor, Keith Erickson and Gail Goodrich before Coach John Wooden’s practices. In 1972 they moved to Malibu in search of an “unobstructed ocean and mountain view with plenty of land for our kids to play,” as Sandy tells it. They found it and haven’t left since.
She is the proud mother of Brian, Eric and Amy, and grandmother to Nick, Riley, Sofia, Noelani and Malia. For the past 40 years, she has called Malibu home and been involved with youth sports since the day she arrived.
Prior to the City of Malibu taking ownership of the current sports programs 13 years ago, Banducci started Malibu Team Sports where she volunteered her time with several sports such as football, volleyball and basketball.
Banducci also volunteered her time for Malibu Park Middle School and then as athletic director for Malibu High School when it started up. In October of 2000, Crittenden brought Banducci on board to assist in various roles with sports such as flag football, basketball and tee-ball. Banducci fills roles as diverse as “meeter/ greeter,” “fixer” (resolving issues with coaches, parents and kids), “timekeeper” and “gym supervisor.”
“She is a great outreach for our department. Everybody knows Sandy,” Crittenden said. “She really helps our jobs. We are so grateful to have her.”
The Malibu Times caught up with Banducci as she prepares to root for the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Russ’ father, Bruno, played 14 years with the 49ers and was on the original team.
Describe your love of youth sports here in Malibu.
My particular interest is youth sports. Over the years I have seen tens of thousands of kids go through our programs that we run. Many of them grow up and often come back with their families. I love these kids with a passion. The kids are learning athletic and life skills and developing lasting friendships. The kids are really engaged with what they do. They are free to be themselves. The happiest moments of my life are when I see kids participating and having fun. The families are wonderful and the kids are so excited to participate in activities.
What is something special that makes your job so worthwhile?
When the little ones make their first basket after they have played for eight weeks, everything stops and people are yelling and cheering for them. It’s so adorable to see their faces light up. It’s the biggest thing in the world for them at that moment. They never forget a kind word or a hug. Every day we want to congratulate somebody on something they did that was really unique, or special, or a first. I love that.
Talk about the City of Malibu’s Park and Recreation Department and its involvement with youth sports.
The City of Malibu has been wonderful. Bob Stallings, Amy Crittenden and Katie Gallo have done so much for the city. Everybody is super encouraging. The city prepares the kids to go on to the next step. We need feeder programs in every sport to be able to compete. We always try to upgrade our programs every year. We are trying to let the kids have the maximum experience they can. Everything we have suggested has been really supported by the city in helping us accomplish our goals. The city is listening to what the community wants. We want to have programs that are fun and that everybody enjoys.
What motivates you to do what you love on a daily basis for the past 40 years?
I’m lucky enough to be able to provide a little bit of insight and growth for our wonderful kids. You never realize how much you influence the lives of little kids as they are growing up. Luckily I’m in a position where I have the time to do it. I hope to be doing it forever. It’s the most amazing experience to be involved in this all of our 40 years here. I don’t think anybody could have a job they love more than I do. We do live in paradise. Malibu has a special flavor to it. I want to keep doing this forever. I never want to retire. I don’t like that word. I just want to keep having fun. Every day is a blessing to me.