The hidden player: Mount Holyoke’s team manager


Natalie Russianoff ’19 stands on the turf field at Mount Holyoke College, waiting attentively for her orders. She wears a purple jacket and fur hood like it’s her own practice gear, and cheers on the team with each goal, groundball and goalie save. It’s a position she knows well, and while she may not physically be participating, her role on the lacrosse team is clear: she’s their new team manager, and she’s excited for her new role.

It’s a job she is no stranger to. She’s been the manager for the varsity soccer and basketball teams for the past three years, beginning her first year after a stunt at trying out for the soccer team. While she didn’t make the team, Russianoff knew she still wanted to be a part of athletics.

“[The soccer team] needed a manager, so I asked if I could do that instead so I could still be a part of the team,” she explained. With an optimistic attitude, Russianoff embraced her integral part on the soccer team as their manager, a job which involved writing the team’s statistics and announcing the starting lineups during home games. However, she found herself going beyond her simple duties, forming a close bond with all of the players throughout the season.

“There’s much lower stakes for me,” she admitted. “I can see that [the team] did this really well and should be proud, which I think is harder to see when you’re playing or have lost.” Not only has she become an important source of support for athletes, on and off the field, but her role as manager has helped her through tough times as well.

“I had a really hard time transitioning my [first year], so in that time, it was like [the soccer team was] my introduction to school,” she said with a gentle grin. In the winter season she also manages the basketball team, which includes sacrificing her January break to spend it cheering for them on the sidelines in games and practices. In return, the team awarded her with the honor of the Pride Shirt, to show their gratitude.

“They said thanks for being the manager,” Russianoff said, “for always cheering during practice. It felt really nice — I view myself as part of the teams, but it was nice to see that the teams included me in that too.”

While every team has its challenges, she views her positive attitude as a gift she can bring to each athletic program. This spring, in her last semester, she’s managing the lacrosse team for the first time, but is ready to help another program.

“I like being in that environment where people are working together towards a shared goal. I’m excited to learn about a new sport,” she said. Still, Russianoff has a lot on her plate: she’s taking six classes to graduate early and has found her own sport to play in, club Ultimate Frisbee. Even so, she’s dedicating her time to the lacrosse team, which means enduring cold practices outside, filming home games, and trying to get to know a new group of people.

“It’s a lot easier to be positive for other people,” she admitted, and this attitude is what she hopes will help the lacrosse team find success this spring.