Being a student manager can sometimes be a thankless job, filled with an endless array of repetitive tasks and tiring hours, but it's a role that Alpena High School senior Brian Girard relishes.
When the bell rings at end of the day, students from Alpena High rush out the door, anxious to get to activities, homework or hang out with friends.
Girard's day is usually only just beginning.
News Photos by James Andersen
TOP: Alpena hockey team student manager Brian Girard hangs a jersey in the locker of Zach Nash prior to a game last Friday at Northern Lights Arena. Girard is in his third year as a student manager of the Wildcats and has also served as a manager for the football and baseball teams. BOTTOM: Girard organizes several sticks before Alpena’s game against Petoskey last Friday. Girard performs many tasks to get the Wildcats ready for a game including washing jerseys, getting pucks ready for warm-ups and making sure water bottles are filled.
Depending on the season, Girard heads to Northern Lights Arena, Wildcat Stadium or the Alpena baseball fields. While he doesn't suit up for any of Alpena's teams, Girard is an important part of three Alpena squads as a student manager. He is currently in his third season as a student manager of the hockey team, but also served as a manager last spring for the baseball team and last fall for the football team.
While some might tire of being asked to do the same job week after week, Girard's passion for sports and his desire to his Alpena's teams do well on the ice, the baseball diamond or the football field drive him to work hard every day without fail.
"It is a big task because you leave one sport, you get a week off and then you're constantly into the next sport," Girard said. "There's never a break for what I do and I do like it. It doesn't tire me out or anything. I just keep going and going."
Take hockey season for example. Every afternoon, Girard is there like clockwork at practice. While the Wildcats concern themselves with preparing for the next opponent and working on drills, Girard goes to work behind the scenes, doing a lot of the grunt work that makes the hockey team go when game time comes.
On a game day, Girard shows up about two and a half hours before the puck drops and gets to work. Each players' jersey, which has been washed by Girard during the week, is hung at their locker; Water bottles are filled and put in the refrigerator to chill so they can be used on the bench during a game; The team's stick rack is brought out and filled up with sticks and other equipment players might require during the game such as stick tape and a stick grip; Three buckets of pucks are filled-two with 25 pucks each for warm-ups- and the other with ice and five pucks to be used during the game; Even the soap dispensers in the shower are filled.
Girard's efforts don't go unnoticed by the players, who might otherwise have to do a lot of these tasks themselves.
"He's a great kid. He's got a lot of energy with what he does. It's really nice to see him out here and enthusiastic about everything he does. We know that he's always going to be there for us, he's always going to give his best and it's just nice to have him around," Alpena senior forward Zach Nash said.
Growing up, Girard always liked sports, but hockey was the clear favorite. He spent a lot of time at Northern Lights Arena, watching various hockey teams and after a tryout period, he found his niche and became one of the student managers for the hockey team as a sophomore.
"You've got to have good grades and come here every day, doing what they expect you to do and doing what you need to do to make sure you keep your job," Girard said.
After working with the hockey team for two years, Girard added baseball student manager to his resume last spring and football student manager this past season. Girard's duties don't change too much for the outdoor sports as far as getting equipment ready, but he said the weather is sometimes a factor and if it's raining or snowing, it's his job to make sure things stay dry.
"It is pretty important because there's a lot to managing. They do a lot on their own and I do a lot to help them. There's a lot that a manager does that a lot of people don't see," Girard said. "The players are thankful that they have a manager that's here year after year. They know that I'm here to be reliable every day to make sure that they're ready to go."
Though he enjoys interacting with Alpena's athletes on a daily basis, Girard isn't sure yet that he'd like to do something similar as a career. In the meantime, he's content to finish the hockey season and then presumably serve as a manager for the baseball team this spring before he graduates.
His enthusiasm for his job isn't lost on Alpena hockey coach Pete Doubek who praised Girard's chemistry with the players and said he represents the team well.
"Brian's a good guy. He's always here and he'll do anything you ask him. He's always here, he loves the environment. He's a complete sports nut and he's found his niche here which is a good thing," Doubek said. "He's part of the team, he interacts well with the players and he takes care of business and he's proud. He represents us in a good way."