More than a manager: The head student assistant that drives GVSU
Basketball players on Grand Valley State’s campus are easy to spot, as most are taller than the average student and are always repping the GV logo on their backpacks and on their clothing. It’s easy to see their impact on the team, as it can be quantified through statistics.
But as is the case with any college basketball team, there are a lot of jobs that contribute to the success of the team, from making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and filming games to playing scout team in practice and ridding the floor of sweat with a few vigorous wipes.
Executing those jobs to a tee, as well as building a bond with the GVSU players and coaches, is what head student manager Zak Spryszak is all about. In his four years working with the men’s basketball team, Spryszak has learned a lot of valuable lessons that he can apply to his future coaching career.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how players think and how coaches think because I work with the team every day.” Spryszak said. “Some of the players are some of my best friends and it’s been a really cool experience to learn the X’s and O’s and how to talk to the players.”
In spring of his senior season of high school, Spryszak knew that he wanted to coach basketball for the rest of his life. When the varsity coach at Troy Athens High School referred Spryszak to an assistant role at GVSU, he knew that was the most efficient way to get his foot in the door in the field while having fun in the process.
When asked about his impact to this program, head coach Ric Wesley, a former student assistant himself, couldn’t stop praising Spryszak, commending his work ethic and recommending him as a head coach one day.
“Zak works harder than a lot of the players on this team,” Wesley said. “He’s come a long way in his time here, he is always working hard, and there’s no doubt he can be an excellent head coach one day. This team is really going to miss him when he’s gone”
Through all the hard work, Spryszak has remained humble throughout his college career, saying how his fellow assistants have been a huge help through the years and helped him grow into the man he is today.
The relationship that Wesley has with Spryszak and the rest of his student assistants is clearly strong, and even though he refuses to call them managers, Spryszak embraces his not-so-glamorous role since it comes with the job.
“When I tell people what I am, I say student manager, because a lot of people don’t know what a student assistant is,” Spryszak said. “I embrace being a manager. You’ll see I’ll go wipe up sweat on the ground and people think it’s funny, but it’s part of the process and part of the fun of being one.”
In his four years of assisting the GVSU basketball team, Spryszak has bonded with a bounty of players over the years, feeling as if he’s grown along with them. Zach West, a senior who has worked with Spryzak his whole college career, can't help but appreciate how much the student assistant pushes the team.
“He’s always telling me to get more shots up and he’ll rebound for me, because he wants what’s best for us,” West said. “Zak might be the hardest working guy on our team, and being that I live across the street from him now, I enjoy seeing him often as we both have become friends over the years.”
Working hard and giving 100 percent effort is key to any basketball job, but it is also a commandment to Spryszak. He believes that drive and being able to work harder than anyone else will help him as he looks for a graduate assistant coaching position post-graduation.
“You have to outwork everyone in this job, there isn’t going to be a day where someone isn’t working or recruiting. There are coaches working 17-18 hours a day, there’s a reason why there’s such a high burnout,” Spryszak said. “You see guys like Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney in college football, there’s a reason why they’re that great, because they’re working every hour. It’s part of the process, and I’ve put in those hours with managing this team and the AAU team I coach.”
As GVSU heads to the home stretch of their season, a postseason run is an obvious goal for the program, but no matter what happens in the postseason, it’s clear that the team will miss the smiling face whose incredible work ethic and overall tenacity helps to push this team to the best of their ability by doing all the little things perfectly.”
“My dream job would be to be a Division I college basketball one day,” Spryszak said. “I don’t have a preference as to where, but whoever takes a chance on me, I’m sure they won’t regret it.”