Helping on the hardwood

Women’s basketball equipment manager Isaac Nelson works 20 hours weeks, eight hours on game days

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen reporter

Isaac Nelson, a Ti-Cities, Washington native, was in a laundromat in Las Vegas doing exactly what one would expect: laundry.

Nelson, a fifth-year senior agricultural technology and production management major, was not doing his own laundry. He was doing the laundry for 11 college-aged women.

Nelson is a student equipment manager for the WSU women’s basketball team.

Equipment manager Sara Cochran, Nelson’s supervisor, said there are seven sports at WSU that have equipment managers. Football has between 12 or 14, baseball has two and the others all have one, she said.

The equipment managers do the work behind the scenes for their specific sports such as setting up and tearing down practice, Cochran said. They also help the team warm-up and pack team bags for road trips, she said.

The team practices at 2:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Nelson said. The team also practices at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Nelson said he arrives around 30 or 45 minutes before practice starts and is usually the only one there.

When he gets there, he starts the countdown clock for practice and makes sure the cart of snacks for the players is stocked, Nelson said. During practice he does whatever is needed, such as running the clock, taking stats or shagging rebounds.

He said he works about 20 hours a week in the offseason when the team is practicing. When they get into the season he works more; he puts in close to eight hours on game days, he said.

When the team has a game, he gets to the arena between two and one and one-half hours before tip-off, Nelson said.

He does his normal duties such as rebounding and helping during warmups, he said. He said he also sets up the locker room for the players by getting their jerseys and putting them in the players’ lockers.

Nelson said during the game he sits on the end of the bench. He performs tasks such as grabbing the chair for the coach during a timeout or the stats during the game, he said.

“It’s pretty simple. It’s a lot of fun though,” he said. “Just kind of being there and working really closely with the team.”

Cochran said the department does not advertise their student equipment manager positions; they get applicants through word of mouth.

They tell graduating seniors to look for students they know or ones from their hometown to fill their empty position, she said.

They interview candidates the spring before the season, Cochran said. They make sure anyone applying knows what they are getting into, she said.

“These students work hard. It’s a full-time job,” she said. “If you’re in this it, it’s hard work.”

Cochran said any incoming equipment manager shadows a senior to learn the ropes. The first year is essentially a training year, she said, because the job has a lot to learn.

Nelson said he did not come into college thinking he would be an equipment manager.

He wanted to walk on to the baseball team as a freshman, but that did not work out, he said.

He joined the Grey Squad, he said, which is a group of students who helps the basketball team by practicing with them. That was how he learned about the possibility of being an equipment manager.

The women’s basketball equipment manager at the time saw that he showed up to every practice, including ones in the spring at six in the morning, He said.

“I guess she noticed that or whatever and decided I would be a good candidate for taking her spot,” he said. “So I kind of fell into it without really expecting to find that position.”

He shadowed the women’s basketball at the time to start to learn about the job. He said that helped him prepare for when he took over because he had already seen what it was like, including going on a couple road trips.

Nelson said the hardest thing he had to learn was how to balance academics and work.

That is a common thing she has seen amongst first-year student equipment managers, Cochran said. How well the student managers handle those difficulties depends on their ability to adjust, she said.

The department has resources the student managers can use, she said. Her and the other equipment managers have an open-door policy and encourage student managers to come to them with any problems or questions they have, Cochran said.

Nelson experienced a coaching change in 2018 when Kamie Ethridge became the WSU women’s basketball coach.

He said the new coaching staff is more self-sufficient and rarely needs anything out of the ordinary for him, which makes his job easier. There have not been a lot of other changes with the new coaching staff, he said.

“I travel with one less bag now, which is nice,” he said.

Nelson said he has been able to visit some interesting places through traveling with the team.

The Pac-12 moved the women’s basketball tournament to Las Vegas a few years ago so he has been there twice.

He also traveled with the team when they made the Women’s National Invitational Tournament Final Four in Iowa, Nelson said.

This year WSU will be heading to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a tournament over Thanksgiving break. He said he is excited for that trip.

Nelson said he has had some interesting experiences being a student equipment manager.

On Thursday, WSU women’s basketball played an exhibition game against a team from China that spoke very little English. He said they were supposed to meet one of his bosses at Bohler Gymnasium for a campus tour but got lost.

He said he got a call from his boss telling him they were around Beasley Coliseum and he might need to give them directions.

He went outside and saw their bus in the Student Recreation Center parking lot, he said.

“I run down and I just hop on the bus and I’m like ‘Alright we’re going,’” Nelson said.

Another interesting thing he has experienced through his work is having to do laundry.

When the team is on a long enough road trip, he must take their gear to a local laundromat.

“There’s been some pretty interesting places where I’ve been to laundromats,” he said. “The Las Vegas laundromat was pretty sketchy.”