On the sidelines, with little glory
Student managers for club and varsity teams put in long hours to help athletes, coaches
April 27, 2010, 4:56 am·
When Rachel Gittelman and Wendy Zhao agreed to become the club men’s ice hockey team managers, they had never been to an ice hockey game.
“We had basically decided the night before [to manage] and then they told us, well, we have a game tomorrow and you should come and the bus leaves at 6 a.m to Penn State,” Gittelman said.
The new managers, who were convinced by friends to take their positions, quickly had to learn the various hockey penalties in order to keep the scoreboard, score sheets and clock in check.
“Every game, the refs would come up to us and take one look and say, ‘you guys know what you’re doing?’” Gittelman said. “And at first, they had to come up to us for every penalty and tell us what was going on.”
Zhao and Gittleman are part of a small group of student managers that commit countless hours of their time every week to a sport, yet never take the field.
While responsibilities vary from team to team, these students generally attend practices and devote their weekend nights to traveling with the team yet rarely earn the recognition that their student-athlete peers receive.
Still, student managers play a key role in ensuring a team’s success.
Freshman Evan Reynolds, one of five managers for the men’s basketball team, stated that his job is simply to “make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.”
While that might encompass a lot, the collective behind-the-scenes efforts of these unpaid student volunteers are precisely what allow the coaches to handle coaching and the players to focus on playing.
As such, managers have a diverse array of tasks to perform.
According to baseball manager Jamie Greenberg, part of his job is to assist coaches with the recruiting efforts for incoming classes. But, with co-manager Langston Smith, Greenberg also plays a large role in creating a good atmosphere at the team’s home matches.
During games, one of them handles the graphics on the message board while the other plays the walk-up songs for batters and music in between innings.
“Most people know us for the work we do at the games, but over the course of a year, I think our time is split between the two,” Greenberg said.
And while much of Zhao and Gittelman’s work is technical, Zhao said they are also the team’s biggest fans, cheering them on and rallying support.
Though it might be difficult to understand why they take on such a daunting time commitment, student managers often just want to get closer to a sport they love.
Greenberg, a senior who has managed the baseball team for all four of his years at Penn, had always loved baseball and wanted to get involved with the varsity team.
Similarly, Reynolds cited his passion for basketball as his main reason for managing — though he also noted the influence of his friend, sophomore point guard Zack Rosen.
“I played in high school and I was just trying to be as close to the sport as possible,” he said. “The opportunity came up, and I grabbed it.”