Exploring the Role of a Student Manager

Interview with a Student Manager

Coach using digital tablet with basketball team during practice in gym
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The first article in this series described the role of a student manager for a collegiate team.  Continuing the theme, I have contacted current and former student managers to get the details on the role and how it has subsequently impacted their career.

This first interview is with Andrew Heinlein, who just completed a year as a student manager for the men's basketball team at Santa Rosa Junior College under Coach Craig McMillan, a former University of Arizona guard who reached the Final Four in 1988 as a player on a team that included his backcourt partner Steve Kerr, along with Sean Elliott, Tom Tolbert and future MLB star Kenny Lofton.

Heinlein's goal is to pursue a career in coaching.

How Did You Get the Student Manager Job?

Heinlein: Getting my student manager position was quite challenging. I emailed my coach, Craig McMillan, several times to get in touch with him. After getting in touch with him, we had two phone interviews, which then led to the opportunity for an in-person interview. After I proved myself in the interviews, I then was invited to go to practice. Through the first two weeks, I didn’t do anything, and I was strictly there to show my dedication, which is critically important in landing a role with the team.

After finally proving myself in the interviews and practice I was introduced to the entire team as the student manager. 

What Were Your Important Responsibilities?

Heinlein: As a student manager, my most important responsibilities were handling game tapes for our team and for scouting other teams, managing our youth basketball camp, and being involved in practice. In practice I was in charge of small tasks such as having the balls ready to go at the start of every practice, taking care of the scoreboard, rebounding for the players, and even simply having the water ready for the players. I was also in charge of more critical aspects in practice as the coaches began to trust me, such as coaching teams in our smaller 4 on 4 games and also demonstrating how to shoot in our offensive drills.

How Did Your Role Evolve During the Season?

Heinlein: At the very beginning of the season I was strictly in charge of stats and the scoreboard. Neither the coaches nor the players knew who I was, so I had to start by proving myself and earning their respect. After beginning to prove myself, I then began to participate more in practice, scout other teams, and even sit in on the coaches' meetings. My roles evolved from there, as I got to go with the team to weekend tournaments and even occasionally voicing my opinion with ideas to possibly improve our team.

These accomplishments did not come easily though I had to be extremely patient, work beyond expectations, and put in long hours simply for the love of the game.

What Lessons Did You Learn as Student Manager?

Heinlein: As a student manager I learned a few very important lessons. The first lesson is that there is no off day when you are a student manager. I was often in charge of the tasks that the coaches didn’t have time to deal with or simply didn’t want to deal with. It means that you have to be ready at any point for a coach to call you on a Sunday afternoon and give you an assignment that has to be done by Monday. I had times where I had to analyze game tape at 8:30 at night on a Sunday and have it completely ready for the coaches to easily critique players the next morning at 8:00.

Another very important lesson I learned was to work way beyond what people expect of you. The best way to earn the respect of others is to do more than expected and complete every task as soon as you possibly can. 

What Was Your Favorite Part of the Position?​

Heinlein: My favorite part of the position was the competitiveness in practice, learning from some very brilliant minds about the game of basketball, and learning the little things that go on behind the scenes of a basketball program. It was an excellent opportunity to see the business side of the sport. Through this job I was able to see how much effort it took to keep all of the players happy throughout the season.  I also appreciated that the coaches got just as fired up as the players did in practice and it was exciting to be a part of that competitive spirit.

I am extremely grateful that I was able to get this team manager position.

Thanks to Andrew Heinlein for taking the time to sharing his experiences as a student manager.