Student managers facilitate practice
Lesley Stevenson | Thursday, September 4, 2014
Students involved with athletics are not typically accustomed to auditioning for roles, but that’s precisely what 24 Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s undergraduates had to do to earn their coveted spots as the hard-working student managers of the Irish football team.
Tryouts can last throughout the whole season; some students choose to begin working football practices at the beginning of the school year, while others join the pool at the beginning of second semester practices. From the field of largely first-year students trying out, the head and assistant football equipment managers select a group of 14 students to continue to their sophomore year in the program as full-time managers, according to junior Anthony Tucker.
“Basically throughout the year you’re kind of being evaluated by the full-time managers and the full-time equipment managers — Ryan Grooms and Adam Meyers — and right before the spring game they’ll narrow the group of freshmen or first-year students to 14,” he said. “If you’re selected as one of those 14, you officially become a full-time student manager and then you work that full next season.” Tucker said seven of the 14 sophomore managers continue to their junior year in the program. After that, three of those seven go on to become senior managers.
“A lot of [the evaluation] is things outside of just how you perform in practice,” Tucker said. “Are you accountable? There’s a lot, a lot of work, a lot of time goes into it, a lot of stuff behind the scenes. So really, are you prepared to make the commitment to come to the equipment room, get to school a month early and really put in a lot of time?”
The full-time managers work as a team but are assigned to one section of the team such as linebackers or running backs, which allows each manager to specialize in that section’s particular needs, Tucker said. “Each manager is assigned to a position ,” he said. “So you’re with that position group all that practice for every practice of the year, so you do get to know those guys a little bit. … And you really get an appreciation for how hard they work and what goes into the performance that goes onto the field on Saturday.
“You kind of just shadow the coach. Whenever they’re doing drills, you get the cones ready, footballs ready, things of that nature. You definitely get a really good understanding. It’s like your little niche. Personally, I work with linebackers and since I’m with them every day I have a really have a good idea of what’s going to come in practice and what to be prepared for and what the coaches like.”
Although all managers receive scholarship money for their time spent with the team, Thompson said managers do their jobs and often work long hours because they realize their work is essential to the football team’s success. She said she typically works five hours per day for five days of the week.
“The biggest incentive I have is to be able to watch the team get a win on game day,” she said. “If I continually do my job well, then the team can have a much smoother and productive practice, ensuring that they are as prepared as possible for game day.”
Thompson said participating in the program’s history and helping the team continue its legendary tradition make the hours worthwhile.
“For me, by far the most rewarding thing in the program is walking down the tunnel on game day and knowing that in some small way I am a part of history,” she said. “No matter what the outcome of this season or the next or the next, I can say that I was a part of the Notre Dame football team.”
Tucker said the full-time managers often form deep friendships because of the time they spend together before and during the school year and, for the juniors and seniors, at away games. He said the camaraderie adds an extra incentive to the program.
“Within the group we’re really, really close,” Tucker said. “That first month [of practice in the summer] before any regular students get here, we’re all pretty much living together … We were pretty much together all day. “We work long days in the summer. We go out to lunch together, we go out to dinner together. You really don’t know each other before the summer starts, but that first month you really form close bonds. … That’s really one of the more rewarding parts of the job is you can really form close relationships with people who have a shared interest in the football team. ”
Tucker said working with the team allows him to fulfill his passion for football and, at the same time, offers him a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes operations of a historic program.
“Personally, I love football,” Tucker said. “I’ve had a passion for football. I played it in high school. One thing about going to college was I kind of got removed from the game and competition, and I missed that.
“Even though I’m not actually participating in the drills, just to be around the sport is an awesome experience, and not only to be around football but to be around such a recognized program as Notre Dame. … On top of that I think it’s a great experience to learn about the equipment side of the sport because you don’t really get to see that on Saturdays, but so much goes in; there’s so much attention to detail.”
Tucker, who transferred to Notre Dame from Seton Hall University after his freshman year, said being a manager has been a “dream come true.” “I grew up just loving Notre Dame,” he said. “I’m a first generation college student, so I kind of just made the Notre Dame connection on my own. I grew up watching Notre Dame football on Saturdays and it’s been awesome to be able to come here.” “I was just happy to be in the stands for football games my first year, but to be able to do my small part to make sure practice runs smoothly is just a dream come true for me,” he said. “… I couldn’t ask for a greater experience. I feel like I have the best campus job that anyone could ask for.”