Each day, they trudge out to the gridiron, weighed down by unwieldy equipment and serious contemplation of the tasks ahead. They have a common goal — the Ivy League football championship — and they know the only way to attain it is through teamwork and tireless dedication.
But these team members are more likely to practice filming plays than running them. They are the student managers of Yale’s varsity teams, and they are carrying on a tradition that spans over half a century of Bulldog participation in intercollegiate sports.
Only a few of Yale’s 33 varsity teams, including the football and swim teams, have student managers. These Bulldogs work behind the scenes and are an integral part of the Elis’ success. But the manager’s role has been evolving for the past 50 years.
As they have done in recent years, during the 2000 season the football team’s managers — Kyla Fitzpatrick ’01, Julia Tiernan ’01, Kate Parla ’02, Halliday Hart ’03, and Susan Cooke ’03 — set up equipment and videotaped practice, as well as handled other preparatory and odd jobs. They work in the off-season as tour guides for recruits, photographers for the team’s Web site and receptionists in the office.
“[Our managers] are very dedicated,” said head football coach Jack Siedlecki. “They work at times in horrendous weather conditions, and I think [they] derive the same feeling of accomplishment as our players.”
A manager’s time commitment is roughly the same as a player’s — about four hours a day. The work of keeping over 100 varsity athletes happy can often be stressful.
But the benefits of being a manager are numerous. The women are paid for the full school year, they travel with the team — even on a trip to San Diego — and the University awards them a varsity letter.
Managers are a part of the football community, and they develop friendships with the players and coaches. Like any group that works together day after day with a single purpose in mind, the managers have formed a close relationship with each other.
“I really do love the other girls,” said Fitzpatrick, last season’s head manager. “We spend a ton of time together and there’s a great managers’ bond.”
There are rewards beyond graduation as well, not the least of which are the many job opportunities created by Yale football alumni.
“Football has amazing connections, and being a part of the football team in any capacity definitely helps in the job search,” Fitzpatrick said.
But the manager’s responsibilities have not always been confined to the sidelines. Don Scharf ’55, a full-time volunteer and special assistant to the director of athletics, was both a player and manager. While the current managers signed up because they had friends on the team, Scharf remembers a time when the position was highly selective and highly coveted.
“Back in those days, [the selection process] was structured as a competition,” Scharf said. “There were six to 10 sophomores competing for two positions.”
The two posts were head varsity manager and head freshman manager. Enterprising students would work for two weeks under the critical eyes of the coaches and managers. Then the head coach and head varsity manager would appoint two underclassmen to succeed the outgoing seniors.
And while the job now consists mainly of videotaping, clerical work and practice setup, managers of the 1950s had significant business responsibilities as well.
“The job was massive,” Scharf said. “Managers made all travel arrangements — booking buses, motels and meals — and they operated with a pretty decent budget.”
And these managers did all this without getting paid. But they were asked to do some things that today’s crew hasn’t even thought about.
By halftime of the 1952 edition of The Game, which Yale won 41-14, the Bulldogs had the Crimson firmly in hand. During the intermission, the managers suited up Chuck Yeager ’53 — one of their own — as a joke. Toward the end of the game, head coach Jordan Olivar was looking for benchwarmers to put in so they could get their letters. He saw Yeager, a sore thumb in his oversized uniform, and put the fearful manager on the field.
“After he ran into the end zone and caught a pass from Ed Molloy ’54 [for an extra point], he literally ran right up into the stands [to avoid getting hit],” Scharf said.