Athletic Department provides opportunities for students

Aubrey Champion, the head equipment manager for the UNA football team, sorts through equipment before the team’s spring training session. Champion is one of many student workers in the athletic department.

by Sports Editor Mike Ezekiel

Running an athletic program can be overwhelming for coaches and administrators, especially on the collegiate level.

For this reason, the UNA athletic department hires students to help in the operation. This provides opportunities for students as managers, trainers, film crew members or student workers for the administrative staff.

“The student workers fill in where there is a gap,” said Jacinta Mastin, the administrative assistant for the Hal Self Field House on campus. “They are working and learning at the same time because most of our student workers want jobs in the athletic field.”

The UNA ticket office and the football team receive the biggest bulk of student help — up to 20 students may help each department. Other sports usually feature five or fewer student workers.

A student worker in athletics can work strange hours, taking on duties such as answering phone calls, delivering mail, doing laundry, setting up practices and facilitating early-morning and late-night workouts.

“(The students) are all great workers, and without them, the coaches would be pulling their hair out,” Mastin said. “The coaches and administration rely on them to help with a lot of things, as well as the ones that help in the ticket office.”

Junior Aubrey Champion, the UNA football team’s head manager, said his hours are equivalent to having multiple jobs, excluding the hours he spends as a student.

“I’ve calculated that during a normal fall week I probably work 70-80 hours of football,” Champion said. “It’s like having two full-time jobs, but it’s definitely worth it.”

While some student jobs in athletics provide scholarships, many of the workers start as volunteer underclassmen before receiving that benefit.

“Honestly, this is a job that I would do for free,” Champion said. “My passion in life is football, and I have to have some connection to that.”

Champion said he hopes his role as a student equipment manager can lead to a future career in coaching.

“I want to be a college football coach one day,” Champion said. “I wasn’t really good enough to play in college, so I have to find another way to get to where I want to be. If that means doing the dirty work now, I’ll do that as long as I need to.”

Senior Katie Foster, an intern with the UNA ticket office, said the athletic field is a solid foundation for a future career.

“My whole family is extremely sports-oriented,” Foster said. “When my original plan of (veterinary) school didn’t work out, I went back to my roots, and I love it.”

Foster said it is rewarding to see the fans appreciate the events she helps organize beforehand.

“I really enjoy the ticket office because I get to help put the magic together,” she said. “I like setting up, creating and watching my hard work being enjoyed.”

Senior Shaquielle Shoulders, a UNA basketball manager, worked as a volunteer before receiving a scholarship last fall. He previously volunteered for the men’s team while being a full-time student.

“To be a good manager you have to enjoy the sport and at the same time enjoy helping people,” Shoulders said. “That means doing all of the little things and giving the coaches and players less to stress about.”

Shoulders said it feels good when the coaches and players appreciate his hard work.

“I’m not there just for a scholarship,” Shoulders said. “I’m there because I enjoy helping out. The players and coaches treat me like I’m family to them, and they are like family to me.”

Students interested in working for athletics can go to roarlions.com for more information.