Inside the DakotaDome and the Sanford Coyote Sports Center, Equipment Managers Alexa McMillen and Nick Roth ensure every student-athlete has all the gear necessary to succeed.
McMillen began working with the Coyotes as a softball GA six years ago after concluding her USD softball career. When the athletic department maid the switch to become an Adidas school — McMillen transition to working inside the equipment room, after past equipment manager Sarah Weasley convinced her to try it out.
“I got my undergrad in mathematics and I love finances and love numbers,” McMillen said. “So (Weasley) was like, ‘all right. I know you like numbers. You should check out purchasing the inventory of all this stuff’ and I loved it. I am in equipment for the one percent that actually likes the administrative part of the equipment.”
Similar to McMillen, Roth was also a student-athlete and played collegiate football at Wayne State. He knew he wanted to work within athletics but wasn’t sure at what capacity.
“I stumbled across equipment managers and it seemed pretty interesting to me and I needed an internship to graduate,” Roth said. “A month before my internship was up I finished it with (McMillen). So it was kind of the right place at the right time. I was doing a lot of the football stuff and just ended up getting hired on full time after my internship was completely done.”
The day to day roles varies depending on what each team needs, McMillen said. Typically the day starts with a lot of paperwork, organizing inventory that comes in the morning, sorting out boxes and figuring out what teams they are for. In the afternoon they help teams get ready for practice.
Prior to COVID, Roth was in charge of football and making sure everybody’s helmets was set for their shoulder pads and helping with broken equipment. He would also help set up practices.
Now with COVID-19, the equipment managers help out wherever they’re needed.
Together Roth and McMillen spent the beginning of the year putting athletes and coaches’ last names inside every mask. It took about five hours to label 50 masks and they had to label about 2,000 of them.
“We ended up having to buy a heat press over the summer and we spent hours, I mean days printing and heat pressing names on all these masks and gators for all the athletes,” McMillen said. “That’s a lot of man-hours that we took at the beginning of the year trying to get these ready.”
During the normal season McMillen and Roth both work all sporting events.
“So whether it’s helping with the visiting teams during basketball games or taking the officials outside for softball and soccer it just kind of depends on the day,” McMillen said.
This time of year is McMillen’s favorite time of year because they are getting ready to purchase all of the Adidas gear for next year.
“This is probably my favorite time of year because we figured out what we need to order and the budgets that fit what we do with the athletes’ stuff and making sure we have enough money to provide athletes with everything they need for the next year moving forward,” McMillen said.
Roth said being around the athletes and staying within the realm of sports is what he loves.
“We’re both former athletes. So it’s kind of tough once you’re a former athlete and you know sports are done,” Roth said. “So to still get (to be) around all the athletes and around the sports and stuff (is my favoirte).”
When it comes to deciding what the Coyotes will receive gear-wise each year, it’s a trial and error process, McMillen said.
“It was the first year we decided to hand out socks to all the athletes you know, that’s something easy,” McMillen said, “You can just toss in a pair of socks someone with a hat. This year, we were asking a lot of the athletes what their favorite piece of equipment that we give them and surprisingly socks is the number one. Everyone loves socks because they always go through them. It’s crazy because it’s the little things that you wouldn’t expect.”
However, budgeting for next year will look a little bit different due to the loss of revenue because of the pandemic, McMillen said, but the goal will be to provide everything needed for a great season.
“I think for us the biggest part our job is that we wouldn’t have our jobs if a bunch of teenagers didn’t fall in love with a sport — if Madison Arens didn’t love to shoot hoops we wouldn’t have a job,” McMillen said. “We try day in and day out to make sure (they) get the best experience and I think that’s the biggest part about budgeting. What can we do to make sure we don’t limit your experience for the next four years because of what’s going on in the world?”