She wondered if three hours would be enough time to explain the type of work she does. Not that her work was hard to understand, it just seemed that conversation led to so many questions and went down so many paths and all she wanted to do was read (listen) to a book while looking out the window.
“I work at St. John’s University,” she answered with intentional vagueness. “What about you?”
“I’m an event coordinator for Bic. Pens. Not razors.”
When his college baseball plans did not work out, subsequently ending his hopes of a career in the Major Baseball League, he did the next best thing and began playing club baseball at Buckulata. Because Buckulata did not have a club team, he elected himself to be a club officer, went before the sports club council and started the KSU club baseball team. He recruited players, found a league, scheduled practices, coordinated fundraising efforts, managed the travel budget, attended compliance seminars and spent the remaining years in college playing competitive ball. By the time he graduated with the all-important business degree, he earned NCBA all-America honors and had a fully developed set of transferable business skills like risk management, organization, leadership, and budget planning. He was hired three weeks before graduation to work for Bic, one of the world’s most renowned brands.
“Are you a professor, work in admissions?” he asked, trying to figure out what other types of jobs there are at a university. He knew she wasn’t a coach, she wouldn’t be traveling by train and she wouldn’t be alone. He guessed she could be in food preparation or work at bookstore.
“Neither. Actually, I’m in a similar role as you. I think. I work in athletics as an assistant facilities and operations manager.” She could tell he was piecing together what he thought that title meant so she filled in any blanks he might be encountering. “I coordinate all of the components that go into using a facility for an athletic event at the university.”
“I get it,” he said, nodding his head. “We do have similar roles. I coordinate all of the pieces needed for our marketing teams to go to conferences, events and trade shows.” Lenni was confused, slightly, and relieved, that he didn’t pounce for more details about her job. Usually, people wanted as much information as they could get about what they considered a “dream” job.
It was hard to constantly burst people’s bubble of disillusions when it comes to working in sports. They don’t want to know that you arrive to work at 8 a.m., nearly always before any coach arrives for work, and you attend meetings, make calls, manage situations, resolve student conflicts and then at 5 p.m. — when everyone else goes home from work — you open the door for the pizza delivery guy who is providing dinner (and lunch) for you and your student staff before the game that evening. That you confirmed earlier in the day that all members of the game-day staff would arrive an hour and half before the game but with one hour and 10 minutes until tipoff, no one had showed up, causing the pizza you scarfed down to rumble in your belly.
Without help there you grab extension cords, duct tape, electrical tape, masking tape — people have no idea how much tape is needed to run a basketball game — and you begin distributing walkie-talkies to the students who did show up to work, albeit for the free pizza. You lure three students to help you begin moving tables on the court so you can assemble and construct the wires, lights, speakers, seating instructions and timelines needed for when the game-day staff does decide, hopefully, to show up. At that point you get to go to the locker room and change into your dress clothes because it isn’t appropriate for you to look less than professional when you are representing the university (but mostly the head coach), even if you did just haul 40-pound tables from a closet to the court.
Decked in uncomfortable shoes and spruced up enough to look ladylike, you escort the referees to their locker room and wait outside for them to change into their stripes. With 30 minutes until tip you knock and enter to go over the obligations of the host school, as far as the refs are concerned. Referees stretch a lot and never look like they are ready to start running. You walkie to the students confirming the scorekeeper arrived – thankfully – and you bring the refs to the gym where students are filling into their seats and players are warming up in an electric atmosphere you helped create. During the game you relax and appreciate the courtside seat you’ve earned, close enough to wipe sprays of sweat from flailing bodies off your arms. Before halftime you confirm that the media relations staff has what they need to run the post-game activities when you notice that the scoreboard is still running the animated flag that was flowing while the national anthem was playing. You run to the computer, remove the flag and explain to the student, for the eighth time, how to run the program.
Once the game ends you escort the refs back to their locker room and grab as many students as you can before they all escape to the evening’s frat party. The game-day staff was gone 17 seconds after the buzzer sounded so unless you found some students, you were guaranteed an extra hour post-game, tearing down tape, untangling wires and moving tables back to the closet. Not to mention trash duty. Around 11:30 p.m. you head home — long after all of the coaches have left work — only to start the day again in seven hours.
She always wonders if that description sounds like a dream job and, with a smile on her face, continues to provide details such as, it’s not just the high profile sports that you work. You also have the same routine for volleyball and soccer, baseball and swimming – sports no one cares about except the students competing and the high-maintenance coaches coaching. And while your annual salary isn’t worth sharing, it is important to include that when all is said and done, you make less than nine dollars an hour. Minimum wage in New York is $7.25 an hour and to even be considered for her job she had to have a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
Her number one daily goal, besides not gaining weight, is to not let the job make her bitter. She knows she chose this field and she knows, with certainty, that she will find her dream job – one that allows her to work in sports but have a life, with a husband and children and an hour a day to herself to work out, cook, or join a book club. There have been times when people have asked about her job and for entertainment she pulled a Holden Caufield, articulating phony details to satisfy her listeners. She has worked with enough radio guys with inspiring, romantic tales that she easily revises and churns into idealistic depictions rather than telling the truth and deflating the misconceptions about working in sports. Today, despite the initial yearning to relax with her Audible app, she was grateful that Tony had not requested detail that requires so much energy to explain and even more energy to overcome the disappointment she causes with her words. He didn’t seem to care to know more about her job and that was a relief. It actually made her want to know more about him.