One January night I arrived home from yet another high school basketball game. It was probably about quarter to nine when I flicked on the remote to watch a little college hoops before shuffling off to bed. This routine plays out most evenings during the winter in my home. Unfortunately, watching NCAA basketball most nights didn’t help at all with this year’s bracket. I knew my fortunes were doomed when I checked back and had the same Final Four and national champion as Dick Vitale. Oh, and thank you Michigan State.
As I turned on the tube this aforementioned night, Indiana was playing at home with one of their former players and assistant coaches, Dan Dakich, providing color commentary for the ESPN broadcast. As the game was nearing its conclusion, Dakich lavished effusive praise on a group of hard working men and women. No he wasn’t talking about the All-American point guard or the player diving on the floor for a loose ball. He wasn’t referring to a hall of fame coach.
To paraphrase Dakich: If you are a company president or CEO, hire a former student manager. They are some of the hardest working people you will find. They are incredibly loyal and are great team players who will perform seemingly menial tasks without complaint. You would do well to hire a former team manager.
Now, Dakich wasn’t referring to those hangers-on who have a superficial role with the team because their boyfriend or girlfriend plays. He was talking about those who dole out water to the players during timeouts. Those who have the equipment ready so the coaches can give their full attention to their primary duty, which is actually coaching. Some may perform the function of filming the contests. Those who have demonstrated a keen knowledge of the sport may be asked to serve as a statistician. Whatever the task, managers have come to know they will not receive the headlines, and that’s o.k. They are proud to serve the team in the role they are in.
Finding quality team managers is a difficult proposition at many schools. It takes a special person to perform duties with little fanfare. Many consider the duties of a manager to be beneath them. So why would someone want to be a manager, anyway? For a student who may not be athletically gifted but loves sports it gives them an opportunity to still be a part of the team. Being a team manager can also pay dividends later on in life, especially if that student wants to pursue athletics as a career.
I’m sure there are many who work as college sports information directors, sports writers, baseball clubhouse attendants, etc. who started out as student managers. There are other careers in which the lessons learned in the high school athletic arena carry over.
Dakich’s comments caused me to reflect on my own high school experience. I was fortunate to serve as a manager at Bangor High School for Roger Reed’s basketball team and Bob Kelley’s baseball program. The coaches in both programs, as well as the players, treated me like I was a part of the team, which I was. The players had their roles and I had mine. While it’s been over twenty-five years since I held the clipboard for the Rams, the lessons learned from those experiences carry on to this day.
The skills learned from being a manager, I can honestly say, have been more impactful than any academic class I took. Professionally, as a service coordinator for Aging Excellence, which provides non-medical, in-home care services, I am constantly juggling numerous tasks. Schedules need to be completed, checked and rechecked. Payroll and billing summaries have to be accurate. Client care plans need to be prepared thoroughly and accurately. I need to possess solid people skills when attracting new clientele. These organizational skills with attention to detail I learned not in math or English class but by serving as a team manager.
While athletics is not my profession, my time as student manager opened so many doors for me in the sports world. Those days served as a launching pad for me to grow into further opportunities. I’ve been able to serve as a sports public address announcer, broadcaster, and coach, in part because of the chances I was afforded in high school. There’s a possibility you may not be reading my weekly column if not for my managerial experiences.
From the Press Box, let’s give a shout out to some of the most loyal, hard working individuals in our athletics culture: the student managers.