As an incoming freshman, East boys’ basketball was “like a legend” to current senior Libby Steinbock. Before high school she had participated in a number of sports — rowing, horseback riding and softball to name a few — but after arriving at East, she didn’t feel she had the skills or competitive drive necessary to make it in high school sports. During Steinbock’s sophomore year, she decided to talk to boys’ basketball coach Shawn Hair about becoming one of the team’s managers. Her friend, senior Samantha Bamford, had been a manager their freshman year and was one of the main reasons why Steinbock wanted to become a manager as well. Three seasons later, they’re still behind the bench for every game, keeping players hydrated as well as writing in “the book,” where every player’s stats are recorded.
Though doing laundry and cleaning floors are some of Steinbock’s less glamorous jobs, traveling with the team to tournaments is one of the perks. The team has struggled the past two seasons, combining for just 10 wins so far, but Steinbock’s first year as manager was an exciting one. One of her favorite memories is when then-senior Marcus Webb hit a three-pointer against Lawrence to send the team to the state tournament.
“I was almost crying I was so excited,” Steinbock said. “It was my first season and I was overwhelmed with all of this emotion. It was kind of embarrassing, but it was one of the most memorable experiences that I’ve had.”
Before the season started this year, Steinbock was uncertain as to whether she would manage again. She even told her friends that she wasn’t going to be managing. Ultimately, though, she decided to finish the job she started. She prides herself on not being a quitter and once again joined Bamford behind the bench.
Being a team manager isn’t for the faint-hearted, especially during a season when the team has lost more games than it has won. While she doesn’t have a number on her back — her normal game attire is a blue or black shirt and jeans — the stings of a string of losses hurts just the same.
“It’s a little disappointing when you see the guys and you know they want to win so bad,” Steinbock said. “It’s almost heartbreaking to see them losing game after game, but I think that the winning always trumps over losing and every feeling that you get when you win a game is far greater than [when you lose].”
Senior Katie Griffith watches the girls’ basketball team from the bleachers with a video camera and tripod in front of her. She’s multi-tasking. She’s part fan, part coach and part manager.
The fan part comes from going to every single game, whether at East or in Emporia, and always having something positive to say to the players afterwards. Every game she’s watching to see if the team is executing on defense and making their layups on offense. After the game, she’ll give a full report to the coaches and even some of the players — that’s the coach part. But her official job, team manager, is the one that gives her a backstage pass to all that is East girls’ basketball.
Before the season started her junior year, Griffith emailed the then-coach Rick Rhoades about getting more involved with the team. Rhoades offered her the job of manager and Griffith gladly accepted.
“I’ve had a ton of fun with it,” Griffith said. “It’s a fun way to get to know a bunch of new people each year.”
Before Griffith came on board, Rhoades was the one to get the gym ready for practice every day after school. Now, Griffith is the one to get the balls and clock out, lower the baskets and move the divider curtain before practice begins. Varsity assistant coach Kelli Kurle said that has been a big help this year because current head coach Scott Stein doesn’t teach at East and Kurle isn’t able to get the gym ready everyday.
“This summer we got a new coach, Coach Stein, and he would ask me questions like ‘How do we do this?” Kurle said. “And I’d say ‘Uh, Katie does it.’ That’s pretty much my answer to everything…Katie does it.”
Griffith is in charge of taping every game and then converting it to DVD for the coaches and players to review. She also gets stats from her recording. At practices, she runs the clock for sprints and other drills, but one of her main jobs is organizing. In Kurle’s words “she keeps track of pretty much everything.”
Kurle can remember several occasions when Stein will ask Griffith to do something and she’ll have already done it. Other times Griffith is the only one that knows how to do a task. One memory Kurle has is from the team’s recent tournament in Emporia. Back at the hotel after a game, Stein wanted the camera to review footage with the coaches, so Kurle went to Griffith’s room. Griffith gave Kurle the camera and asked “Do you think he knows how to work it or set it up?” Kurle said probably not and Griffith followed Kurle back to Stein’s room.
“She came in the room and set the case down,” Kurle said. “Coach Stein was like, ‘I don’t know how to run that. I need you to do it.’ She just set it up in the hotel room and did everything.”
To the players and coaches, Griffith is a part of the team. One of Griffith’s favorite memories is when the team won sub-state last year to advance to the state tournament.
“It was such a good accomplishment,” Griffith said. “It was the first thing I won as part of the team.”
Though Griffith is almost always there for the team, ankle surgery during winter break of her junior year left her temporarily bedridden in the hospital. After a grueling practice, the entire team went to visit her and bring her food. Kurle and the other coaches are already worrying about finding a replacement for Griffith next year.
“We’re screwed,” Kurle said. “Who wants to put up with us?”
Alli Wendorff: Wrestling
Since middle school, senior Alli Wendorff has been following the East wrestling team. Her brother Ryan, the current JV coach, wrestled for East and now Wendorff is one of the team’s managers. Being a female manager for a less than glamorous, all-boys sport like wrestling doesn’t phase Wendorff, though.
“It feels kind of natural for me,” Wendorff said. “I grew up around my brother and his friends so I’m kind of used to their habits and things that they do that might seem gross to other girls.”
According to Wendorff, a common misconception about wrestling managers is that they wash the boys’ singlets. This, she says, is far from the truth.
“We don’t touch their clothes,” Wendorff said.
Instead, Wendorff’s main jobs are filming matches, keeping the team’s stats and assisting the boys with small medical issues such as taping athletes up after a match. Senior wrestler Chase Woofter believes the team would be much more chaotic if not for the managers.
“They’re a lot more organized than us guys are,” Woofter said. “They always have everything ready to go when we need to go to tournaments.”
In a sport like wrestling where most tournaments are off-campus, fan support is sometimes hard to come by. Wendorff and the other managers, senior Kelsey Chadd, sophomore Allie Chesbrough and freshman Jenna Miller, try to keep the team’s spirits up.
“They cheer us on a lot,” Woofter said, “and they’re at every meet so it’s kind of nice to have people there that will always have your back.”