The experiences I have had this year as a manager for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team have been absolutely unbelievable.  I had the chance to go to the Duke away game and experienced what it is like to travel with a DI team. I sat underneath the basket and made friends with the refs while handing them their waters at timeouts when Notre Dame hosted the regional NCAA March Madness games. Finally, I interacted multiple times a week with the players and coaches throughout practices, home games, and other team events. Below is an overview of Notre Dame’s manager program as well as what I do as a manager.

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Student Managing at Notre Dame

The student manager program has been revamped starting my freshmen year at ND. In the old program, everyone started with football and after each year students would be ranked and cuts would be made, until senior year only 21 managers would remain. Based on their rankings, the senior managers would then choose the Varsity sport they wanted to manage. Now when you come in as a freshmen, you either choose the football path or go directly to the sport you wish to manage. And despite what you see in Rudy, sadly no one gets to paint the football helmets anymore.

Coming into Notre Dame it was my goal to manage the women’s basketball team. Unfortunately because of the uncertainty in the new program, I was not able to work my freshmen year, but my experiences this year have definitely made up for it! For women’s basketball, there are two “senior” managers (who do not necessarily have to be seniors, it is more of a title) who work every practice and game. The rest of us rotate on a schedule, created by our team operations person Katie, to cover practices, home and away games, and other team events.

Additionally, all the student managers participate in the Student (Athlete) Welfare and Development’s manager program educational component. The sophomore year program was made up of three parts:

  1. initial development plan- a basic outline why we became a student manager along with academic and career goals.
  2. attending the Careers in Intercollegiate Athletics Panel presentation- where we listened to influential people in Notre Dame’s athletic department talk about their experiences and how they broke into the sports industry.
  3. final reflection paper- a more detailed version of the initial development plan which will be used to pair us up with a mentor for our junior year.

And I was honored to represent the manager program at the O.S.C.A.R.S. an end of the year award banquet for the athletes focusing on excellence in academics and service.

Now back to bball…

Practice

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Coach and I (hahaha)

Working practice, means coming in an hour and a half to 2 hours before practice starts to get everything ready. You fill up the players individual gatorade bottles with ice and water, lay out the towels, bring out the ball rack, and make sure the whistles, white boards, and practice plans are in the correct spot. The most important thing though is the gum and mint selection. You DO NOT forget the gum and mints (ok this might be a slight exaggeration, but I think the whole things is absolutely hilarious and worth a mention). Inside the manager room is the largest supply of Wintergreen lifesaver mints and literally every type of gum you will ever see.

Not actual gum wall (just for reference)
Not the actual gum wall (but pretty much).

After practice, the entire process is repeated in reverse, so that everything is cleaned up and ready to be repeated the next day. The last thing on the list to do is laundry. All athletes use the University’s laundry service for issued team practice gear and apparel. The managers’ job is to pick up the pile of laundry from the locker room floor, place it in the huge laundry bin, and wheel it to the laundry room where the dirty laundry is taken and clean laundry is replaced. I must say the process is actually vile. I always feel like I am part of decontamination team from Monsters Inc. as I pick up sweaty pinneys at an arm’s length and place them into the bin. It cracks me up. Goodness.

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Me doing laundry.

Games and Traveling with the Team

Gamedays (or should I say IT’S GAMEDAY SHAWTY!!!!- ehhhh probably not for me) are awesome. For home games, the preparation starts the night before when uniforms are placed on the player’s lockers and everything- the locker room, white boards, etc- is cleaned to get ready for the game.

On gamedays, you really feel like part of the team. During timeouts, you are in the the middle of the huddle as you hand out towels and waters to the players. You have access to the locker room and get to listen to the pregame match ups, halftime adjustments, and post game comments. And sometimes you even make it on  TV for your fans to see (shoutout to my mom, who likes to take screenshots of me on WatchESPN).

Away games are even more exciting! This year I went to Duke (ahhhhhhh!!!!!) and NC State. For aways games you have 2 main functions: carry stuff and feed people. You get that down and you are golden. To help you better understand normal trip itineraries, I made a diagram:

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Things to note:

  • In addition to eating lunch and having a snack bag on the plane, I also carry around a snack bin filled with granola bars, peanut butter, fruit, etc. to all places where food isn’t available.
  • Then we have dinner. While we were eating dinner, someone asked if we were ordering pizza that night. I repeat while we were eating. It’s a good thing I get a workout carrying all the bags around, or I would get fat very quickly.
  • Fans have asked for my autograph in restaurants when I am with the team in my warmup (even though I am only 5’4″). My response is that I am just a manager and then I point them towards the real players. Sometimes I do sign my name with the #8 (HINT it is impossible to be #8 in basketball because the refs must be able to hold up the number on 1 hand).
  • Flying in a chartered plane and not having to go through security makes regular flying very unfortunate.
  • THE WHOLE THING IS SO AWESOME!

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Some more things to note:

  • Gameday outfits are very important: it needs to be classy and functional, and you can never go wrong with green. The coaching staff always looks good.
  • IT IS STILL REALLY AWESOME!

In summary:

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NCAA Tournament

Notre Dame wins. A lot. And with winning comes post season. Post season started with an NCAA Don’t Bet on It presentation, where I learned not to bet on any of the games we were playing in or fill out a women’s bracket for a pool with an entrance fee- some solid advice right there 🙂 . The next day we had the Selection Monday party which also happened to be on St. Patty’s Day.We landed the #1 seed in the Notre Dame region. While only the senior managers travel in post season, I got to work a few games because Notre Dame was hosting regionals. I got a nice NCAA polo, hung out with some refs, and had a nice view from underneath the basket.

Unfortunately, Natalie Achonwa torn her ACL (about 2 inches from my face, I felt so bad) in the last regional game. While Notre Dame still made it to the NCAA championship game, losing our starting center hurt and we ended up losing to UCONN. Needless to say I am already looking forward to playing UCONN again next year. My last managerly duty of the year occurs in a two weeks when I head back out to ND to work the basketball camps before I return to Philly for the rest of the summer.

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