Team managers provide support for student-athletes behind the scenes

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The theater room in the Breslin Center, where team managers provide film about opposing teams for players to use and study.

Tamar Davis

The theater room in the Breslin Center, where team managers provide film about opposing teams for players to use and study.

During the game, behind the basketball team’s bench, there’s a row of chairs often occupied by injured players in their street clothes and water bottle assistants, waiting to help quench the thirst of an athlete.

That’s where you can usually find Jack Millmier and Eli Atzenhoffer, in their suits and polished shoes, making sure the Michigan State women’s basketball team is executing the game plan they’ve helped create.

It takes a small army of assistants, scouts and coaches to run a basketball team during the regular season, and its the team managers who often are tasked with helping players focus. Their work happens outside the bright lights and crowds of game days. James Hellekjaer, a Spartan alumnus and MSU women’s basketball graduate assistant video coordinator, describes managers as “behind the scenes.”

“That’s because we do a lot of work that doesn’t necessary show up in articles, box scores, or game write ups,” Hellekjaer said. “The main focus is on the program rather than just being in practice, or in the office with video and preparation for self improvement for the team.”

Millmier, a statistics freshman and first-year team manager, said it’s his job to help players reach their potential.

“It’s a lot more than what you think,” Millmier said.“I would say the bulk of our work comes from outside of the practice.We do a ton of the film. We’re the ones who break down the film for both offense and defense for the team for coding, list tendencies of opposing players, and put together offensive schemes for the team as well. There’s also a lot of preparation we do before the game. We’ll get to the gym a couple of hours before and set up everything to make sure things run smoothly during the games like stocking waters, stools and towels.”

Atzenhoffer, a kinesiology freshmen and first-year team manager, said being around MSU program and being involved with the sport is what being a team manager is all about. Both Atzenhoffer and Millmier have dreams in working in professional athletics.

“My favorite thing would be being around a Big Ten program,” Atzenhoffer said. “Just being around the game more has helped me learn more about the operations. Our coaching staff is really good and I’ve learned a lot from them.”

Millmier said having basketball in his like every day is all he ever wanted growing up.

“Being around basketball and having something to feel like I’m working towards would be my favorite thing about this position,” Millmier said. “The best part about it for me is just how much I love basketball, and I love being around the sport.”

Being a team manager has its struggles as well, though.

“The time commitment would be the most difficult thing to handle with this job,” Millmier said. “I would consider this a full-time job. Those who are truly invested in the program would be in here around five hours during the day, and that’s with our classes. Sometimes it can be hard trying to find time for your homework, but you have to focus in and handle what needs to be handled so you will avoid any overlapping with workloads.

“But at the end of the day, I love basketball, and it’s a lot easier doing something you enjoy doing.”

Hellekjaer said being a team manager is one of the best ways to get started with a career in athletics.

“There are a lot of ways in being involved with athletics and working with this team and program helps you get your hands in a lot of different areas,” Hellekjaer said. “Some may be setting up for games, traveling with the team, and video related preparation that can eventually propel into a job with a team after they graduate or a professional route.

“It’s not just limited to basketball. Athletics are a very tight family and we’re close to other sports. If our students have an interest in other sports, then we push them to go after what they want to look at. I think this gives them a resume-building activity that they can take tangible jobs and things that they’ve worked on here to help propel themselves into their future.”

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