Behind the scenes: A thankless job
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 03:11
Sports Editor's Note: Sports reporter Andrew Kilstrom draws from his personal experience of working as an equipment intern with the Oakland Raiders for the last three years.
It’s a typical Tuesday for Oregon State football — practice starts in less than an hour — and equipment coordinator Arnold Alcantar, or “Arnie,” as he’s referred to by anyone within the program, gets to the practice fields adjacent to Reser Stadium early to set up the field for another day of work.
To most, Alcantar’s job is an ideal one. He gets to hang around the No. 11-ranked team in the nation on a daily basis. But what those people fail to recognize is everything that goes into a position the casual football fan likely doesn’t even know exists.
The primary duties of the equipment coordinator are what one would expect — the outfitting of the players in pads, helmets and uniforms.
But what goes unnoticed is everything else the job requires — the dirty work necessary for a game to even take place.
“A lot of people don’t really know what goes into it,” said Alcantar, who has been equipment coordinator at OSU since 2003. “Back when I first started people would just tell me I was the ‘socks and jocks guy.’ They didn’t get the details of what goes into it, the time and commitment that goes into when we travel.
“Getting luggage on and off the plane, getting to the stadium five hours before the game to get everything set up, getting the locker room set up for the players. A lot of people just show up to the game and think the game is going to be played.”
Without the equipment staff there would be nobody to transport every item necessary to road games: uniforms, cleats or even socks. There would be no white boards for coaches to draw up plays on the sideline, no Gatorade for fatigued players to drink and no radio headsets for coaches to strategize through during the action.
Essentially, the game would never be played if it weren’t for the equipment staff.
I know this better than most. For the last three summers, I spent my time interning for the Oakland Raiders in equipment. While there are some differences from the college level, I can speak from experience about the hard work and long nights that come with the job.
At training camp we reported to the equipment room at 6:30 a.m. and worked all the way until 7 p.m., with only small breaks in between. Though there is downtime, the hours can be grueling.
This holds true for the equipment staff at Oregon State.
“It’s damn near a full-time job,” said Evan Bany, a senior at Oregon State and the head of student managers on the equipment staff.
During the workday, Alcantar and the student managers are in charge of countless things, including cleaning and tightening helmets, repairing tears in jerseys and meeting with the coaching staff to provide the right pads and equipment for practice.
These are among the jobs which no one could do alone, though they are only a few of many and are a big part of the student managers’ jobs — the OSU students Alcantar employs to ensure the day-to-day football operations run smoothly.
Though it may seem like all fun and games, the majority of the job isn’t near as glamorous as it’s made out to be.
“One of my main jobs is getting game balls ready,” Bany said. “Usually unpacking bags after road trips ranks up there as [the] worst jobs we have just because it’s fresh off the game, and everything is super sweaty and gross, but it has to get done because otherwise it will just sit there.”
These jobs aren’t fun, but they are necessary and always appreciated by Alcantar.
“I have seven student managers that are working for me, and they do a great job,” Alcantar said. “They make me look good.”
“I’m really proud that we have really, really good people around, and the equipment guys are amongst the best example of that,” added OSU head coach Mike Riley. “They’re awesome. They take great pride in what they do and we have a very close relationship with them, obviously.”
Even the players, who are among the busiest people on campus, notice and appreciate the work the equipment staff puts in.
“When I need something, I go and talk to Arnie and all of them,” said senior wide receiver Markus Wheaton. “If I need a shirt or something to go work out in, I go to them and they’re real cool. They help us out with whatever we need, so we definitely appreciate everything they do.”
That level of respect is at least somewhat unique to Oregon State. Professional football players are generally pretty good about showing gratitude from my experiences, but other colleges across America don’t always show the same level of appreciation seen at OSU.
“I would say that college players are less appreciative to be honest,” said Adam Johnson, a full-time member of the equipment staff for the Raiders, and who started out in equipment at the University of Nevada from 2003 to 2007.
“It goes back to the pro athletes who know it’s their job, it’s their career, so you get a lot more courtesy and appreciation. Whereas the college guys kind of just see their coaches and players, but while the equipment guys are there all the time, they don’t really need to deal with you as much on the one-on-one basis that you see on the NFL level.”