For equipment managers, the end of the season comes with specific responsibilities. Primary among them is equipment collection and cleanup of both equipment and facilities. The equipment manager’s job never ends, and so these activities have to be completed quickly and efficiently. Because after the equipment collection and cleanup takes place, equipment managers jump right into recruiting activities.
The demands equipment managers can face are sometimes astonishing.
“We pack up a 53-foot truck every week when we go on the road,” says Dan Matthiesen, head equipment manager at the University of California, Berkley. “I have a total of 27 trunks we pack and load.”
That alone should give coaches a sense of what it takes to move a Division I FBS team around the country to compete at the highest levels of college football, but when that final whistle blows in the last game of the season is when you see equipment managers switch gears and move mountains.
First on the list of every equipment manager from high school through the pros is gathering all equipment that was provided to players during the season.
“Every year, coaches’ polos change, the players’ cleats change, gloves change, all of that stuff,” says Matthiesen. “We collect it, reorganize it, put in on our shelves. Shoulders pads and helmets are collected, and helmets are prepared for reconditioning.”
Like many other college programs at the FBS level, Cal players have two helmets assigned to them. They have a practice helmet and a game helmet, even though they are basically the same helmet. Matthiesen gathers all helmets at the end of the season and sends the practice helmets for reconditioning. The game helmets suffered far less abuse during the season, so those are kept around for spring practice.
His student managers begin the process by reorganizing everything. Highly important in this procedure is conducting a thorough inventory.
Jacob Kinsey is co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach for Trine University. Trine University is a Division III college program and like many other college programs – and high school programs, for that matter – he serves multiple roles, including the role of equipment manager.
Organization of equipment is absolutely critical for him at the end of the season, so he documents all returned equipment in Microsoft Excel. That way, he can compare what’s gone out with what comes in, what can be re-used with what must be replaced.
“The database contains what size helmet each player wears and helmet style and brand,” says Kinsey. “It’s the same thing with shoulder pads, pants and pant size, jersey number, locker number, everything is going in there. I keep that database running from year-to-year so I know what we have and where everything is.”
Communication, Cleaning And Order
Communication with the appropriate staff and player personnel is paramount. Clear instructions keep the process moving and orderly. Kinsey makes sure to have brief conversations with his coaching staff during team meetings to inform them about how the process will work and any unusual issues.
He then works with players to help them understand their responsibilities and expectations.
“I will provide players with a list of equipment that must be returned,” says Kinsey. “If they want specific brands or styles of equipment for the next season, they need to tell me. We’ll have them wipe down the inside and outside of their helmets. We’ll have them wipe down their lockers with disinfectant wipes. It’s the same thing with shoulder pads. It’s tough for just four or five equipment and student managers to do that, especially at our level where we have so many players. Then, for their lockers, we’ll ask players to clean out their trash and personal belongings.”
Once the lockers are cleaned out, Trine’s custodian/housekeeping staff will come into the locker room and thoroughly vacuum them out. Without that, the tiny rubber pellets that get tracked in from the artificial turf would be especially difficult to remove.
“Our training staff will bomb the lockers with disinfectant spray, and that helps take some of those germs and bacteria out of there,” says Kinsey. “We tell players to get everything out of the locker room, give us about a week or two, then they can bring all their stuff back in.”
Once the equipment is cleaned and ready for storage, equipment managers are saddled with the responsibility of storing it appropriately. The reality is, very few equipment rooms are built to store the ever-growing list of equipment used by today’s football programs. So, when it’s time to pack it all up, it’s important for equipment managers and student-athletes to pay close attention to storing equipment neatly and in an organized fashion.
“When it comes down to it, it’s on the kids to actually take their time as opposed to just trying to get things done in a hurry,” says Kinsey. “A lot of times, when you say, ‘Hey guys, I need you to put your pads in this box, or stack your pads nice and neatly,’ when you come back into the room, the pads are all over the place. You can’t even get close to the boxes because there are pads, belts, loops, knee pads all over the place. They just want to get it done quickly, so they’ll just throw things in there and get out.
“That’s where a lot of times, hopefully you’ve instilled some sense of detail. Make sure they stack everything nice and neat, make sure they fold and roll the pants. Don’t just throw them in there. If you have a coach at each station to continue reminding them, that helps a lot.”
The Recruiting Trail
The football season is long, and gone are the days when it really comes to an end after the last game, even for equipment managers. Part of the reason to complete equipment collection and cleaning in a timely and efficient manner is because equipment managers have responsibilities for recruiting when the season ends.
It’s not like most equipment managers have to hit the road and make pitches to high school players and their parents, but modern recruiting involves a lot more than that.
“Every weekend, we bring in eight or a dozen recruits and they are here on campus,” says Matthiesen. “At Cal, we try to immerse them as much as possible with everything that’s going on, whether that’s coming from athletic training or the video department or academic people or equipment. We have to show them that the support network they’re going to have here is unbelievable.”
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Equipment managers are on the front line of that process. Football programs spend a lot money to make sure student-athletes are protected and have the safest equipment available. Think of the commitments you see debuted on Twitter these days when a high school player announces his intentions to play for a given school. Often, you’ll see custom photography of that player in uniform out in the stadium. That equipment has to come from somewhere. It’s the equipment manager’s responsibility to make sure the school’s brand is represented in the best possible light.
Often, it’s the equipment manager’s responsibility to communicate the quality of equipment the program uses, as well.
“I spend 30 minutes with student-athletes and their parents in a question-and-answer session,” says Matthiesen. “I give a little speech and they ask questions. To be honest, I think that a lot of the time, this is the first time some parents have ever really gotten a solid answer to some of their questions. We talk about what equipment we provide, what helmets we use, all of those things. Sometimes, that’s the first time those parents are hearing that. It’s important to give them real answers they can believe in.”
This article was written by Paul Markgraff, managing editor of AFCA Magazine and AFCA Insider. Follow him on Twitter at Football Coach Daily.