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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Behind the bench: Women’s basketball managers keep the team running

Pictured+from+left+to+right%3A+Sophie+Smyczek+%E2%80%9921%2C+Emily+Sarre+%E2%80%9922%2C+Vilma+Fermin+%E2%80%9920%2C+Michele+Bilotta+%E2%80%9922+and+Vinny+Lynch+%E2%80%9922.+PHOTOS%3A+MITCHELL+SHIELDS+%E2%80%9922%2FTHE+HAWK
Pictured from left to right: Sophie Smyczek ’21, Emily Sarre ’22, Vilma Fermin ’20, Michele Bilotta ’22 and Vinny Lynch ’22. PHOTOS: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

On any given game day at Michael J. Hagan ‘85 Arena, a group of five student volunteers sits inches behind the players on the St. Joe’s women’s basketball team’s bench. Another hovers nearby, flapping her wings.

This team of six, led by Regan Gallagher ’20, serve as the team’s managers, performing the tasks that are necessary for Head Coach Cindy Griffin and her players to function smoothly and be successful. This is Gallagher’s third year on the job.

“People don’t realize you do everything that the players do without being recognized that you are an athlete,” said Gallagher, who also served as a manager of her high school’s basketball team.

Sophie Smyczek ’21 is exempt from the game day duties that the other managers perform because she is also the Hawk mascot for the women’s team. 

“It has been a rewarding experience,” Smyczek said. “You don’t get competition, but it’s cool to learn from the coaches and players. We get experience in terms of how to act in a professional setting.”

On game days, the managers keep the stat book, film the game and service the players on the bench.

Away games bring a whole new set of responsibilities. They pack everything the team might need, from hair ties to Griffin’s chair, into a big black box to be loaded onto a bus or a plane.

The women’s basketball team lines up next to Sophie Smyczek ’21, the Hawk mascot, and team manager before a game in Hagan Arena.

Once, that box was missing something important, Vilma Fermin ’20 remembered:  a basketball. The team found itself in a Rhode Island hotel using a balled up T-shirt as a basketball for a pregame walk through.

On practice days, the managers show up 30 minutes before the players to prepare water, basketballs and heart monitors. Throughout practices, they keep charts on foul shooting and possessions while also participating in drills and keeping the players hydrated.

“Even though we’re not technically a part of the team, the coaching staff goes out of their way to make us feel like we are,” said Fermin, who is in her second year on the job and shares many of the head manager responsibilities with Gallagher.

Vinny Lynch ’22 has spent his first year on Hawk Hill with the women’s basketball team and enjoys the inherent selflessness that comes with the job.

“We do a lot of work, and it can get hectic and crazy sometimes, but then you think about what you are doing and why you are doing it,” Lynch said. “Everything we do is for the players. At the end of the day, sports are about the players. It is so much fun, and nobody else gets to do what you do. You just have to put things in perspective.”

Like many of the managers, Lynch took the position because he loves the game of basketball, which he played in high school.

Lynch and Michele Bilotta ’22 said working as a manager gives them a new perspective on what it takes to be a Division I athlete.

“It’s impressive how much time these players put into their game, being in the gym for so long,” Bilotta said. “It’s amazing how dedicated they are and how much they work to be better every day. Whenever they’re at practice, they’re ready to work. It’s a cool thing to witness.”

This sentiment is reciprocal, according to sophomore guard Lula Roig, who spoke of how appreciative the team is of the work the managers do and how essential they are to the team’s preparation.

“I have a very close relationship with the managers,” Roig said. “They are extremely likable people to be around in addition to all the work they put in for the team as a whole. They always make sure we have everything, they always make sure we are prepared.”

Although their names do not appear on any roster or statline, each of the managers mentioned the solidarity they feel with both the players and coaches.

“You get to know their playing styles but you also get to know them on a much deeper level,” Smyczek said. “There isn’t any intimidation because we’re their friends.”

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