Football managers prepare for life after graduation


Carly Cooper

Football managers AJ Sanders and Sky Wilkerson pose with the water bottles they fill up and give out to te football team during practice. The students manage the team to help gain work experience.

By Cuyler Dunn, Staff writer

The football team is off to a strong start this season thanks to strong team play, good coaching and helpful work by this year’s managers, including AJ Sanders and Sky Wilkerson.

They have been helping everything run smoothly for the team in practice and on game day. Whether it is refilling water bottles, organizing practices, or taping players up before a game, Sanders and Wilkerson keep the team ready for the physical challenges that football poses while also gaining work experience.

Junior linebacker Karson Green said the team’s early success benefits from the work the managers do.

“It has been really fun,” Green said, “we’ve been very successful lately and we’ve just got to keep working and try to keep it going. [The managers] refill water bottles, help organize practices, and help us out on game days.”

Green understands the physical toll football can have, especially in the heat.

“On the sidelines, they do a really good job of keeping us hydrated and making sure the players have whatever they need,” Green said. “They help tape the players before games, they sometimes make us Gatorade. They do a lot behind the scenes.”

Sky Wilkerson is happy to be helping the team as manager and watching the team win.

“I wanted to be waterboy,” Sky said. “I want to help out the football team.”

Sanders and Wilkerson connected with the team thanks to Matthew Klein, who helps students find places where they can explore careers.

“I look for opportunities for our students to participate in things that help get them closer to their goals,” said Klein, who works in the special education department. “So if students want to work in sports, that’s a great opportunity to figure out what that’s like.”

Klein explained that a task like managing can give students a glimpse of the kind of work that a career in sports would bring. It is an opportunity for the students to experiment with what they want to do after high school. He said he works with students in many different ways so that all students can find a passion to explore.

“They take career development class which is preparing for life after high school,” Klein said. “We work on a whole bunch of skills whether it’s budgeting, problem-solving skills, independent living skills, or social skills and things like that.”

Wilkerson explained his role includes giving the team water, high fives and helping out the coaches. He is happy to be able to build relationships with the players.

“[I want to] make friends with the football team,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson is ready for the season and is hoping the team will continue to do well and he can keep helping out the team in the process. Sanders is also enjoying his first experience as a manger.

“I really like football,” Sanders said. “I bring the water to the football players, fill up the water bottles and play football with the team.”

Sanders is excited for the Free State game this season and is enjoying the perks of being a part of the Lions football team. He was asked what had happened to him since he became a manager.

“New interest from the ladies,” Sanders said.

Mostly, Klein said the experience is one Wilkerson and Sanders will learn from.

“You always have to start from the bottom,” Klein said. “If you’re a manager and you’re getting water and you’re helping with towels and you’re helping with stats and stuff like that it gives you a good sense of the type of work you might have to do after school. It also gives you good practice so you can decide whether or not you like it and you can show that you’re building skills that are helpful in achieving some of those goals.”