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  • Maggie Tift

The unsung heroes of Canisius Athletics

As an athlete, there’s a lot of people in your corner. You have your teammates, coaches and family — but what about the people “behind the curtain”?


By Maggie Tift, Contributor


Not every team or every sport has a staff of six to seven coaches. Many schools, like Canisius University, rely on just one or two people to do the work of four to five. These staff members of Canisius Athletics are the backbone for the program’s success. While these unsung heroes don’t get the same spotlight that athletes do, their jobs are just as, if not more important than, the athletes’.


Team managers are mainly made up of students of Canisius. Managers are responsible for equipment, field preparation and, most importantly, showing up with the team to get the job done. The work they do may seem miniscule to the outsider, but to the team, the manager's presence is key for success. “It’s a really cool position having that third party you can confide in. I enjoy being that extra person to offer support,” said women's lacrosse manager Leslie Arneth. She expressed that becoming a manager has been one of the best decisions she’s ever made: “There’s a lot of added pressure on coaches and players, but I think if there’s that manager presence, everyone else gets to focus on doing their job better.”


Graduate assistants are another example of an essential member of Canisius’s athletic programs, often putting in long hours to make the lives of those on and around the teams easier. “I’ll go above and beyond for any team, it’s my job to make these teams look great. They make it easy to promote them and show off the work they do,” said Max Sacco, a grad assistant in the athletic communications department. Sacco is passionate about the work he does for Canisius, and it shows. The mutual respect between the staff and athletes is an important component, allowing those in athletic communications to push Canisius’s image to its absolute best, both on and around the media. Sacco creates something special for teams — and gets big results. All of the work done by athletic communications, led by Director Jarett Abelson and Assistant Director Matt Reitnour, is shown on GoGriffs.com.


Social media plays a major role in promoting the success of athletes and teams. Every sports program at Canisius has its own Instagram account, through which they share photos and videos from competitions, practices and team events. Voluntary assistant coach Meg Donnelly of the women’s lacrosse team is also the lead content creator for the team and has dominated social media for the Griffs. Coach Donnelly emphasized that having a strong presence on social media creates a strong brand for the team, and, from a recruiting standpoint, better depicts what it’s like to be a part of the team. The women’s lacrosse team highlights their team culture through Instagram stories. Coach Donnelly captures moments from practice you ordinarily wouldn’t see. “I’m looking for those reactions, those hidden candid moments that engrave that energy,” she said. Having teams all over the country utilize and maintain a strong media connection allows for a control on the narrative social media can create. “There’s a lot of negative connotation with social media. If we ban together as a department, we show it’s for highlighting the inner workings of our culture,” Donnelly added.


Athletic Trainers at Canisius are responsible for each and every athlete on campus. The group led by Andy Smith is also recognized as some of the school's most dedicated employees. “I’m overwhelmed a lot, but it’s all about giving the best care to athletes. Just knowing I’m helping them through physical and emotional challenges is enough to see how needed athletic trainers are in collegiate athletics,” said athletic trainer Kristin Saviola. Without the work of Kristin and her fellow colleagues, many student athletes would not get the treatment they need, nor would they receive the very strong support which this staff in particular brings. “My favorite part is seeing an athlete return to competition after a long rehab process. There is nothing like watching your athlete return back for their first game after a long rehab process. It’s definitely a proud moment!” said Saviola.


Without the efforts of those that work behind the scenes, the success of Canisius Athletics wouldn’t be there. Their dedication is behind every bit of success Canisius sports has.


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