The Ins and Outs of Northeastern’s Equipment Managers
By Christian Gomez
It’s 6 am and Rick Schroeder is arriving at Northeastern’s boathouse. Today’s to-do list: put out fires. At least, that’s what he calls the essential tasks that need to happen around the crew boathouse. These “fires” – anything from repairing launches to fixing engine motors – are just some of the responsibilities for Northeastern’s boatman of 23 years. For Schroeder, who was captain of Northeastern’s 1989 crew team, becoming the boatman at his alma mater was the natural progression after his collegiate career came to a close.
“It’s been my life,” he explained, “It’s who I am. I’m a boatman.”
Over the years, it’s been Schroeder’s job to respond to any and all of the crew teams’ needs. He spends his time fixing broken bows, painting blades, cleaning up the boathouse, and driving the crew teams’ boats across the country. At the end of the day, it’s his responsibility to make sure the athletes don’t need to worry about anything other than performing at their absolute best. In this way, Schroeder continues to be an invaluable member of the team, just as he was years ago during his athletic career.
“It’s a project, and when a project goes well it’s incredibly rewarding. That’s the way rowing is,” Schroeder said.
Meanwhile at Parson’s Field, it’s game day – the first of many in a busy week for Northeastern’s small team of equipment managers. On location is Eric Anastasi, who has shown up hours before the first pitch to make sure everything is in place for the baseball home opener against Hartford University. The real preparation, though, started days before.
Uniforms had to be gathered and the locker room had to be stocked with bats, balls, gloves, and everything in between. All this was done so the athletes could show up, play ball, and leave with a commanding 3-1 win under their belts. And while the athletes go home to celebrate the win, for Anastasi, the action continues late into the night. Pants need repairing, jerseys need sewing, and an impressive amount of laundry needs washing. A typical baseball game yields roughly seven 60lb drums worth of laundry before even getting to the pants, which often require extra washes.
With baseball out of the way, all the other sports need to be prepared for. The spring season brings ice hockey, basketball, and soccer. Setting up everything needed for the teams requires countless hours of hard work and dedication, and it can’t be done alone.
“It’s very crazy and hectic, so to be part of a team is really no choice,” Anastasi said.
For Anastasi, that team is made up of co-head equipment managers Sandra Menee and Robert Moura. Together, they ensure that all Northeastern games are able to go off without a hitch, and it’s the behind-the-scenes preparation where the bulk of their job is done.
“We’re the best sous chefs in the world – it’s the preparation that’s so important,” said Menee, who is in her 12th year as an equipment manager at Northeastern. “I don’t think any day is typical, it depends on the time of year. If you think about a weekend where there’s a home game for men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball, the cool thing about being a fan is that you just get to show up and see the game. What happens with those teams being prepared, outside of their coaches, falls on Rob, Eric, and myself.”
Even with the amount of preparation and work required, the equipment managers are also fans of the teams and enjoy that game day adrenaline we all love. Of course, they are on call during the games and have to be ready to respond to the occasional shoelace tear, sneaker blowout, or bloody jersey. But when the games are running smoothly, you might be able to catch them on the sidelines cheering the teams on.
“I probably get way too competitive for a manager,” Anastasi admitted. “To see the players win championships is truly what makes it special. To see players lift trophies and have the chance to win national championships, that’s really what makes it worthwhile in the end.”
But ask any of the equipment managers and they will tell you that their absolute favorite part of the job, by far, is developing lasting relationships with the athletes. Whether it’s meeting athletes from foreign countries and learning about their cultures, or helping them in their personal lives away from their sport, the connections that the equipment managers make are deep and lasting. This relationship is perhaps most exemplified by Menee’s office, which features an entire wall filled with 12 years worth of photos of Northeastern athletes. The photos showcase the athletes during games, but also graduations, group pictures from media days, and simple, impromptu photos of herself and the athletes.
“I try to build this community inside of my equipment room and that’s why the athletes know that they can come to me for things outside of their sport,” Menee said.
She explained that after graduation, athletes keep in touch and occasionally stop by the equipment managers’ office to say hi, send invitations to bridesmaid parties, or even reveal that they tell their children about their equipment managers.
Whether it’s prepping early in the morning and late at night, doing laundry for the third straight time, retaping the hockey sticks, or putting out “fires,” equipment managers are a critical asset to the teams at Northeastern. It’s their work that allows Northeastern athletics to be not only functional, but successful.
“We’re considered a dirty job,” Menee said. “People often don’t see that we’re the foundation, and you can’t build unless you have a solid foundation.”