Managers hustle to take care of basketball players

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

There's little glory in wiping up high school boys' sweat off a basketball court floor.

Or delivering cup after paper cup of lukewarm water. Or gathering up perspiration-soaked towels.

There's no trophy to commend a job well done for team managers at the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament, but a lot would be missing without their presence.

While his team hustles up and down the court, 11-year-old Woodland manager Cole Benfield hustles up and down the bench.

"I just take care of the players. That's my job," Cole said.

Woodland High School basketball coach David Mirly says Cole serves an important function on the team.

"He makes my job easier by doing all the little stuff. It lets me concentrate on game strategy," Mirly said.

The Marble Hill, Mo., boy has served as his high school basketball team's manager for the past four years, starting when his now-senior brother, Travis, was a freshman and he was a second-grader.

The job comes with perks, from free T-shirts and bus rides with the older students to free admission into the ballgames.

But that's not why Cole does it.

"I like being on the floor with them, and getting to sit on the bench," he said. "And when I'm gone, they all tell me they missed me."

During the tournament semifinals Monday, Cole raced up and down the floor, delivering water and handing out towels to his team. At the other end of the Show Me Center, 16-year-old Jeff Beeson was doing the same for the Kelly High School Hawks.

"I've gone to all the games since seventh grade, and so the coaches asked me to be the manager," Beeson said.

Beeson, a ninth-grader, said giving up his Christmas vacation to work as team manager was easy because he likes the atmosphere at the Show Me Center.

"And I'm a big basketball fan. A big Kelly Hawks fan," he said.

Toting around medical supplies and filling paper cups has meant the world to Cole Benfield, but in three years he plans to abandon his current role on the team for one more closer to the spotlight. Instead of picking up jerseys, he plans to be wearing one.

His mother, Gaylene, said the job has given him confidence.

"The boys all tell him he does a good job, and he works hard at it," Benfield said. "I'm just as proud of him as I am of my son who is actually playing."

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