Interview with Former UNC Basketball Manager Allison Braxton


Keeping It Heel recently sat down with former basketball team manager Allison Braxton.  Allison was nice enough to give us an inside look into what it’s like to be a manager for one of the most prestigious programs in college sports, North Carolina basketball.  Allison shared so much with us, we broke up our interview into two parts, check back later today for the rest of our sit down.

I’m originally from Greenville, N.C. and that’s where I currently live with my husband of almost 6 years, Ray, and 3 month old daughter, (born in March) Bailey.  I attended UNC from August 1998 to May 2003 and graduated with my B.A. (double major) in Exercise Science and Psychology.  I then graduated from East Carolina University in 2005 with my Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy.  I am currently working on my Master’s degree in Business Administration from East Carolina University with an anticipated graduation date of May 2013 (only 2 classes left!!!!)  I’ve worked at Vidant Health Medical Center in Greenville as an Occupational Therapist on the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit for the last 7 years.

KIH: How much time did being a manager take up during your school week and how did you balance classes and your managerial duties? Did you travel with the team?

AB: A LOT!!!  I normally tell people that being a manager was like having a full time job.  I’d say during the busiest part of the season, I spent 40+ hours on manager duties (not including travel time).  For each practice, we were at the Smith Center for 3-4 hours at least.  On game days, we would spend 10-12 hours for the shootaround, pregame meal, warm-up, game, and post-game.  [Note:  My first year was spent as a J.V. manager, then second year was one of three J.V. Head Managers.  I was then a Varsity manager for two years before being promoted to Head Manager my last year.  As a J.V. manager, you work the J.V. practices and games (which are played just prior to the Varsity games), but also help with the Varsity games. ]

I traveled with the team to a few games my first year as a Varsity manager and all the games during my 2nd and 3rd year as a Varsity manager.  We were lucky to be able to charter planes to/from games so that limited the time we had to be away.  We would usually leave the evening before an away game and fly back immediately after the game so many times we were gone less than 36 hours.  I wish I could say that I was able to study or do school work during away games, but there honestly wasn’t much time.

Things like packing for the trip, packing/unpacking the bus and the plane, and the general work we had to do to get ready for the game kept us very busy while we were away.

Keeping up with my school work took lots of planning and organization, but also meant there were plenty of late nights.  Balancing school and manager duties was sometimes difficult.  People sometimes ask me what clubs I was in or if I was in a sorority and I tell them, “I wasn’t in any, I was a manager.”  However, it’s the best club in the world.  It was truly all I had time for and I loved every minute.

KIH: I’m sure you had a variety of jobs as one of the managers but what would you say you spent the most time doing and/or what job was the #1 priority?

AB:Narrowing down our duties to determine which one was most important is extremely difficult.  I would say that the #1 priority was to be prepared.  I’ll never forget the first rule I learned: “If you are early, you are on time, and if you are on time, you are late.”  We were always early to everything…practices, games, to the bus, meals, everything!

During practice and especially the games we had to be prepared for anything…a change in the practice plan, a lost contact, blood on someone’s jersey, etc.  That’s why we were always early, in case we had to deal with any unforeseen issues and double check everything was done the way it was supposed to.

I think each manager probably feels differently about what we each spent the most time doing.  We each had specific duties for practice and games so you became very good at those particular jobs.  For example, I know alot of managers probably feel they spent a majority of their time rebounding.  We did it before practice, during practice, after practice, and before games.  I know one manager in particular who would spend hours late at night in the gym rebounding for players long after practice was over.  Another job we seemed to spend a lot of time doing would be making cups of water and Gatorade.

You had to make a full table of cups several times during practice and constantly throughout games.  It also seems as though we spent a lot of time dealing with sweat. We were either wiping it up off the floor, handling sweaty towels during practice and games, or doing laundry.

KIH:What was the hardest and the most rewarding part of your job?

AB:The most rewarding part of my job was without a doubt being a part of a program that is so incredible and something that I had idolized my entire life.  When I was a manager, it always felt amazing to be a part of something so remarkable.  Everywhere we went, the team was recognized and it felt wonderful to be a part of something like that.  You were able to enjoy the successes and wins with the team.  Also, as a varsity manager you letter as a varsity athlete and are forever considered a part of the Carolina basketball family.

We get invited back and get all the correspondence that the players get.  Being a part of things like the 100 year celebration will be something that I never forget and that I will be telling my kids about one day.  We even have our own brick with our name on it on the lettermen walkway outside the basketball offices.  We are included in the team picture every year as well.  When I return for games at the Smith Center, it’s still amazing to see myself in the team picture from the 2000-2001 season when we won the ACC Regular Season Championship.  I never get tired of that.

The hardest part of the job was dealing with the disappointment.  Many times that involved a loss.  I was a manager during the infamous 8-20 season and that was extremely difficult to get through, for everyone.  Another thing that was very difficult was the controversy surrounding Coach Doherty.  Whether it was the coach or the losses we were experiencing, I felt as though I was constantly defending the program to people.  Growing up, I idolized Carolina Basketball.  Seeing the program suffer through something like that was hard.