Sports custodians are the unsung heroes of SA athletics

Brady McGuire

Odds are that if you have been at a Shaler Area sporting event, you have seen the sports custodians that help make those events happen. Whether it was dragging a baseball or softball diamond, pulling out the bleachers for basketball or volleyball, fixing a scoreboard, or anything else, you probably have seen them hard at work. The reality is this is only the tip of the iceberg of what these people actually do.

Some of the custodians who have been or currently are part of the athletics staff are Frank Chatham, Bob Sauter, Fred Slaney, and JR Wikert. They work all levels of sporting events from middle school to varsity and range from summer practices for fall sports to the end of the spring seasons.

Their job is to meet the needs of the teams throughout their seasons.  Recognized by many people, the custodians are responsible for taking care of playing areas before, during, and after games as well as for practices.  They also do a lot of behind the scenes work such as keeping track of inventory, making sure the equipment is clean and ready, handing out uniforms and doing laundry.

“Those guys are great. They will do anything for you as soon as they can,” Mr. Eric Schott, who has coached JV, 9th grade and 8th grade boys basketball, said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a varsity coach or middle school coach. If there’s a problem or you need something, those guys are working on it as soon as you ask.”

Not only does their work help the players and coaches, their work gives a positive initial impression of Shaler Area to visiting teams and fans based on how the fields and facilities look.

It doesn’t matter if you are a varsity coach or middle school coach. If there’s a problem or you need something, those guys are working on it as soon as you ask.

— Mr. Eric Schott

Their job rarely has any “cookie-cutter” days in which the custodians go to work and know exactly what they are going to do.

“Everyday is a different day. Everyday you are always in different situations.” Sauter said.

This is especially true with spring sports such as softball and baseball. With both fields having dirt-playing surfaces, they are vulnerable to the notoriously unpredictable-spring weather of Western Pennsylvania. Because of this, both fields require constant attention from the custodians.

One instance was a game last year against Hampton. It was raining so bad last year that many other teams around did not play their games, but not Shaler Area.

“They normally ask me if I want to get the game in. If I say yes, then they start loading up on that dry. That day they ran out. I think they drove to local little leagues because they ran out. Lots of raking and dragging that day,” Varsity Baseball Coach Brian Junker said.

Not only do the custodians care about the facilities, they also care about the teams’ performances as well.

“They always seem to know what’s going on with your team. In terms of successes of the season, your record, who you’re beating, who you’re losing to, if you’re playing well. They always seem to be on top of that,” Boys Volleyball Coach Mr. Paul Stadelman said.

Although the job may seem overwhelming at times, these guys work everyday with a positive attitude. They always want the best for our students, student-athletes, and coaches.

“I love the job. I really do. I love having everything looking really nice for the players to come in, play, and just be happy. That’s what makes me happy. I love seeing everyone have a good time,” Chatham said.

When all three of the interviewed custodians were asked about their inspiration for the job, they all had a simple answer: “the kids”.

All of these guys have been a part of Shaler Area for many years.

“It’s enjoyable to see the kids grow (within the community),” Wikert said.

Athletic Director Clint Rauscher works with those custodians on a daily basis and is very aware and appreciative who they are and what they do for our school.

““It’s just not a job (for them. They are) committed to what they do and they want success for our kids and our teams,” Mr. Rauscher said. “Fantastic guys.”

These guys are the “unsung heroes” of athletics in Shaler Area. They are appreciated by the players and coaches, but rarely get the recognition they deserve for their hard work. If these guys weren’t involved in our athletics program, none of it would be possible.