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Equipment managers do more than fetch water

Andy Polacheck helps adjust safety Justin Glenn's helmet during practice. Photo by Saskia Capell

No, none of them have explosive tempers that will eventually translate to gridiron glory. And no, none of them have an overbearing mother that disapproves of that “foosball” business.

Technically, unlike Adam Sandler in the 1998 classic, they’re not even water boys. Don’t call them towel boys or ball boys, either.

They are the UW football student equipment managers and, as head coach Steve Sarkisian put it, they do “everything” for the team.

Senior Alex Gonzales and sophomore Andy Polachek are two of the 10 student equipment managers currently working for the UW football team. Their responsibilities vary from shagging balls and helping in drills to striping helmets and fixing pads.

“Basically, we’re assistants to the coaches,” said Gonzales, who is currently in the midst of his second year on the job. “We do more than most people think.”

Sarkisian could not emphasize the equipment managers’ importance enough, saying they basically run Husky practices.

“We’re very up-tempo, very upbeat; everything is organized and fast-paced,” Sarkisian said. “And without those guys, our practices wouldn’t be run that way.”

Standout freshman linebacker John Timu echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“They’re a big part of our team,” the linebacker out of Long Beach, Calif., said.

An average weekday in the life of a student manager starts at 2:00 p.m. in the equipment room. From there, they dole out practice jerseys, set up the field, and begin their practice duties. These include fulfilling any coaches’ orders, normal or odd.

“Gotta get Coach Holt his Double Bubble, two packs, before each practice,” Polacheck said, referring to defensive coordinator Nick Holt.

Saturdays call for the managers to arrive at the locker room four hours before kickoff. Their work — fixing helmets, for example — doesn’t stop during the game, nor does it end until two hours after.

Along with a healthy salary, the perks of the position are clear and abundant. One is standing on the field during games and being part of the team atmosphere.

Even better are the friendships developed between managers and players. They regularly get together outside of practices and games. Polachek mentioned his weekly Chinese food dates with a few of the quarterbacks — “Snappy Dragon Sundays,” he called them.

Sarkisian used the word “unique” to describe the relationship between managers and players at the UW.

“There is not a separation; they’re very close,” he said.

Another great aspect of the job is the team trips, as the equipment managers regularly rotate working away games.

Polachek joined the team in Utah a month ago and called it his favorite experience as an equipment manager. Gonzales, trumping his coworker, cited last year’s Holiday Bowl win as his fondest memory thus far.

“Seven days in San Diego, all expenses paid,” Gonzales said. “We won the game and had fun.”

Though they do take some flak from their friends, the criticism doesn’t affect them much at all.

“I laugh it off,” Gonzales said of the “water boy” label. “At the end of the day, I’m the one getting paid, the one out here making connections.”

Following a 6-4 start to the season, the student managers are just as excited for the next couple months as the players they work with. When asked what they were most looking forward to this season, both Polachek and Gonzales answered with two simple words:

“Rose. Bowl.”

Reach contributing writer Holden Taylor at development@dailyuw.com.

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