Team managers know their job is done right when all things run smoothly, and they go unnoticed.
Even working from behind the scenes, UNC seniors Mariah Vargas and Kiersten Steinbacher deserve a little bit of the spotlight. The strides they've made as female managers on male-based teams have made a distinguishable impact on the UNC baseball and basketball programs.
“Even if it’s a male-dominated sport, that shouldn’t deter women away from getting involved,” Vargas said. “The environment that I’ve been in and the men that I’ve had the opportunity to work with have been so supportive, and even though you might have challenges as a woman, it’s a great opportunity.”
As UNC baseball’s first female manager, Vargas’ love for baseball and past experience in management made her a perfect fit for the job.
On her first day of a history class as a first-year, Vargas happened to sit next to a group of men decked out in North Carolina baseball gear. After talking with the team in class, Vargas was put into contact with her current boss, head equipment manager Tyler Puryear, who she emailed to express interest in a volunteer position with the team. After sending in her cover letter and resume and going through the interview process, she landed the position.
"As long as you’re qualified, willing to make the time commitment and want to be here, then we want you here," Puryear said regarding the hiring process.
Steinbacher began her management journey working for the junior varsity men's basketball team. She rose up the ranks to head manager of the varsity team her junior year, a role has kept through her senior year. Though it’s unprecedented for a woman to hold this position for two years in a row, Steinbacher didn’t feel that her gender affected coach Roy Williams’ choice.
Her fellow manager, Cole Chapman, said UNC is one of the few programs that consistently hire women to be managers for their basketball teams.
“I know coach Williams and coach (Dean) Smith have been very progressive in terms of females in the workplace, which is something that is very ingrained in the culture of Carolina basketball,” Chapman said.