When the Northwestern women’s volleyball team pulled an upset victory over Minnesota this fall, Weinberg second-year Natalie Pizer couldn’t help but share in the excitement. As the team’s manager, Pizer spent hours doing data analytics, watching game footage and combing through statistics to strategize against their opponents. She felt as if her hard work had finally paid off.
“[Fans] see the end product but not everything that goes into it,” Pizer says. “It’s nice that the coaches see how much we’ve worked because it’s not always very visible.”
Students can work as sports managers for various NCAA teams on campus, including volleyball, basketball and football. The opportunity allows passionate students to immerse themselves in sports programs while also earning money.
When Medill second-year Massimo Cipriano isn’t in class, he spends most of his time working as the sports manager for the Northwestern Wildcats women's basketball team.
Before practices, managers are in charge of preparing equipment including basketball racks, towels and water. While players do drills, responsibilities range from running the scoreboards to rebounding shots. Afterward, the managers help clean up and head to the team meal.
“It’s a very real-world responsibility,” Cipriano says. “Regardless of how low I am on the pyramid of basketball employees, there's stuff that I do that is very consequential and important for the team.”
Being a sports team manager requires students to build their academic schedule around practice times, with students working anywhere from 18 to 24 hours a week. Although the time commitment makes it difficult to balance school, work and personal time, Weinberg second-year John Sprenger, the manager of the Northwestern Wildcats men’s basketball team, believes you have to be willing to make sacrifices in order to get the most out of the program.
As a Wilmette local, Sprenger grew up following Northwestern’s basketball team. For him, being a part of the organization he spent years watching has been a defining landmark of his Northwestern experience. He feels his role has grown beyond obligatory work responsibilities and provided him with fulfilling personal relationships with the players, coaches and fellow managers. “At the end of the day, it's the players playing,” Sprenger says. “But I do think that because we do so much with behind-the-scenes stuff, when we do that correctly, it definitely takes a lot of pressure off other things.”
Pizer says she’s forged strong relationships with both players and coaches on the women’s volleyball team. The coaches give her rides around campus and have written her internship recommendation letters. At a banquet during the team’s senior night, the head coach called her up to recognize her contributions to the team in front of the whole room.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’” Pizer says. “He's doing it in front of the whole team, all their parents — it was really nice that he was giving me that recognition.”
A Day in the Life of a men’s basketball manager
9 am - 12 pm
12 - 12:30 pm
Commute to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
12:30 - 4 pm
Set up practice with basketballs, pads, towels and water bottles. Help out during practice with rebounding, filling up water bottles and running the scoreboard.
4 - 5:30 pm
Finish practice, rebound for players after practice, clean up equipment and eat with the players and other managers.
5:30 - 6 pm
Commute back to campus.
6 - 11 pm
Arrive at dorm and do homework.