Martin McDermott is an equipment manager for Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS, although he doesn't play football he has an important role in getting the team fitted and prepared correctly so they can focus on the field. He relishes the work and the relationships he's made through the game:
Soccer for me was something I was playing when I wasn’t playing Gaelic. I played a bit of rugby and a bit of soccer, but Gaelic was what I played all the time. With my mates at my school and to be honest in Ireland GAA (Gaelic football) is king. I still enjoyed watching and having kick-abouts with soccer and I support Arsenal, so I’ve always followed it.
When I was growing up the carpentry and building trade was huge my dad was in that industry. When he would work in England, I’d be going to school there so I’d always be going back and forth, and being in England a lot meant I was around football more than in Ireland.
I was never destined to be a professional player; I love sports and was good at them but sometimes its just not meant to be. I would have loved to, but I don’t think I had the level of dedication that was needed to make it to the top.
When I finished school and was just working in the West of Ireland is when the recession hit so I just thought to travel and I decided to go to Canada I don’t know why, I wanted something new. I originally was working in just retail in Vancouver when I saw an ad working in stadium transition at BC place, whitecaps stadium. I thought I’d give it a go, and really it was just being in the right place in the right time how I got to work with football. I was doing a good job at the stadium job, and I think that’s just on how I was brought up; working hard, being proactive and doing every job right because there’s no point in doing a job half-way. That they offered me the job as equipment manager at various levels of the academy girls and boys, and I jumped at the chance.
Originally I was working with the youth teams and I thought being equipment manager would be washing kit or pumping balls but at the time I was driving around the lower mainland setting up pitches as well as the normal kit man stuff so at first it was a lot that I had to adapt to. I would pack the van and leave early in the morning and not get home until very late at night, so it was difficult with the almost full days of work but I got used to it. I also had to pick new players up from the airport and get them acclimatized to Vancouver something you’d never expect a kit man to do. I remember picking Alphonso Davies up from the airport and grabbing dinner for his first meal in Vancouver and showing him around. Just little stuff like that was new to me and the idea of an equipment manager.
Gradually I just kept doing what I do well and working hard and making were the players were well looked after and when the whitecaps USL team started I didn’t want it at first, I was content doing academy but then I took the job and looking back now it boosted my career and helped me grow into being an equipment manager, and my first step into professional sports.
It was great to work at a Pro level with the USL team because I learned about standards and the level my job needs to be in the locker room. It helped me grow as a professional in my aspect of knowing how to deal with situations and players because especially in my job I’m always on the move and I learned that you need to be calm all the time because if people see the kit-man freaking out it’ll throw everyone else off their rhythm for a match or training session.
People think its wash kit, pump balls, clean boots and stuff but it’s a lot more. Especially on a personal level. I learned that building relationships with players was a huge factor to doing my job. I’m almost the go-between when it comes to players and coaches, a confessional you could say because just as it is my job to know every players preference for kit and game preparation, I’m also able to get to know most of the players just by talking finding out there story and just help as a person to talk to. Which I love because I get to see guys grow. If a young player I’ve worked with makes it all the way to first team over the course of a few years, it’s nice knowing I was able to help with that journey.
After all it’s about being nice no matter what happens. Players, coaches even staff like me come and go but football is a great game that connects people so I never want to leave something on bad terms because were all trying to find our way through the game. We have a common goal from coaches to players to staff when we enter the locker room and I’m a firm believer that being a good supporter and nice person helps everyone because everything always comes back around.