Equipped to win

Imagine walking into McMahon stadium expecting to see a football game only to view players standing around in their underwear, unable to throw around footballs. Without someone to take care of player’s uniforms and equipment, a football game ceases to exist. This person will rarely be in the newspaper, is not on the score sheets after the game and will never be voted MVP. For the Dinos, this person is Allan Naylor, manager for the University of Calgary football team.

While working for the Dinos, Naylor has witnessed two Vanier Cups. He was with the team when they lost in 1993 by three points to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. That hardship was remedied two years later when he witnessed Calgary win the cup with a 54-24 victory over the University of Western Ontario Mustangs.

“Yep, I was here in ’93 when we lost in the Vanier Cup, then ’95 when we won,” recalls Naylor. “Vanier Cup– the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It takes a few weeks to get over losing that game, but then you think ‘second in the nation, [pretty good].’ And of course winning is excellent.”

Before Naylor was with the Dinos cheering them on in Vanier Cups and taking care of their equipment, he began managing a team in grade 10 when he was asked to be the equipment manager for the Lord Beaverbrook Lords football team. After three years with Beaverbrook he got in touch with the Dinos and began working for them in 1993.

There is an immense amount of work involved with being equipment manager for a university football team. Every practice he has to take out the equipment, get the footballs ready and ensure that practice runs on time. Naylor is important to the football program as he keeps practices organized so that coaches and players can worry about preparing for the game.

“[I] make sure the balls and field equipment is out and ready for practice,” says Naylor. “If it is raining [I] make sure there is towels out. Then run the clock to keep practice on schedule so we don’t have three or four hour practices. Other than that, being on the sideline if there is something that goes wrong with a helmet or something.”

On game days, Naylor is even busier as he has to organize jerseys, game balls, kicking nets, coach’s equipment and fix any last minute problems that players have. During the game he takes care of all the problems on the sidelines allowing the coaches and players to worry about what is happening on the field. This is an extreme amount of work for one man to do, but Naylor is lucky he has an assistant to help him.

John Carr works under Naylor and helps him with practice and game equipment. Naylor is thankful that he has somebody to help him out now, as he has worked seasons by himself before and does not wish that to happen again.

“Most of the time it is a one and a half person job,” Naylor says. “I have done seasons by myself. The last four seasons I have had a retired teacher helping. I couldn’t imagine doing it by myself now, but we have more stuff now, like the head sets for the coaches, et cetera.”

It is apparent Naylor is a busy man during a regular season contest against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.

Pre-game preparation

It’s 10 a.m., three hours before gametime at McMahon Stadium and Naylor has already worked for over an hour handing out equipment, fixing equipment and taking care of the hundreds of small tasks that fall under his command. After skirting around Maxine– the lady in charge of the locker rooms ­– Naylor moves to the coach’s room and continues to fix shoulder pads, sew torn jerseys, hand out socks and pants, put decals on helmets, pump up players helmets, hand out tape and organize the equipment he will take to the field for the game.

“Saturday before the game [I] will get to the stadium early [and take care of] any last minute stuff,” says Naylor. “Set up the kick nets, make sure when the players are ready to go down the ball bag is ready for them. Have the game balls; make sure they are ready to go. Cut oranges for the players for half time and set up the headsets, that’s the big one. Test them all and make sure they are working.”

In the locker rooms there are many players walking around, loud rap and heavy music is blaring from two rooms and as players are getting dressed, the odd shout or pre-game pump-up is heard. It is a distracting scene with so much to take in, but Naylor keeps his head down and efficiently performs the tasks at hand, whether it is drilling holes for screws in shoulder pads or cutting oranges, he does it all.

Shortly after 11 a.m., Carr arrives and heads to the Olympic Oval to pick up some forgotten equipment. From there he heads to the players’ locker and equipment room to pick up some neck pads. After being blinded by the stench of unwashed socks in the locker room, he gathers up the neck pads and heads back. The equipment room houses everything from shoulder pads to butt pads to helmets– the nerve centre of a trainer’s universe.

Back at McMahon, Naylor has finished his work on the player’s equipment and goes to work setting up for the game.

He first heads up to the press box to set up the coaches headphones, which are tricky because many times they will not work and are time-consuming to fix. Today they worked and took no time at all, allowing Naylor to quickly head back down to the field to help Carr finish setting up the kicking nets, get the game balls ready, organize their equipment chest and water bottles they will carry to players on the field. After this is all done there is a brief moment of respite. Naylor and Carr enjoy a moment to relax and joke around.

It’s finally 1 p.m. and the game begins with a resounding cry from the crowd when the ball is kicked into the air. Naylor springs into action, his step has jumped to a frenetic pace as he tends to a deflated helmet. Moments later, he jaunts on field.

Correction: The original version of this story stated that Naylor was the equipment manager for the Henry Wise Wood Warriors when, in fact, he managed the Lord Beaverbrook Lords. The Gauntlet apologizes for any confusion.

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