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Graduating Team Manager Encourages Others to Follow in Her Football Steps

By Olivia Vanden Elzen, 05/24/19, 11:00PM CDT


As every high school student does, I spent a lot of my four years thinking about what field of study and what type of job I would like to pursue in the future.

One day towards the end of my junior year, I read on the morning announcements that the football team was looking for a couple of team managers for the upcoming 2018 season. I have always loved sports, especially football, and at the time I was considering studying Sports Management in college. I also thought it would be really interesting to have an inside view of what goes on behind the scenes of a football program, so I thought to myself, “why not?” and sent in my interest.

The next thing I knew the team's head coach, Mike Rader, asked me to come in for an interview and offered me the position! He also explained that the program had not had a team manager for a while and that he was not exactly sure what type of responsibilities would come with the position. Eager to try something new, I accepted the position anyway.

Three days later, I showed up for the first day of practice and I was so nervous! I was surrounded by about 60 intimidatingly tall and muscular guys (it does not really help I am only 5’1”), I was the only girl, and I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing.

Once the entire team walked down to the field at the beginning of practice, Coach Rader held a team huddle where he introduced me to all of the coaches and players. I was so surprised with how welcoming everyone was, and I was immediately given the title “Coach Olivia,” courtesy of then senior, Mitch Chosa.

After a couple of practices, the roles of my position became more clear as they were narrowed down to updating and modifying the team website, taping plays at practices and games, tagging plays on the sidelines at games, setting up the Hudl cameras with the coaches (and calling Hudl for the good part of the first half of the season when we struggled to get them to work), and basically just overall organization of the team.

Coach Rader also occasionally asked me to play catch with some of the players, including decorated senior quarterback, Wes Glime, who conditioned me to eventually assist our senior class to a Powder Puff victory in October.

As the season went on and I got to know the players and coaches a bit better, I began to realize what makes the Academy’s football program so special.

Coach Rader has a motto for the program in which he states its priorities should be: “Faith, Family, Fundamentals, and Football”– in that order. By the end of the year, I realized that the program reflects this motto perfectly.

Before every single practice, all of the players and coaches gather in a circle and pray. There is also a prayer service held right after school on Fridays before every game in which all of the players are expected to attend. I recognized this as a great way of glorifying God for giving both the players and the coaches the opportunity to be a part of such a great sport and program as well as preparing to use their God-given gifts to do their best each Friday night (and hopefully take a win).

“I think the faith aspect of the program sets us apart because we are all brought together in the prayer services before games and in the prayers that we make for hurt teammates,” said sophomore player Aiden Wolfram.

During the season, the members of the program also spend so much time together that everyone becomes one big family. As I would walk through the hallways at school, the players would say “hi” to me and at practice the coaches would ask me how my day was or if I needed anything. It was also so incredible to see how close the guys become during the season and how everyone has each other’s backs and are all so supportive of one another. And you cannot forget about the program's unsung heroes, also known as the wonderful parents who provide team dinners for the entire team each week as well as organize events like senior night and the team banquet at the end of the year. They really are the best.

The numerous lessons I have learned during this past season were also life-changing. I learned that to succeed in anything, you must break your goal down to the fundamentals before you can truly become great at whatever you choose to do. Throughout the practices, all of the coaches do a very good job of running drills that work on the basics of the sport. Though the physical drills have proven to be effective, the innumerable pep talks about life in general are helpful as each of them grow to become better persons. I truly think this is why the team has been so successful. Once you have the basics right, everything else will follow easily.

Lastly, they play A LOT of football. From practicing five days a week, having a game every week, and watching tape in their free time, you can say the sport takes up most of the players’ and coaches’ time from August through November.

Coach Rader has another motto (he is a very wise man with a lot of mottos): “Every young man should play football and then any other sport they want to play in winter and spring.” The lessons the boys learn, whether it be respect, teamwork, dedication, honesty, hard work, etc,  are incomparable to any other sport. I was extremely impressed, to say the least, about the growth everyone in the program experiences throughout the short four months.

As for being the manager last season, I wish I could do it all again. At first I was kind of sad that I would not get to dress up with my friends before the game and cheer with my schoolmates in the stands for my last year, but in all honesty, there is nothing like being on the field with the team. I would come home every day to tell my family about what had happened at practice or at the game and my stories would usually conclude with, “I am so glad I chose to be a part of the football team.” I talked about it so much in fact that my brother, currently a sophomore at NDA, will hopefully be joining the team next year.

I now plan to attend Grand Canyon University to major in Communications as well as minor in Sports Management. I cannot thank the NDA Football Program enough and all of its truly welcoming and amazing group of players, parents and coaches that made my experience unforgettable and helped me to make my college decision.

If you are not doing anything in the fall or looking for something different, consider getting involved with the Notre Dame Academy football team. I can write articles upon articles about how great of a sport it is and how the camaraderie is unmatchable, but there is nothing like actually being involved.

The team is looking for a couple of managers again this year, so if you are interested and would like to learn more about the position, feel free to email me at .

Finally, team is also always looking for players. If you do not think you are “athletic enough” or “fast enough,” all I can say is you never know until you try! Anyone can play and you definitely will not regret it.

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