A brief stroll around the Marist College campus will reveal students in red or gray shirts cutting the lawns at the McCann Center and other areas. They are most likely members of the Marist football team, as the team has been working side by side with the College’s groundskeepers for years.
While watching their work throughout the day, it becomes clear that these student-athletes work very hard. The student workers start at their home base on West Cedar Street where they collect their equipment, golf carts and other items they need. There are many different shift times throughout the day, with students being sent to different spots around campus and doing a multitude of tasks.
Over the course of the day, their tasks included weeding, mowing the lawns and treating the campus’s renowned foliage. According to grounds supervisor Brian Coons, who is in his sixth year as supervisor, workers don’t need prior experience with lawn mowing and his team is more than willing to help them learn.
When Coons first started out at Marist, there were not many student-athletes working for him. It started out with just a small handful, but now that number has grown exponentially.
“I had people, but not too many, maybe one or two a semester. Now I have around maybe 25 to 20,” said Coons. “Student assistants don’t only weed but they also mow, weed whack and plant. They do a lot of plantings on campus flowers and stuff like that.”
Coons also employs some students who are not student-athletes. He believes that the grounds crew job is a great way to meet people who otherwise don’t have much in common. With the well-being of his student workers in mind, he is hyper-vigilant when supervising them; if school starts to interfere with work, then groundskeeping gets pushed to the side.
“During the semester, student assistants are allowed to work 20 hours a week only part-time,” said Coons. “You know, my number one rule is school comes first and grades are first. And most of my guys know that.”
Marist football’s defensive end Miles Kauderer has been working with Coons’ team for a couple of years now and has become a vital part of the student assistant group. When Kauderer first started as a junior, he was not as close with the teammates he worked with. Working on the grounds crew helped him bond with those teammates.
“Looking back to my first summer working for the grounds crew, there’s a bunch of people I didn’t really know on the team who I was not close with, and that summer brought me closer to them,” said Kauderer. “We’re working together all day and doing workouts. So yeah, in a sense, it does bring bonding and unity because you’re with the same guys working hard just like football all day.”
The good thing about having student workers who are athletes is that they are already present on campus in July for summer workouts. Over the summer, Coons will have almost a dozen of those student workers in place. When these students graduate, he is in constant contact with Marist football head coach Jim Parady to see if there are any incoming freshmen in need of a job.
“Over the summer, I’ll reach out to coach Parady or he will reach out to me and say, ‘Hey, do you have any openings for some football players to come work,’ so I will have 10 or 12 for the summer. You know, maybe even 15 kids.”
Watching the athletes work over the course of the day brought a number of questions to mind. For starters: Do these student workers go to the same spot every day?
According to Coons, they rotate positions each week; he believes that as the students see the product of their hard work across campus, it gives them motivation.
“We either attack one area like the Gartland Commons [on] Monday, Tuesday [and] Wednesday, then we will move to another and we keep doing that rotation,” said Coons. “I also have assigned everyone to have their own little building or area on campus that they have to go to every single day and weed wack. I think what it does is it instills pride in each student on campus.”
Kauderer works with the grounds crew over the summer when he has much more free time since school is not yet in session; during the academic year, he carves out time to go in and work.
“Over the summer, it’s easy. We don’t technically have expectations for workouts for the people who are here,” said Kauderer. “During the school year, it’s a lot harder. Obviously, with practice, it’s every day from like 6:00 a.m. to like 11:00 a.m. People have classes at different times. So it’s kind of just finding different time slots to go in and you find time to go work honestly.”
Redshirt senior wide receiver Trevor Sterry has also worked in sweltering summer conditions when there are no students on campus, just athletes and faculty.
“Working over the summer wasn’t bad because all we had for football was team workouts. If we were working a tough job, our bosses always made sure we had water and we always had a lunch break in the middle of the day so the heat was manageable,” said Sterry.
Along with Kauderer, Sterry has been working for around two years. He enjoys the bonding experience with his teammates. He believes that it is important to share those experiences with teammates and learn about their personal lives because life is not all about football.
“I think that working with teammates definitely builds chemistry. The more time you spend with them outside of football the more you learn about their life away from the sport,” said Sterry.
Flexibility is one of the most important attributes members of the grounds crew must possess, as there can often be limited time throughout the day to balance football, classes, and work.
“The way that I am able to balance class and practice is because our boss is very understanding,” said Sterry. “ He will let us come in whenever we have the free time and we just get paid for however much time we can get in.”
With the pipeline between the Marist football team and the ground crew likely to continue living on after the current seniors graduate, the PFL might just have a new meaning: Parady, Flowers, and Landscaping.
Edited by Jimmy Tsiantoulas and Luke Sassa
Graphic by Cara Lacey; Photo Credit: Marist Athletics