Vandy managers play vital role

Behind every successful college basketball team, there are a lot of good people -- coaches, trainers, academic counselors, and other support staff. But the people who do the dirty work and the little things that make the life of the student athletes easier are the team's managers. In these photos, Whitney D salutes the team behind the team.

Most fans have seen the managers as they hover around the team during timeouts and huddles when they hand out Gatorade and towels. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Hadley Zeavin, a junior, is in her third year as a manager. The managers are at every practice, to shoot film, run the clocks, have the Gatorade ready for water breaks, and anything and everything else needs to be done.

Laundry is a big part of the managers' daily life. When Coach Melanie Balcomb says that the managers do the "dirty work", she means it literally. After every practice, the managers collect the sweaty gear and launder it. Then when the players report to locker room for the next practice, clean practice uniforms are hanging in their lockers waiting for them.

After games, game uniforms and warmups are added to the laundry list along with the towels that the team uses during a game and even the towels provided fo the visting team.

"You do a lot of laundry," says Tracy Geoffrion, a senior who is in her first season as a manager. "At first I was like, what am I doing? I'm 22 years old and doing laundry for other people. But that's okay. You get over it really quickly."

Chanel (Sutton) Thomas became a manager when she was a freshman in the same class with Hillary Hager and Jenni Benningfield. Now she's officially an "administrative graduate assistant". Unofficially, she's the coach of the team of managers. To the players, she's like a second mother.

"The managers have a really good sense of what the team's feeling," says Balcomb. "It's nice to be able to ask them, 'How's the team feeling? What's their energy like?' Chanel has a really good read for what's going on, and it really helps me. It's a good connection with the team.

"And she's an inspiration to the kids because of how hard she works, how dedicated she is, how committed she is," says Balcomb. "But she's also somebody that is a friend to all of them and to us, someone that you can trust and is one of the most loyal people that you will ever meet.

Like mothers everywhere, the managers help everybody stay organized. Before a road trip, a list on the white board reminds the players what to pack. Helping the managers with the equipment on road trips is the responsibility of the teams' newcomers. A second list shows who's responsible for what on each trip.

Before the bus leaves, the equipment is packed up and ready to picked up by the players who are responsible for carrying it out to the bus.

Typically, the team practices before a road trip, showers, then picks up a boxed lunch before they load the bus.

It's the managers who are responsible for having the food set up and ready to go, starting with taking the orders ahead of time. Brittany Smith, a freshman in her first year as manager, talks with student trainer Kim Callan about the choices for the trip.

Whilt the team practices, the managers either pick up the food or meet the delivery man, then set out the box lunches so they're ready for the team and staff when practice is over.

When the team goes on the road, their practice uniforms and game uniforms get just as sweaty and dirty as they do it home. So it's up to the managers to find a place to do the laundry, whether it's in a laundromat or in the guest laundry in the hotel.

Besides the dirty work, the managers do little things to help make things fun. For example, on road trips besides taking care of ALF, the team's mascot for the past three seasons, Hadley works with video coordinator Justin Van Orman to put together light-hearted, positive highlight films.

"Hadley makes sure Cherish and I have our headbands for every game," says junior point guard Dee Davis. "If we don't have them, they'll go buy new ones to make sure we have one for every game. And Cherish always has to have gum, and the managers are always running to people with gum and doing different things like that."

In spite of all the hard work, or perhaps because of it, Tracy says that being a manager has been a rewarding experience for her.

"It's been a learning experience for me from beginning to end," she says. "Watching the team transform from what it was when I first came in to now, it's been humbling and wonderful, all at the same time."

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Photos copyright 2006 by Whitney D for

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