In this post contributor, Jake Kuruc, dives into his personal experience as a student manager while providing you all with some great advice for how to get started.
Many people ask me “what is a student-manager” and “what does a student-manager do?” In this post I hope to answer that question based on my time as a manager. I also recognize that this isn’t our first time discussing this position, since we have a few awesome former student managers contributing to this blog already. However, I wanted to give you insight about my individual experience and advice on a position that is so important to college baseball.
To be honest with you, the student-manager position is going to be an experience that gives back to you as much as you put into it. If your goal is to work full-time in baseball, and continue to be involved in the game for the rest of your life, starting as a student-manager is the best decision you will make. Take my advice and join the staff at your school. It is a decision that you won’t regret.
A position that is often seen as “a water boy” or “a laundry guy” is so far from the truth. It is a false identity given to one of the most valuable, and overlooked positions in all of college athletics. While this may be the way that the position used to be years ago, the role that student-managers play today is so much more. Teams nationwide are loading their staff with rockstar individuals who take on student-manager positions because of their knowledge in the game, and their willingness to do whatever it takes to win.
Being a student-manager is signing yourself up to become a part of a family. Signing yourself up to be just as much a part of the team as anybody else in the program, and working just as hard as anybody else to bring home a trophy at the end of the season. What people don’t see with the job is how much work goes in behind the scenes in preparation for both games and practices. Whether it is preparing scouting reports, prepping the field, or breaking down stats and data sets, the work that we put in every single day is contributing to the success of the team, and helping the players perform on the field.
While helping the team succeed is the ultimate goal, the benefits you personally gain from being a student-manager cannot be matched. You’re putting yourself in an environment to learn from some of the best players and coaches in the whole country while giving yourself an idea of what it is like to work at a high-level of baseball. You have the best opportunity to learn about the game, in a fashion that you can’t find at many other levels. Learning to prepare scouting reports, analytical reports, working with advanced technology, and gaining knowledge from some of the best minds in the game is what is going to make this experience the most beneficial for you, and allow you to take the next step after your four years of being a student-manager.
What are some of the responsibilities of student-managers?
From my experience leading a team of student-managers at Penn State, there were 4 different departments within our group. These departments included: on-field staff, video/scouting, data analysts and an administrative team. (To hear more in depth about each role, watch Jake’s video “Starting an Advanced Student Manager Program”)
While not every team is going to have their program broken down the same way, finding where you are comfortable and where you feel your skill sets are most beneficial for the team is very important. Where you feel the most comfortable and knowledgeable is where you should spend most of your time trying to learn, and further your own personal tool kit.
It isn’t rare to find individuals that are skilled in multiple roles, and this is great for your own personal growth. The more that you are willing to learn and explore, the more doors that are going to be open for you in the game. Exploring different roles, jobs and responsibilities is going to be the only way to find where your true passion is, and is going to give you an idea of exactly what you want to do in your position for the next few years and down the road.
At Penn State, our on-field staff was responsible for the setup and tear-down of practice every single day. During practice, their responsibilities included feeding pitching machines, hitting ground balls, throwing batting practice, and assisting the coaching staff with any drills that needed an extra set of hands.
Our other three departments handled a lot more of the behind the scenes work, which is what leads me into how the student-manager role may open your eyes to a side of the game that you most likely have never seen before.
As a student-manager you have the opportunity to be exposed to some very cool performance science equipment such as Trackman, Rapsodo, Edgertronic and so much more. These player development tools are used at the highest level of the game by professional teams, and you are giving yourself an opportunity to learn what they are all about before reaching professional baseball.
Our off-field managers at Penn State dominated the use of this equipment when it came to data collection, player feedback and coach evaluation. While it can be hard at first to learn what each of these devices are producing and how they can be used, the ability to commit time to the team and being around these tools is what is going to allow you to become an expert. The more time you spend around this technology, the more knowledge you are going to walk away with.
The easiest way to sum up the role of a student-manager is to assist the coaching staff and players with what they need to help the team develop every single day. If a pitcher needs someone to play catch with, a student-manager can do it. If a coach needs someone to take video of a player's swing, a student-manager can do it. Realizing that you are helping everybody around you get better by doing these tasks is what makes this a very cool job.
My personal takeaways from my experience
As a kid who grew up with the goal of working in professional baseball, I couldn’t think of a better way to start my career. I saw a completely different side of the game that I would never have experienced if it weren’t for becoming a student-manager. Some of the skills that I learned in my four years helped me to get where I am today, and I owe it all to the decision that I made four years ago to join the staff at Penn State.
If I had never reached out to Coach Cooper about being a part of his program, I would have no idea how to generate an advanced scouting report. I would have no clue how to work BATS video software and run the player development technology that we use every single day in professional baseball. To sum it all up, I most likely wouldn’t be where I am today, working with the Seattle Mariners in a position I dreamt of for years.
The skills that I walked away with from the Penn State baseball program benefit me every single day in my current position with the Mariners. Many of the skills that I learned are going to benefit me for the rest of my baseball career, and getting to learn these skills while in college was so beneficial. It isn’t possible to walk away with the skill set that I did by the age of 22 if not for being a student-manager with a college baseball program.
How do YOU get involved?
I have had many people reach out to me and ask me how they can get involved as a student-manager and what the best way is to go about it.
For me it is as simple as sending an email to every member of the coaching staff at the school you attend (or are going to attend in the future). Nobody knows the program better than the staff and if there is another person you need to be put in contact with, they will guide you in that direction.
Explain to them what your skill sets are, and where you think you are going to add value to their program. If you are an expert in Microsoft Excel and can help generate custom reports, let them know! If you have a great arm and love to throw batting practice or long toss with pitchers, tell them about this! Giving them an idea of everything you can do is going to stand out, and is going to give you the best chance to land a position.
Staff members are always looking for help, and want to make their program the best that it can be. If they receive an email from a motivated individual who wants to help their program win, it is going to be hard to turn that away.
At the same time, student-manager programs are taking off nationwide. I see so many social media pages, posts, and articles about the team's student-manager programs which have been so awesome to see. Start following your teams’ pages and accounts and keep your eye open for student-manager job postings. Just by following their account, you may see an opportunity arise that catches your eye.
The last piece of advice, which I think goes a long way is to reach out to current student-managers on social media and ask them what the hiring process is, or how you can get involved. Don’t be shy, my DM’s were always open to individuals who wanted to help us win. Nobody is going to know the student-manager program at your school better than someone currently in the job.
As a high school senior who knew his playing career was coming to an end, I wanted to find any possible way to stay involved in the game of baseball. I knew I wanted to work in baseball when I was older, and didn’t want to move away from the game in college. Becoming a student-manager was the best decision I have ever made, and gave me four years at Penn State that went better than I could’ve ever expected.
When all is said and done, after the four years and every season zooms by like they did for me, you may find yourself in a full-time position within the baseball industry because of your experience as a manager. Have fun with the opportunity and make the most of it. There is so much to be learned in this game, and everyone is there to help you!