The Unsung Heroes
J. J.'s Journal
Athletic Director Jack Reardon calls him "invaluable." Football coach Joe Restic says he's "indispensible and totally dedicated," while hockey coach Bill Cleary calls him "my right hand."
The "he" (or, for that matter, "she") in all cases is omnipresent in all aspects of a varsity sport, yet never makes the sports headlines. He is the unsung, unheralded hero of Harvard athletics--the Manager.
Reardon, who himself was the 1959 Harvard undergraduate football manager, recently invited the 40-plus managers to lunch at the Varsity Club to learn their views on the demanding job, in an attempt to start finding out why managers at Harvard are becoming a dying breed.
"Twenty years ago when I first became involved with managing, there were 50 candidates out for football manager alone," Reardon said yesterday at his work-cluttered desk at 60 Boylston St.
"Historically, managing a sport has always been one of the most prestigious responsibilities to have as an undergraduate at the College," Reardon added. To back up this contention, Reardon rattled off an impressive array of former Harvard managers who went on to become Secretary of the Treasury (C. Douglas Dillon), Harvard overseer (Francis Burr), corporate chief, lawyer, professor and the like.
Yet today, the managers themselves will be the first to tell you that it is becoming increasingly difficult to replenish the pool of qualified managerial talent. Some managers contacted suggested the staggering time commitment and lack of monetary remuneration as impediments in their recruiting efforts.
"I'm very much opposed to the idea of paying the managers," Reardon said, and most managers readily echo that sentiment. "I'm against it in the same way I'd be against paying somebody who plays in the band or writes for The Crimson," Reardon said in placing the manager squarely within the extra-curricular, character-building arena.
Varsity basketball manager Tom Welch in many respects typifies the Harvard managing experience. The Kirkland House junior got involved with the freshman squad in 1975-76, became an assistant under manager Joe Hoffmann (who retired to become a basketball commentator for WHRB radio, but still manages the lacrosse squad in the spring), and moved up to varsity manager status last fall.
"Basketball's my favorite sport, but since I'm a frustrated jock who's not good enough to play, I thought managing would be the next best thing," Welch said, adding that he's felt like a part of the team since the first day he enlisted in the cause.
Like every manager, Welch's duties included preparing the IAB ("the worst facility in the Ivy League") for practice, making travel arrangements and accommodations for the squad on road trips, and ensuring that a myriad of "petty things" (more commonly called "shit work") were done in order that the staff could concentrate solely on its coaching duties.
The attitude of the players and coaches toward the manager can either make or break his experience. "You can take all the pick-up tasks and glorified baby-sitter work if you're treated with respect, which grows out of the rapport a manager develops with his squad," Welch commented.
The Fine Arts concentrator believes Harvard athletes themselves are the best selling point to managing. "Harvard athletes are exceptional because they're not one-dimensional, dumb jocks, but caring, concerned individuals on a personal level," Welch said.
Tom has decided to hang up his water bucket next year to devote full time to his senior thesis. "I'm sure I'll regret it," he said. "I know this sounds corny, but I think that managing has made me grow as a person at Harvard."
Rewarding and fruitful--despite the long hours of non-glorious toil. That's what being a Harvard manager is all about.