Front -and-Center Behind The Scenes of DePaul Men’s Basketball and Soccer Team…

(First published in The DePaulia on January 11, 2011)

Ornstein assisting basketball players at a recent DePaul home-game. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ornstein's Facebook)

Some might call them “the towel boy” or “the water boy,” but there’s more to them than just grabbing Gatorade for athletes or washing towels in the laundry room. We always hear about the players and the coaches, but we rarely get a chance to hear from the player sitting out on the sideline.

They’re properly called team managers, and they spend most of their time behind the scenes helping to make the life of coaches and players much easier. Even though they might not be the all-star athlete, most of what they do from the sidelines contributes to the success of the team.

Whether it’s preparing or setting up equipment for practices, videotaping games, performing office work, placing food orders or washing uniforms and towels, a team manager does everything. They’re the go-to-person when coaches and players are in desperate need of assistance.

“No task is impossible,” said DePaul men’s basketball team manager Ryan Ornstein.

A communications major with a minor in sports management, Ornstein was part of his high school football team and baseball team. DePaul is without either sport, but that didn’t stop Ornstein from being part of the athletic community.

“I still wanted to be involved in athletics,” he said. “I thought the team manager’s position was the best possible. I came to the athletic center for an interview and in May of my senior year of high school, I received a call asking if I wanted to be part of the DePaul basketball family. I couldn’t say no.”

Robertson's during his soccer days in high school. (Photo Credit: Kyle Robertson's Facebook)

DePaul men’s soccer team manager Kyle Robertson, a sports management major, can relate to Ornstein. Robertson played soccer in high school, and had high hopes of playing Division I soccer in college, but soccer camp at DePaul one summer changed his future plans.

“I didn’t think I was quite ready to play for DePaul, but Coach Blazer did offer me a position to be a manager and I took it with no hesitation,” Robertson said.

Ornstein and Robertson may be managing different sports team, but their duties and responsibilities are similar. Both managers start off their day relatively early. Every day Ornstein gets up around 7:30 a.m., grabs a quick breakfast, then heads for the athletics center by 8:00 a.m., which is when his work begins.

He sets up the necessary equipment on the basketball court for players, such as basketballs, water, Gatorade, towels or any other equipment that may be needed in order for DePaul basketball players to practice their Kobe shots.

Ornstein is actively involved during the men’s basketball practice every morning.

Some of DePaul Men's Basketball players enjoying some down time during practice break. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ornstein's Facebook)

“I help rebound basketballs, pass the balls to players in drills, and chart free throw percentages,” he said.

Robertson also participates on the soccer field to help the men’s soccer team with their drills, although not as often.

After practice is done and players are gone, both team managers begin the cleanup process. Ornstein said it takes about half an hour to clean up the gym, which is when basketballs are rounded up, towels are put into the wash, and all other equipment that needs to be put away is properly stored in its respective location.

Soccer practice cleanup procedures are a little different from basketball. Robertson says he has to wait for the soccer players to return their gear and, once everything is checked back in, he starts the laundry then heads off to class. After class he heads back to the athletics center to take out the wash, then heads home for a relaxing day. Then it’s back to the grind all over again the following day.

Team managers interact with players on a daily basis; whether it’s at practice, in class, meetings, events, or the occasional run-ins outside of the athletics center-it’s no wonder that Ornstein and Robertson have developed relationships with the players on the teams they’re managing.

The DePaul Men's Basketball Team took a recent trip to Caifornia for a match and stopped by Disneyland to meet Mickey. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ornstein's Facebook)

“They are all like my brothers,” Robertson said. “I would say it is almost like a fraternity…It can be hard to see some of the seniors go every year, but I keep in good touch with all of them. It is also exciting to meet the new freshman each year.”

Ornstein believes that the basketball team is really close, much like a family.

“It’s a real family environment and everyone looks out for each other, and would do anything for his fellow coach, player, or manager,” he said.

Some students may opt out if given the opportunity to be a team manager.

“It’s like you’re not good enough to be the player that you choose to be the water boy just to stay in that atmosphere,” said a recent DePaul graduate, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Robertson says it honestly doesn’t bother him that people would think that. On the other hand, Ornstein argued, “If people really knew what a team manager accomplishes every day then no one would ever think those things again.”

Not many students are aware of the perks that come along with being team manager. Robertson gets all the same gear that the soccer player gets, such as warm-up uniforms, running shoes, cleats, and more. Robertson also receives scholarship money for his role as team manager. Ornstein receives the same benefits and both team managers are at an advantage for classes, as well.

“I get priority scheduling because I have to have a specific class schedule in order to be at practice every day,” said Ornstein.

Ornstein traveling with the basketball team to Rutgers University. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ornstein's Facebook)

Even though the position is time consuming and repetitive, neither manager minds because the positives always outweigh the negatives concerning their jobs. Robertson and Ornstein get to travel with their respective teams for road games, and the experience there is always a memorable one.

Robertson recalls one trip when he was given the opportunity to travel to South Florida for the men’s soccer Big East Final Four his freshman year. “Even though we lost to St. John’s, it was a lot of fun to be a part of that whole atmosphere and that experience,” Robertson said.

Both team managers had strong last words for students who are thinking about pursuing a career in sports, whether it’s playing, coaching, or working behind the scenes. Robertson stressed that the job is time consuming, and Ornstein said, “You must have extreme dedication.”

Stay up-to-date with DePaul Men’s Basketball team on their homepage for more information about tickets, and future games.

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