Behind the scenes heroes at Nevada

Photo by Kelsey Middleton. Kristi Wirtz puts together the men’s basketball teams jerseys for game day.

Everyone knows about the Wolf Pack’s teams, from football to basketball, baseball, soccer and more. Names like Carson Strong, Warren Washington and Emily Rich are well known names in the world of Nevada Athletics. However, there are people behind the scenes these teams could not operate without.

For Nevada basketball, Kristi Wirtz and Kristen Smith are two staffers who make huge impacts regarding the players and the organization of the program.

Kristi Wirtz is the assistant athletic director of equipment for Nevada Athletics and joined the team in January, but has worked with the team since August 2016. Wirtz’s first interest in equipment was at the University of Idaho, where she was a student manager. From there, she found equipment management to be something she was passionate about.

“Over time I realized I really enjoyed the profession and wanted to pursue it full time after I graduated,” Wirtz said. “I really enjoy working with the student athletes everyday and seeing them succeed. Seeing freshmen come in and develop both as athletes and as people over four plus years is amazing to watch.”

Wirtz attends the home games for basketball for both the men and the women, and stops by practices to see if anything is needed from her. Her main concern as the AAD of equipment is apparel and footwear, along with some other practice equipment.

All of the apparel for the team is brande with Adidas due to their contract with the company. Each player and coach is given certain clothes for the season.

“Each team gets three to four court shoes, two to three workout or travel shoes, a pair of slides, four to five travel suits and several workout shirts and shorts, along with underlayers such as compression shirts, compression shorts, sports bras for the women, etc.,” Wirtz said. “Then the coaches also get polos and quarter zip tops for recruiting and wearing during games.”

Wirtz ends up ordering 35–45 of each item, except for the shoes which is usually an exact amount. Extra apparel is given to donors, former players and anyone who helps the team during the season. Part of the job also includes deciding what designs are put on clothing and designing new uniforms.

“In its simplest form, managing equipment starts with ordering all of the products, getting it embellished, preparing all the items for each individual, issuing it out, handling uniforms for game days/travel trips and then doing laundry,” Wirtz said.

Preparing items for the team is a process. Laundry is done in the morning from clothes worn at the games or night practices the day before. Clean clothes are laid out in the morning for practices or packed in travel bags for away games. Home games have their own separate routine.

“For home games, I prep all the uniforms with their game loops and shooting shirts in the morning, then set up the locker room during shoot around,” Wirtz said. “Between shoot around and game time I am available if someone needs something.”

If clothes are ruined, get lost or need to be replaced in any way then Wirtz is the person who puts in the order and makes sure the items are sent to get designs screen printed or embroidered. She is in contact with coaches and the directors of operations for both men’s and women’s basketball for more of the logistical side of things. The players also have contact with Wirtz through the messaging app Teamworks, and they stop by her office to say hello.

Another large part of Wirtz’s job includes other assigned duties. She has helped with things equipment related and non-equipment related. Wirtz can be seen as the ball person at some games, and she has helped set up pre-game meals and organize the storage of equipment when traveling. No matter what Wirtz is assigned to do, she is passionate about her job and what she provides to the teams.

“Equipment can be a very thankless job, but at the end of the day, I absolutely love what I do,” Wirtz said. “Our basketball teams are so much fun to work with, and we have great student athletes, coaches and staff here at Nevada.”

Similar to Wirtz, Kristen Smith, the athletic trainer for the Nevada women’s basketball and men’s tennis teams, contributes greatly to Nevada.

She started at Nevada this August after getting her Bachelor of Science in athletic training at Boise State University. Smith grew up in Reno and watched Nevada Athletics growing up.

After graduating she wanted to give back to the team she cheered for.

Her day-to-day activity involves going to every practice and game for the teams, and she ends up seeing the players six to seven times a week. The main role of the athletic trainer is to take care of anything medical-related, such as injuries and illnesses. Smith deals with a lot of lower body injuries.

“I would say a lot of ankle stuff, whether it’s a sprain or something like that,” Smith said. “Across all sports you’re gonna see low back stuff … its mostly lower body stuff, ankles, knees, backs.”

Sports can come with serious injuries, and Smith is always prepared to deal with things such as broken jaws, torn ACLs and collapsed lungs.

Aside from her medical duties, Smith cares about the importance of females in athletics.

“Working with a women’s sport is, for me, being a female, like it’s important to me and something I value because like I want to be able to empower my female student athletes,” Smith said.

Women’s sports have been poorly represented, and Smith thinks people have finally realized this in the past year and a half.

“…whether it’s air time, or just inequities in how they’re treated,” Smith said. “So for me, though, I always want to make sure my female athletes know that they are important and what they do matters. And the work and the effort that they put in should be praised and should be valued.”

Smith recognizes Nevada and the Mountain West Conference are both trying to empower the female sports also.

Smith wants to continue to be with Nevada for more years to come because she likes the level and the Division I setting. Smith values the relationships she has with the athletes and how much fun her job is.

Without Wirtz and Smith, the basketball department would struggle. Smith has the power to save a player’s career by helping them get the right treatment for a fast and smooth recovery. Wirtz makes sure the players and coaches are looking their best with the right apparel.

Their work may not be known or seen by the public, but is still important. They are the behind the scenes heroes.

Kelsey Middleton can be reached at kelseymiddleton@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @kelsmiddleunr

Originally published at http://nevadasagebrush.com.

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Journalism Major, co'23

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Kelsey Middleton

Kelsey Middleton

Journalism Major, co'23

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