If you are fortunate at the AEMA Convention in Phoenix next week, you’ll encounter Nii Sowa-Doku. Nii plans to take the AEMA Certification Exam and continue his journey as an Equipment Manager.
And, what a journey!
At Helmet Tracker we love to meet young (and sometimes not-so-young) Equipment Managers beginning their careers, then learn about their journey and ask about their dreams. We are grateful to offer a scholarship each year to one such Equipment Manager lighten the cost of taking the Athletic Equipment Managers Association Certification Exam.
Better get out your map to follow Nii’s path. It begins in Ghana where his parents were born and grew up. Ghana is on the south coast of Africa, between Togo and Cote d’Ivoire, not quite in the inside “elbow” of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean. They immigrated to the U.S.
“I grew up in the Kansas City area until I was 12-years-old,” Nii says. “Then I moved to the United Arab Emirates and got involved in soccer, basketball, track and field. I was the vice-president, then the president, of the Athletics Council at the International School.”
Ok, so the United Arab Emirates sits on the south shore of the Persian Gulf, near Dubai.
“I always loved and have been involved in sports. This has pushed me into this career path,” Nii says.
Kansas Basketball Equipment Manager
He returned to the states and enrolled at Kansas University, where he found Larry Hare, Assistant Athletic Director for Equipment. He asked for a job. Specifically, he wanted to work with the men’s soccer team.
Instead, he was initially sent to work at one of Basketball Coach Bill Self’s camps. “I worked some long nights. We worked with kids and prepared some student athletes who acted like kids!” Self and others must have been impressed. He was offered a job as a student manager with the basketball team. The KU Jayhawks basketball team with 15 Final Four appearances and three National Championships.
“I worked with the basketball team for two years and I learned a lot through the team there. I travelled on every trip and had responsibilities at practice and to make sure the chairs are out for time outs during the games.”
If you watch KU basketball on television, you may have seen Nii working just before or after a time-out.
In his final year at KU, Nii worked the equipment room for Olympic sports, softball, and tennis. He graduated with a degree in Sports Management, then looked for a job in an equipment room.
“I’ve always been interested in sports. Most people focus on the game itself, but I wanted to know how the athletes prepared, who prepared them, how the equipment was supplied, who made decisions about the equipment and the uniforms.”
Georgetown Hoya Equipment Manager
Georgetown University had a job with the women’s basketball team, volleyball, and women’s rowing. Nii jumped at the chance and was hired. That was nearly a year ago.
“At Georgetown we have two equipment rooms and there are three of us. We have 29 sports. I did help with football when I got here. The first home game of the season a student athlete came over and said he needed some air. I didn’t understand he was talking about his helmet. I didn’t know much about football, but now I can change out chin straps, facemasks, and do all sorts of maintenance on helmets.”
Sam Greil, Director of Equipment and Transportation at Georgetown Athletics, wrote Helmet Tracker to say Nii is one of the hardest workers he has ever worked with.
“He is always looking to learn and grow both as an individual and as an Equipment Manager,” wrote Sam, an AEMA Certified Equipment Manager himself. “Nii often goes beyond the call of duty to assist and work with teams outside his of those assigned to him by taking the opportunity to learn more about the Equipment needs of these teams. He is efficient, innovative and has a keen eye for detail, which are skills required to succeed in his position.”
As for Nii, he enjoys the work and enjoys the learning.
“I enjoy all the work that goes on behind the scenes. I have pride in that. I’m not a flashy person who needs to be known out front. I enjoy seeing the athletes enjoy that spotlight.”
He told us his goals include working overseas.
“My main goal is to be an Equipment Manager for a professional soccer team.”
Nii is a Liverpool fan and follows the Reds in the Premier and Champions League.
“I would prefer to work in European soccer first. I speak French and Spanish. Then eventually I could come back to the US.”
“Living in so many varied places in the world has given me a different perspective on life and the ability to interact with people from different walks of life,” he said. “I know how to deal with coaches, players, and especially those student athletes from other countries.”
For now, though, he travels this weekend to Phoenix to attend the AEMA Convention and take the certification exam.
“I think it is very important to be certified. Some people don’t take our area of work seriously. For me, I think we need to show people that there is a lot going on in our world that people don’t know about. Equipment Managers at all levels need to learn about the comprehensive world of equipment. I learned so much from Larry (Hare, at KU). He holds a high standard for his student workers and many great Equipment Managers come from his equipment family tree.”
AEMA Exam Scholarship
Nii is a candidate for Helmet Tracker’s AEMA Certification Exam Scholarship.
Helmet Tracker reimburses one Equipment Manager for the cost of the exam and the study book–if they pass. If the selected equipment manager pays for the exam and book, they get reimbursed directly. If the selected scholarship winner is sponsored by a college or employer, will reimburse the institution.
A year ago, University of Nevada’s Michael Dryer won the scholarship. However, Damien Garnett, Assistant Athletic Director of Equipment at Nevada, asked Helmet Tracker to pass it on as the Wolfpack had paid for Michael’s exam. We did, and Eddie Hardin, now the Assistant to the Director of Equipment Operations at Tennessee State University, received the reimbursement. “I am grateful,” Eddie told us at the time. “It means a lot going from an intern to my first real job—having bills to pay!”
As for Nii, he continues to look for challenges.
“I think I am a hard work and I am willing to learn. I will take any projects.”
When he is not in the equipment room, Nii likes to explore by bike (“I ride to work”) and attends as many Nationals, Capitals, and Wizards games as possible.