The celebration of USG's first-ever Football Student Manager Appreciation Week prompted me to spend some time reflecting on my own football student manager experience. There is, of course, no shortage of men and women whose careers in college or professional athletics were jump-started by their experience as a student manager.
As a wide-eyed 19-year-old walking into the Equipment Room for the first time in August of 2008, I could have never imagined the life lessons, friendships, and experiences I would soon gain. Here are just five of the lessons I learned:
1. Do not take things personally.
I quickly discovered no shortage of colorful language and intensity at my first few practices as a football manager. The entire practice was scripted down to the minute. Everyone was accountable for making the most of those precious minutes on the practice field. Inevitably, this would often result in a barrage of yelling if things were not going exactly as planned. Fortunately, my boss helped me understand that sometimes these coaches were yelling not because they were actually upset but because it was their personal method by which to increase the intensity of a specific drill or practice period.
2. It takes a village.
Perhaps the most eye-opening thing that anyone first experiences when starting in college or professional athletics is the number of various departments and people it takes to run a program. Equipment, Video departments, Sports Medicine, Recruiting, Game Ops, Development, Facilities, and the list goes on and on. This is, of course, in addition to the thousands of alumni and former staff associated with a program. Let’s just say I never envied the ‘higher ups’ in charge of deciding who was allowed to travel on the charter, who received free tickets or bowl gifts, which coaches spouse would receive the best seats, etc.
3. No one is above the program.
Building off the above lesson, alongside seeing highly ranked recruits be suspended or kicked off the team or the team succeed even with a star player injured, always helped provide reminders that despite what my mom may think of me, I am not that important, & I along with everyone else is replaceable.
4. A good work ethic will always be valued.
I will never forget how nervous I was when I was first hired because I never had any similar experience and felt like I didn’t have much to offer. I had spent my summers working in corn fields growing up and working the concession stand at the local swimming pool. Sure I had played football, but I didn’t know the slightest thing about a Division I College Football operation. Thankfully I quickly realized that many of the things I was most frequently tasked with doing, such as setting up the practice field or laundry, only required a willingness to work hard.
5. Even the most incredible ‘dream come true’ will not satisfy.
My student manager experience truly was a dream come true experience for me. The experience even exceeded my expectations in terms of the perks and relationships that developed. Yet I will never forget heading home across the Washington Ave pedestrian bridge one afternoon and realizing I was still empty inside. I wrote about this experience much more extensively in my February 2022 Journal. Still, God graciously allowed me to experience my ‘dream come true’ so that I could realize that even my greatest earthly dream falls short of life found walking in a relationship with Him.
6. Even rich and famous people love (& feel entitled to) free stuff from the EQ room.
7. 24/7 access to steam rooms and cold tubs and not having to work out with the general public are incredible perks.
8. If the athlete did in fact, turn it in on their loop, it would be on their loop.