An equipment manager’s work is truly never done. Whether you have had a winning season, a losing season, or have been somewhere in the middle; at the end of it all (even before the season is over sometimes) it is already time to look forward to the next year.
For some this starts at the end of November. For others lucky enough to be going to conference championships and bowl games, it can be anywhere from mid-December to the beginning of January.
For all of us in equipment management, it becomes time to start preparing orders for practice and workout apparel, ordering new uniforms, inventorying and assessing uniforms and apparel that will be used for the next season, inspecting and replacing any necessary equipment, and a whole lot more. It is particularly important to get a jump start on uniforms if you will be designing a new one. The list can seem endless at times.
I want to preface this by stating that all equipment managers do things a little differently. Everyone has his or her own system to how they get things accomplished. Much like prepping new game balls, there are different ways to accomplish the same end goal.
I am definitely a “to-do list” person. For me, it is imperative to list each day and what needs to be accomplished that day. This also holds me accountable and I can tell by a quick glance at my list how far ahead or behind I am on my goals and tasks for the day and week.
I prefer to have things done well ahead of time, so if issues do arise, we can try to remedy them as quickly as possible. I like to meet with my vendors and brand contact person. Here at Virginia Military Institute, we are contracted with Under Armour, through BSN. We are always interested in what will be potentially available and new for the upcoming season.
After deciding what is available, we then schedule meetings with the head coach and his staff. We’ll bring in our representative from our apparel vendor, who gives us the chance to view samples of these apparel items in person.
I make sure to stress to my coaches that they should select backup items in case their first choice is not available. Particularly in today’s environment, I have found this speeds things along a little better so we don’t have any lag time in trying to get back with a coach on an item if their initial choice isn’t available.
Currently, the pandemic has disrupted many supply chains that previously functioned without issue. This has been the case for nearly two years, and will likely continue well into 2022. Continued problems with other countries and their policies and protocols during the pandemic — as well as those in place here in the U.S. — have created backorder and stock problems for numerous items. Many of the uniforms and other apparel that is purchased and used by colleges and universities within the U.S. is imported from foreign sources. Once the order leaves that particular country, it is then shipped to the U.S. Once the ship reaches its port here, it then sits in quarantine or until it can be unloaded. After unloading from the ship, packages then need to clear customs. Packages that have finally cleared customs are then on their way to the distribution centers, printing houses or wherever else they may need to go, and finally on to the equipment room. This is what happens if the process runs without flaw.
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I have already had to deal with issues of businesses being closed due to a Covid outbreak twice, thus pushing orders out a little farther than expected. These types of problems should be expected as other countries continue to navigate through our current level of pandemic strain and post-pandemic, as well.
As much as we like to control every last aspect of our jobs as coaches and equipment managers, there are times when circumstances take it out of our control, and we all need to be made aware of any interruption in orders and the supply chain that would affect them.
My final piece of wisdom would be to treat everyone with respect, dignity and enthusiasm. Times are hard for everyone right now, and being nice does go a long way.
This article was written by Candace Olszak, E.M., C., Director Of Athletics Equipment And Services, Virginia Military Institute.