Working for the Minnesota Lynx

The Barta siblings work out of the spotlight with the Lynx, learning valuable lessons and making connections along the way.
Brandon and Mackenzie Barta demonstrate their ball handling skills on the Minnesota Lynx practice court at Target Center.

If you’ve ever been to a Minnesota Lynx basketball game, there’s a good
chance you’ve seen one of them.

No, you won’t see the brother and sister combo of Brandon and Mackenzie Barta
make a three-point shot or slam any dunks, but their position could be argued to
be nearly as important: both have been a ball boy (or girl) for the Lynx for
several years.

“I first got involved with the Lynx when I was 8 years old. My dad was hired
as their new athletic trainer and I started going to watch practice with my dad
and really enjoyed it,” says Mackenzie Barta, a 10th grader at Maple Grove
Senior High. The more time I spent with the Lynx players and got to know them,
the more my love of basketball really evolved.” She also plays varsity
basketball for her school’s team, the Crimson.

Her brother Brandon followed a similar course, although he was 11 years old
when he first started attending practices.

“I started working games (as a ball boy substitute) when I was 13, and
started officially working games when I was 14,” says Brandon Barta, a current
freshman at the University of Minnesota, majoring in mathematics. He is also the
manager and a scout team player for the U of M women’s basketball team.

The Bartas say the duties of their positions go well beyond catching a stray
ball or mopping a wet floor between timeouts of a game.

“I help with rebounding during the warm-ups and shooting drills before games,
I hand out towels and Gatorade during timeouts and clean up the locker rooms,”
Mackenzie says. “I am basically there to help with whatever needs to be

Brandon also has a list of duties. “I help with passing drills; I get the
drink carts ready, the ice bags for after the game, the towel carts for both the
opponents’ and referees’ locker rooms,” he says. “After the game, we tear down
everything and get it put away and ready for the next game.”

Both Bartas agree that watching the Lynx train as professional athletes has
had an influence on their lives. “None of them ever take a day off or have a day
when they don’t go their hardest. I see how they take care of their bodies,”
Brandon says. “I have realized that staying in shape helps me in all aspects of
life, whether in school or just [keeping] me healthy.”

They’ve also seen firsthand the benefit of building positive relationships.
“It is really fun to meet all the players. For example, Seimone Augustus has
become really close friends with our family, coming over for dinner multiple
times and texting, asking how we’re doing,” Brandon says. Over the years, he has
also established great relationships with other players and coaches with whom he
is still in touch.

For Mackenzie, the players have inspired her to keep playing basketball.
“When I was in third grade, I was ready to quit basketball, but being around all
the Lynx players made me find my love for the game,” she says. “I’ve learned the
importance of good nutrition and a better understanding of what it means to be
physically fit. Fitness includes rest, nutrition, and recovery in addition to
strength training and conditioning.”

One of the biggest lessons the siblings have learned in their unique
relationship with the Lynx? “In order to get anywhere in life, you need to work
hard,” Brandon says. “Because in the real world, nothing will be handed to