Some of the student managers like to shoot around in Trienens Training Facility in between working for the team. Natalie Aranda-Rivas, a first-year assistant manager, shares her experience of being part of that group. Photo courtesy of Natalie Aranda-Rivas.

Weinberg first-year Natalie Aranda-Rivas was just looking for a work-study job during the fall of 2023 when she came across the position that would change her life: student assistant manager for Northwestern Women’s Basketball. A dream job, one could say, for any undergraduate student and sports fan. North By Northwestern sat down with Aranda-Rivas to get the exclusive on what it’s like to work alongside the Wildcats.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

How did you come across this job opportunity?

I was looking for a job on the federal work-study page and it happened to be one of the most recent jobs I saw. I was applying to jobs like crazy and this was the first one that gave me an interview. They had a lot of positions open, so I was excited because I was like, ‘This is the one.’

What are your responsibilities as a student assistant manager?

We usually have to set up practice, so we bring out the basketballs and any equipment the players need. This includes cones for drills, pads and a “manager’s box” with extra supplies. During practice, you’re either on the floor, and when you’re on the floor you have a towel and a basketball in hand ready. If a ball goes out, you’re there to pass it in or if a player falls you’re there to clean it up. Other responsibilities include using a camera to record film and being on the clock to keep track of time or set up time for drills and points.

How are game days?

Game days are very stressful, but also very exciting! Before games, we have shoot around, where you’re there helping with the basketballs and making sure the players are shooting. Then, once you start the game, you’re just taking care of the players and being there for them. Obviously, cheering them on as well.

You’re right there in the action and you feel the momentum. I remember my first game there and it was very intense, like you hear the coaches, you see them and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is crazy!’

What is it like to interact with the players?

At first, I was really scared because I’m five-foot tall and they’re very tall! So, getting to know them at first was a little scary, but once you get to know them they’re really nice. They’re all very kind and appreciative. Even when they’re stressed they’ll always be grateful for you. It’s just a very nice work environment.

Do you have a favorite moment with the team?

During our trip to Philadelphia, when they faced off against Temple, we went to dinner at one of the player’s houses. It was her grandma’s house and it was really nice. We ate together, then they played games and they let us join in.

How are the free amenities?

Free amenities are so good! I think this job comes with a lot of perks and one of them is the free food. After every practice and every game, our managers make sure that we’re doing well. We also get a lot of gear to wear during practice and during games, so I am dripped out in Northwestern gear for a while!

You mention Northwestern gear. How does it feel to work in such a cool uniform?

Honestly, I didn’t expect to be working in this team. When I was looking at jobs I was looking at library or tutoring positions and was like, ‘Oh, maybe one of these.’ I never expected to end up wearing a polo and slacks while going to games! But it's very cool and stylish.

What skills do you think you’ve learned from being a student manager?

For me, a lot of it has been being more vocal. I think going into this job I was really introverted and scared on how that would play out in an environment that is very extroverted. Over time I think I’ve gained that skill and just being more present in speaking to the players, my co-workers and my managers. Another one is also organization. I am already really organized, but for this job, you really have to be paying attention to the details, especially, for example, when you’re going on trips.

What is your favorite part about Northwestern sports and being able to play a role in that?

I love sports. I love being at their events, and being a part of it just makes it even better. Normally, when you go to sporting events you don’t consider how much practice these people might be putting in or the intensity they might be facing every single day. So, being able to see it gives you a different appreciation for them and you learn that cheering them on is the best way to support them and let them know that you’re there for them.

Thumbnail photo by AJ Anderson/North by Northwestern