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OHS sports managers: An inside look

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Stefan Ninic returns a tennis ball during a tennis practice.
Credit: Robert Bachara

Sports at Oswego High School are a big part of the culture of the school. A majority of students are involved in the sports program one way or another. Teachers become coaches and students become players, but that is not the only way to get involved in the coveted sports programs.

The side we don’t usually see is the side of student team managers. Juniors Stefan Ninic and Gabriel Sardo are tennis players themselves, but they also manage the girl’s tennis team. So while their sports season takes up the spring, they choose to let sports managing take up their fall as they attend the girl’s team’s practices and meets.

If you were to attend a typical girls tennis practice, you might see Ninic and Sardo rolling out equipment such as carts of tennis balls, extra rackets, and medicine balls for specific drills, running the team through drills in long segments of the practice, helping get everything cleaned up after the drills are done, practicing tennis with each other, or critiquing the girls’ tennis fundamentals.

If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Managing a team is no small task. Some might think this is too much, and that the managers are burnt out by the end of the season. But that is simply not the truth.

“Playing tennis is fun, and managing tennis is not that different,” Ninic says.

Ninic just loves to be around the sport. Even if he has to do some of the dirty work that comes with being a manager, he still views being a manager as a privilege to go out and be around tennis. This makes managing a positive for all parties.

Outside of the physical labor that these managers put in, they are a huge addition to the atmosphere on the tennis courts during practices or meets. There were no negative things that players had to say about the managers.

Boys tennis manager Angelina Pelikan celebrating winning a medal for the girls team. Credit: Mother of Angelina Pelikan

“I love having team managers because they are so fun and so helpful, and I am friends with all of them,” senior girls tennis player Angelina Pelikan says.

Obviously, the managers have a very positive impact on the overall vibe at the girl’s tennis events. This is just another reason why managers are such a good thing to have around any sports program, as they just bring up the spirits for the team. This is important for a long sports season because it can become a drag if it is no fun to be a part of.

The girls work hard every day just to compete in their matches at every meet. For this reason, the girls also recognize the work that the managers put in.

“It would be more boring and we would have to do all of the work, except for the playing part,” Pelikan says.

Having the girls do the setup and work for all of the drills would take away from their goals to build their skills to their fullest capability. Having the managers do it saves time and energy, so the girls can focus on their main goals for the season. This keeps the girls’ workload at a manageable level so they can put all their energy into winning matches and meets for their team. While managers help the girls win games, in a way, the managers are put into a better position to win their contests by managing the team.

While Gabriel Sardo is a great manager, he is even better at playing tennis himself. To give an idea of just how good he is, he was a top player on the varsity tennis team as a freshman, which truly is an impressive feat. When someone is that good, they do not want to lose their skills over a long offseason, so it is important to stay actively playing tennis. Managing helps Sardo with that.

“The managers would play games with the girls and after the girls play sets with each other, then the managers play against each other,” Sardo says.

Even though Sardo can not compete officially when boys tennis is in its offseason, he still gets competition every day at the girl’s practices. This ensures that he never gets rusty or loses any skills that he worked so hard to acquire. While his skills are important to him, there’s more to the overarching purpose of team management.

While having great skills and exceeding at an individual level is great, there’s more to tennis. It’s more than just a sport to anyone who is passionate about it. 

“It’s always about the girls, it’s never just about me. It’s always about helping other people,” Sardo says.

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