Four hours before games start, two hours, even, before players arrive, Mississippi State’s training staff, including 10 students, is in Davis Wade Stadium preparing for the Bulldogs to arrive.
The same happens every day at practice, but there is certainly a more pronounced sense of urgency on those game days.
I’ve been around the group plenty and they have been kind enough to let me observe and even take part in some of what they do.
Their duties are varied and many, but goodness, they spend a lot of time around Gatorade.
It’s impressive how much of the hydrating drink MSU’s players consume.
Upon arrival, Bulldogs find a can of Gatorade in their lockers. They get an additional bottle before the game, they get cups of Gatorade after dynamic warm-ups in pre-game, another bottle and can at halftime, a final bottle after the game is over and cups and squeeze bottles full of Gatorade all throughout the four quarters of play on the field.
Yeah, it’s a lot of Gatorade.
Gallons and gallons of lemon-lime aside, the most interesting thing I discovered is a mandate from Gatorade. We’re all at least vaguely familiar with the setup the trainers have: a table of coolers, bottles and cups on the sideline by the bench, ready to hydrate players as soon as needed.
Turns out, the way those coolers, cups and bottles are arranged is according to rules set forth by Gatorade. The training staff is actually given a diagram called “Gatorade NCAA Sideline Inventory and Setup” with labels of where to place each item, how many to have, labels facing forward and pictures of what it should look like.
Another fun Gatorade note is something called Gatorlite. Basically, it’s salted Gatorade. MSU’s staff has packets they mix in with regular Gatorade whose purpose is to aid hydration and increase water/electrolyte retention as players go through exhausting practices and games.
It’s not exactly a pleasant taste, but you get used to it.
The final Gatorade duty for the staff is keeping the game officials hydrated. After every TV timeout and touchdown, a pair of trainers run onto the field with two squeeze bottles in their hands, one Gatorade and one water. They go from ref-to-ref to offer a drink of their choice. Sometimes they say no, sometimes they say yes. Often, they’ll talk along the way, making jokes or offering an occasional observation.
They actually let me try it out Saturday against Troy, which you can see video of above.
Of course, Gatorade isn’t the only responsibility of the training staff. Their most important duty is the health and medical upkeep of the team.
If a player bleeds, it’s up to the trainers to clean it, cover it and fix it. Band-aids, peroxide, the works. And all blood has to be cleaned off jerseys.
If a player is hurt, they must be attended to and a means of help must be identified. Different methods and treatments are used based on the location (head, leg, chest, etc.) and severity of the injury or ailment. It might just be a headache or tight calf. It could also be a gashed forearm.
But starting hours before a game and ending even more hours after, MSU’s training staff is always moving, always doing something, taking care of someone and providing services to those in the spotlight while staying in the background themselves.