This fall, FastModel Sports is excited to feature a Support Staff Series of Q&A interviews to show a little love to those coaches who aren’t in the spotlight and don’t sit in the first row of the bench on game day. These are the staff members that work behind the scenes making sure every single aspect of the program runs smoothly, so that the coaches and players can focus on winning games. We also hope this serves to educate those interested in pursuing a career in coaching on the possibilities available in the business.
In Volume 4 of the series, we connect with Max Johansen, Student Manager for Wisconsin Men’s Basketball.
FastModel Sports: Tell us a little bit about your coaching background.
Max Johansen: As of right now my coaching background isn’t full of experience, which is why I wanted to be a student manager at Wisconsin. I am hoping to gain insight and knowledge of the game of basketball. I’ve worked our Wisconsin basketball camps, along with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s, to get experience running drills and coaching by myself. I’ve also attended a USA Basketball Youth Coaches Academy in Cleveland to learn and listen from different high school coaches along with college coaches like Chris Holtmann, Keith Dambrot, and Dennis Felton. Other notable speakers included Clark Kellogg and Don Showalter of USA Basketball. These speakers discussed leadership qualities, communication between coaches and players, and the X’s and O’s about the game.
FMS: Explain what being a student manager is all about.
MJ: A student manager’s role is all about being one step ahead. We never want the players or coaches to be waiting on us to set up a drill, having video ready or waiting for us to rebound. We want make the coaches and players’ lives easier by taking care of all the little things, such as wiping the floor, having a towel ready for the players, rebounding, etc. The coaches ask us for stats like points per possession, team turnovers, and offensive rebounds – this requires us to pay attention to the little details so we can give our coaching staff the correct answer. Student managers are never in the spotlight and rarely get recognized for their hard work and time commitment. If that bothers a student manger, then it is the wrong job for them. Having a positive approach is a must, even when we don’t get the most fun jobs to complete.
FMS: Why did you decide to be a student manager?
MJ: I decided to become a student manager because I was extremely interested in becoming a collegiate basketball coach. I’ve played basketball my entire life but wasn’t good enough after high school to play at the highest level. This position allows me to learn from the best coaches here at Wisconsin, and to understand how a collegiate program is run. I’ve always enjoyed been a part of a team, so this was another opportunity for me to be involved with something bigger than myself. I just had to adjust to contributing in a new role.
FMS: What do you like best about your job?
MJ: My favorite part about being a student manager is the opportunity to work with so many different people from many different backgrounds. You get to learn a lot about different cultures, where people grew up and hear about their paths to get where they are today. I’ve learned so much due to the many different tasks we are responsible for, including cutting up film, helping with the organization of basketball camps, and simply working with Microsoft Excel to organize stat sheets and schedules. The knowledge I’ve gained about the game of basketball has been of great benefit to me as I pursue a career in coaching. The fundamentals preached at Wisconsin work on all levels of basketball.
FMS: What are the most important things the job has taught you?
MJ: Just to take care of the little things. These add up and can make a huge impact on the goal of the program. An example for this would be if we don’t mop the floor before our practice and miss a wet spot or dust on the floor, it could have a larger impact like injuring one of our players. I’ve learned to pay attention to the little details of every project. This especially pays off during our basketball camps when we are printing off rosters and daily schedules – we’ve had to print multiple copies of each, so cross checking is extremely important. The tasks may be small, but they all help the program continue to run properly, so we have to take pride in the small jobs we are given.
FMS: How has your mindset changed from when you first started?
MJ: My mindset hasn’t changed at all. I had a couple of older friends who had been student managers, so I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into. I knew student managers are at the bottom of the totem pole, so I wasn’t expecting to have the most glamorous tasks. My mindset was to put my head down and work as hard as I could, and the rest would take care of itself. I tried to be available at winter break, spring break and summer break so I could learn more about how the program was operated. Now as the head manager, I try to show the younger managers how to approach the day-to-day tasks. I think the best thing a student manager can do is keep quiet, be available, and work as hard as you can.
FMS: Is it difficult to manage school work along with the rigors of being a manager?
MJ: At Wisconsin, they do a really good job of easing the freshmen managers into the program. The freshmen get scheduled for about two practices a week and then two hours of work in the office so get them familiar with office work as well. We carry about 15-18 managers per year which helps lessen the workload for each manager. We alternate practices so we all don’t have to be at every practice which I know some managers at programs have to do. I think being a student-manager actually helped me stay organized and on top of my homework because I was able to have a structured schedule. When we travel student-managers usually have a large amount of time on gameday to complete homework. We have shootaround in the morning and then a ton of free time during the day, especially if it is a 7 or 8 p.m tip.
FMS: What advice do you have those considering being a student manager?
MJ: The best advice I can give someone considering being a student manager is to come in with an open mind. People on the outside may not always understand why someone would be a student manager based on the responsibilities that come with it. But if you have a passion for the game of basketball and are interested in pursuing a career in the game, the student manager position is a phenomenal way to get started because it teaches you how to work hard, and that you must earn everything that is given to you.
FMS: What role does technology play in being a manager?
MJ: Technology allows student managers to provide a large amount of information to our coaching staff. Using FastScout, we help put together opponent scouting reports and game plans for our assistant coaches. With FastDraw, we can store our different sets in one place: end line out of bound, side out of bound, zone sets or man sets. It allows us to organize them in a way that is easy for our coaching staff to find and use to our advantage.
FMS: Describe the importance of networking with coaches and other managers.
MJ: Networking with coaches and managers is extremely important, especially for a student manager. Unfortunately, we don’t have the name recognition from playing, therefore networking is huge for us to receive a job opportunity once we graduate. I have tried to work as many basketball camps as I can to make connections with other coaching staffs and managers. Through these basketball camps, I have met a Video Coordinator at Drake University and a Graduate Assistant at Nevada, which has helped build my network. These relationships are also key to expanding your knowledge about the game of basketball. The more coaches you meet the more philosophies you learn and you can incorporate some of your own ideas into philosophies you really like.
FMS: What are your future goals in coaching or otherwise?
MJ: My future goals include becoming a collegiate basketball coach. That is the main reason I wanted to become a student manager. I wanted to increase my knowledge from one of the top programs in the country to put in me in the best position possible to reach my goals.