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Sock it to me

How would you like doing otherpeople’s laundry—mountains of it—day in, day out, five orsometimes seven days a week? That’s what Sherry Ankeny does. “I’m a glorified mom,” she admits. But you won’t hear her grousing about it. In fact, you’ll rarely catch her without a smile on her face.

As equipment manager for Skidmore’s seventeen Thoroughbred teams, Ankeny spends a lot of time in the Sports and Recreation Center’s equipment room, not only tendingto
the commercial-size washers and dryers but also stuffing rows and rows of floor-to-ceiling cubbies with everything from shin guards and terry towels to socks and gym bags. Her days begin at 8:30 or 9 and end when the last games are over—between 6 and 9 p.m. for fall and spring sports, and quite a bit later for winter teams, whose games start between 6 and 8.

It’s enough to make anyone feel caught in the spin cycle. But women’s basketball coach Darren Bennett says the multitasking Ankeny is “truly an amazing, well-scheduled person. I’ve worked
at some great Division I institutions where there are three or four full-time equipment managers for the athletic department.

Sherry does it all, with fewer resources—budget, workers, equipment, workspace… She flat-out
gets it done.” On top of that, she’s a fan. At many schools “the equipment manager is just a person behind a window who hands over uniforms,” says T’bred volleyball coach Hilda Arrechea. “Not Sherry. She attends matches, cheers, and gets involved.” Having pitched for a D-II softball team herself maybe gives Ankeny an inside edge, suggests basketball player Krystal Coke ’07. “She’s
very understanding of the athletes’ needs.”

And besides seeing the T’breds in competition, Ankeny gets to know them personally. Chloe
Carden ’09, who plays softball and basketball, doesn’t envy the “sweaty socks” part of Ankeny’s
job, but she appreciates her “concern with my well-being. She checks up on how my classes are going, and how sports are going, and always gives excellent advice if I’m having a problem with either one.”

Before she landed in the equipment room, Ankeny was in the business world. She’d been looking for something “new and different” when the Skidmore ad caught her eye. “It sounded really cool,” she says. “I’d worked in management and sales—and wasn’t fond of the sales end of it.” For eight years now, Ankeny has been sales-free. Instead, she orders uniforms and equipment, stocks the teams’ locker rooms with their daily practice gear and issues uniforms on game days, tracks inventory for the next year’s teams—and handles all that laundry.

After a match, players “leave their dirties in a bin in the locker room,” and she collects it all: home and away jerseys, shorts, socks, travel suits, warm-up shirts, and travel bags. “We don’t issue shoes or undergarments,” Ankeny says. Still, there is the quease factor. “The men’s teams seem to sweat a lot more than the women’s teams,” Ankeny notices. “When you reach into a bin of sweaty clothes, the stench can make you gag. You learn to hold your breath.”

And she’s a stain-fighter to be reckoned with. Baseball, softball, and soccer, with all their skidding, sliding, and diving, make for smudges that often require special treatment. “Baseball is by far the worst,” Ankeny says, while allowing that “soccer just got better, at least at home events, thanks to the new artificial turf.” She has some tricks for getting out the toughest dirt and grass smears—but she’s not about to share her proprietary formulas. “It really makes me look good when they come clean,” she says. She’ll even take an item home now and then, to make repairs on her sewing machine.

“For the most part it’s a thankless job,” says Ankeny. “But you know what makes it worth it? The kids. When someone comments about how organized I am—or says, ‘Sherry, you’re the best’—it makes all those smelly clothes worth it. I love helping people and making things easier for them.”—MTS