Ever wonder what it takes to run a football team? Seniors Matt Herbst and Jimmy Walsh may not be coaches, but their role as team managers gives them an inside look into how the Bobcats go from preseason to CBB champions.
Football has been part of both Herbst’s and Walsh’s life since high school. Herbst played football all four years, but he knew he could not continue playing in college. He still wanted to stay connected to the sport, so he emailed head coach Mark Harriman to see if there was a way to get involved.
“I wanted to be around football again, so [managing] was an easy way to do that,” Herbst said.
After four years of football in high school, Walsh wanted to play for a NESCAC team. He played defense for his first two years at Bates. After an injury, his playing time came to an end, but like Herbst he still wanted to be part of the team. He then joined Herbst as manager.
As there wasn’t a specific manager position in place when Herbst came to Bates, he did not have set responsibilities. He helped coaches with drills during practice and set up the field before practice. One of his main responsibilities all four years has been spotting the ball during practice to shorten the amount of time between plays.
In addition to practice and pre-game responsibilities like set-up, Walsh also helps the defensive coach signal plays during games.
Though not coaches, team managers’ roles are different than those of the players. During their time as managers and through the relationship they’ve developed with the coaches, Herbst and Walsh have learned more about the operations behind a football team.
“You see how a program functions top to bottom, being around the coaches and being around the players…[we see] a lot of different aspects from our role than just being a player and going to practice,” Walsh said.
David Kaplan ’85 was team manager, as well as student athletic trainer and EMT, for his four years at Bates and has similar sentiments to those of Herbst and Walsh.
“I would not have wanted to be the manager on the team if it wasn’t for the relationships that I developed with my teammates and the coaches,” Kaplan said.
Like Kaplan, Walsh and Herbst remain close with the team and appreciate all the work that goes into a coaching job, noting all the work the coaching staff puts in behind the scenes to run a team.
Another thing that has not changed since ’85 is the time commitment. Herbst, Walsh and Kaplan all agreed the time commitment was one of the most challenging parts of the job.
“Like any student that participates on a team, the time commitment was always challenging to juggle when in season,” Kaplan said.
Walsh pointed out the reward players get every Saturday on the field does not necessarily apply to himself and Herbst. Though both agree the time commitment is draining, they eventually miss the structure.
“By the time the season is over you are burnt out and ready to have some free time, but come February you go stir crazy because you are just bored,” Herbst said.
There have been a lot of great moments during their four years, but a lot of hard times for the football team as well. When asked about their favorite moment, both Herbst and Walsh said the game versus Williams in the fall of 2012, right after Troy Pappas ’16 passed away.
The game was “one of the most magical moments I’ve ever had as part of a football team,” Herbst said. Watching from the sidelines, both waited for the tide to turn and Williams to take the lead; that moment never came, and the Bobcats walked away with a win.
As for continuing their involvement with football after Bates, Walsh and Herbst aren’t sure how that will take shape. Come next fall, it will be the first time in eight years they aren’t part of a football program. Walsh could see himself coaching at some point down the line, while Herbst would consider more of an operational position, playing a similar role to the one he plays now.
Herbst wrapped up the interview with an invitation: “We need people to replace us.” With one game to go, another Bobcat can step up to the plate and keep the team manager tradition going.