Equipment Management

The Road To A Championship Runs Through The Equipment Room

Championship players, coaches, teams, programs and conferences all share some of the same qualities, values and trademarks. Championship equipment room operations are not the exception but rather mirror those same practices and beliefs.

Championship traditions are built from the foundation up, abide by a certain standard of operation, and every team member, staff member and administrator “buys in” to these mantras to provide consistency and success. The equipment room operations must also accept these basic methods of operation to mirror the program standards and values.

Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

All consistently successful programs, athletics or otherwise, start with a group of individuals who can work together towards a common goal regardless of who gets credit. The best individuals do not always win championships, the best teams do. It is more important to have strong characteristics that mesh together than to have one individual carrying the largest part of the load.

The championship equipment room operation has strong support from the university administration, the athletic director and the head coaches. They all understand the program goals, limitations and strengths they face in order to maintain a consistently successful season, career or tradition. They all understand that to be successful, there has to be unity among every level of decision-making and that sometimes you have to be different to be better

Championship programs do not remain so if they are afraid of small failures or want to be liked by everyone. Success brings jealousy of those who are not willing to pay attention to every detail of their program. Championship equipment rooms are led by equipment managers who are dedicated to their profession, hire people to assist them that exhibit those same qualities, and are able to accept whatever task is needed to make the program run with minimal interruptions.

Holding an AEMA Certification exhibits a level of professionalism to the administration, coaches and athletes that the staff takes their job very seriously and have attained a higher level of education and skills needed to provide the safest playing environment available. It also shows that the equipment staff continues to stay abreast of the constant advances in the industry.

Administrators are able to reinforce this dedication by providing for adequate staff numbers, requiring proper training, and offering appealing salaries and benefits to those qualified individuals when hiring new candidates. All levels of leadership need to have an acute awareness of the other levels in order to function together and adjust their processes when necessary.

No Detail Too Small

Championship programs are commonly known for their ability to consistently adjust to difficult situations or be ready for unusual circumstances or occurrences. Taking the time to mentally and physically account for changes in weather, field conditions, faulty equipment and the many other hurdles that might present themselves in any given situation is a consistent trademark of successful teams, businesses and individuals. By preparing for the unexpected, the equipment manager shows an ability to think outside the box and prepare for atypical situations.

These open relationships allow the equipment manager to properly plan for safe and productive practices, as well as competitive game environments. By having open lines of communication throughout the different levels of authority, the proper equipment checks, playing surface inspections, and weather plans can be executed at a much higher level.

Event management teams should be formed to ensure proper protocols and procedures are put into action when needed and each team member is aware of his or her responsibility and actions to be implemented if necessary. The equipment manager may not have the necessary medical training or knowledge to handle many situations, but are valuable assets with logistics, are efficient coordinators of the different personnel involved, and communicate well with the medical team/trainers, security team, emergency squad and certain aspects of crowd control.

Championship equipment programs spend many hours each week planning for each practice and competition, paying attention to the smallest details. Proper footwear for the playing surfaces, possible weather changes (wind, rain, cold, heat), oxygen levels of the air, lightning delays, equipment failures or breaks, special protection for injuries, and even insect invasions are just a few of the obstacles that could affect the players in a given competitive situation whether in a practice or game.

Resources may be limited for many, but creativity sometimes is the most valuable tool an equipment manager can have at his or her disposal. Many of the products on the market today originated from someone adapting what they had on hand as a solution to an unforeseen circumstance.

Knowledge Is King

The ability to properly execute the fundamental tasks of a successful equipment room originates from having the proper knowledge and ability to execute those tasks. The AEMA Certification program was developed through a detailed evaluation process and was initiated in 1991. This certification verifies that the individual has gathered the basic knowledge necessary to address the many issues and problems that players, coaches, trainers and administrators face in building consistently successful traditions.

The program is reinforced through networking opportunities provided through conference meetings, district meetings, vendor shows, and an annual National Convention held each June in various locations across the country.

Recently, special presentations (and even the 2021 National Convention) have been held online via Zoom due to COVID restrictions and budget constraints.

The NFL has adopted the AEMA certification as its standard of professionalism and recently added it as a requirement for all head equipment managers in the last collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association. Most NFL teams have taken the requirement a step further and are asking all full-time staff members to obtain — or be in the process of obtaining — the AEMA Certification to validate player safety and health.

The AEMA also publishes a certification manual and an annual AEMA Journal that serve as study guides for the certification exam and a resource to have on hand in the equipment room. The certification manual is a 200-page paperback document that includes the accepted practices on the specific tasks required by the profession.

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The AEMA Journal is an online publication of articles written by qualified members and/or outside experts with more in-depth descriptions of current issues or procedures. Members also receive a monthly e-newsletter containing member profiles, new NOCSAE standards, important association announcements, and product introductions at no charge thanks to the support of dedicated vendor sponsors.

The AEMA also encourages its football managers to attend the AFCA National Convention in January with their coaches to see the new products available to them, talk with vendors in preparation for the next season’s needs, network, and even attend AEMA-sponsored workshops during the coaches’ meetings. The AEMA National Office will be available at its exhibitor booth to answer questions for interested equipment managers and to assist coaches with questions on how to improve fitting and safety.

This article was written by Sam Trusner, E.M.C., who currently serves as the National Office Manager for the Athletic Equipment Managers Association. Sam has been a member of the AEMA for 30 years and has served numerous positions in the organization including District 5 Director, Certification Chair, and Editor of the AEMA Journal. He served on the original Certification Steering Committee and was responsible for acquiring ADAMS, USA as the sponsor for the Journal, allowing members to receive their copies at no charge. Sam was the Head Equipment Manager at Millikin University for 20 years, an assistant at the University of Illinois for 10 years, and an instructor of Sports Management at Millikin after receiving his Master’s degree from the University of Illinois in 2000.

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