Timothy Belin, Campus Carrier sports editor
Though student athletes may be those most obviously affected by the lack of a fall season this semester, they are not the only ones. With multiple student work positions dependent on athletic events taking place, Berry’s athletic department has had to reshuffle its organization ahead of an unpredictable year.
Angel Mason, director of athletics, said there are roughly 50 students who usually work in athletic-related jobs, whether in concessions, game day operations or sports information. While some of them have been kept for office work, many students have had to find new positions for the semester.
“Some of those positions we’ve opened up for those students to get other jobs on campus,” Mason said. “Because obviously, we’re not going to be competing this fall, so there’s no game operations for us or concession stands for us.”
Blake Childers, director of sports information & promotions, said Berry’s resolution last year to alter its student work program also had an impact, but he does not believe athletics are the only ones affected.
“I think, for this fall, student work everywhere across campus is being affected, not just athletics,” Childers said. “With some of the changes to student work this past year and then you double that on with a pandemic, I think all departments across campus are starting to adjust to the new student work model, so athletics isn’t necessarily a bubble. Obviously, we’re probably a little more affected than some of the other areas on campus just because we rely so heavily on event coverage that when those events aren’t happening, obviously it changes the way that we have to do things and we have to get creative.”
Many sports information employees have found new jobs for the semester, though Childers said they’re still keeping contact with everyone so that they are ready for the spring.
“This fall, since we don’t have intercollegiate competition, obviously those positions aren’t needed this fall for the games, so for the most part right now I have a couple of student workers doing some office hours with me, updating things on the website, doing different kinds of archive work and things like that,” Childers said. “And the plan is to do a handful of training games, training scrimmages, with the entire staff this fall, hopefully two or three, and then when we get to the spring and all the seasons resume, all those positions would be fully back up and operational.”
Mason said getting those student workers back in the spring, if competitive play is allowed to restart, will be crucial for the department.
“We appreciate our student staff so much,” Mason said. “We literally cannot function without them and so it’s not like they just show up and roll out the balls. They are part of what makes us work in athletics and so we really hope that once we are able to get to a place where we can compete, that many of those students will be able to join us back.”
However, Mason said she was not concerned by the possibility that they would want to keep their new jobs, as she is confident in the ability of her student workers to manage their schedules efficiently. Childers echoed these thoughts about the sports information department, as most of his employees already have more than one student work position.
“I would say 80 to 90 percent of my student workers during a normal year, without a pandemic going on and all these sporting shake-ups, have multiple jobs on campus already,” Childers said. “So I think they’re used to balancing two or three positions in some cases, so the ones that have taken other jobs this fall, when we get to the spring, I think they’ll be used to balancing that.”
One concern Childers did express was for the potential overlap of events if the fall seasons are rescheduled.
“Obviously the issue in the spring, whenever you start overlapping all the sports on top of one another, is going to be games that are actually going on simultaneously,” Childers said. “We could potentially have up to six venues running simultaneously.”
As for Mason, her worries are directed towards rethinking the management setup, as the way the athletic department usually operates is by having its out-of-season coaches assist with game management duties. If all sports are playing during the same semester, these roles could then become harder to fill. To deal with this, Mason said the department would have to consider its priorities.
“I think one of the bigger things is us just remembering as a unit that we have to be flexible, that everything that we do may not be able to be the way we’ve traditionally done it,” Mason said. “We will have to prioritize some things, and the priority will be the things that are necessary in order for the competition to take place.”
Despite these uncertainties, Mason said everyone is remaining positive.
“We don’t know how that’s going to look yet, there’s a lot of decisions that have to be made, and most importantly the temperature of what COVID is doing for us, locally and nationally, will determine a lot of things,” Mason said. “We’re trying to stay positive and we’re just taking things as they come, but this is a difficult area and we want to make sure we’re supporting our students and the jobs they have to have, and so this year it’s going to be a little more difficult. But we feel like together, as a group, we’ll be able to figure it out.”
Childers agreed and said that once things got going, he had every confidence his team would figure it out.
“I think when we get to the spring and the events start starting back up it will be very similar to the way we’re used to doing things, just with a couple added twists in there,” Childers said. “But I think, for the most part, we’re prepared for a spring that’s going to see about 21 seasons in the span of four or five months.”