Hammonds fixture in ETSU athletic department

Photo by Rick Harris
Roger Hammonds

By Wes Holtsclaw

   There are many different roles that make up a collegiate athletic department.
   Everyone knows about the players, coaches and directors, but not many people see the things that go on behind the scenes to make a program work.
   But without the equipment, there is no game or practice.
   Elizabethton resident Roger Hammonds has played a crucial role in the management of the athletic equipment at East Tennessee State University.
   As the Assistant Equipment Director, Hammonds works closely with several of the school's athletic squads including the Southern Conference champion men's basketball squad, with whom he helps direct the pre-game warm-up's.
   "Just being able to work with the student athletes is a lot of fun," said Hammonds during a break in one of last week's men's basketball practices. "It's great to come to work every day and see the young people. I work with the soccer team, volleyball team, men's basketball team and the softball team. It keeps me busy year round."
   "I wanted to be able to work with the Southern Conference champions," he said. "It didn't happen when I got here, but it's eventually happened and I've had a great time behing here."
   Hammond's supervisor and ETSU's Equipment Director Allen Haney had nothing but praise for his worker.
   "Roger works harder than anybody in this athletic department," said Haney. "He deserves more attention and he should be full time. I would be lost without him."
   If anything is needed in the athletic department, Haney said Hammonds has always been there.
   "He just helps me with everything," he said. "He loves basketball, the girl's soccer team and all the squads he works for. He does everything and often works 68 hours a week."
   He is very friendly and courtious on and off the court, but loves working with young people.
   His attitude and commitment towards his workload serves as a model for anyone who watches him on a regular basis. Especially his work with the men's basketball squad.
   Former East Tennessee State coach Ed DeChellis noticed Hammonds' passion for basketball and gave him the opportunity to help direct the team's warm-ups.
   He goes through a certain routine before and after every game.
   "He lives and dies for basketball," Haney said. "You see the way he acts pre and post game. He gives it his all. He's got a routine he goes through. He marches up and down the sidelines. He stands in the same place. He's an amazing guy."
   "I always take the balls out two hours before the game, then I take the towells and set up the VCR," said Hammonds, who is in his 12th season of work with the basketball team. "I set up our bench and work with the team's warm-ups. I like to do a lot of pacing in my drills."
   "It's something I've done since Coach DeChellis turned over the lead to do the warmups, and Coach (Murry) Bartow has been grateful enough to let me do it again this year," he continued. "It's a lot of fun and I just like to pace. A lot of people give me a hard time about it, but I've got in the groove with it. I've got a little superstitious (doing it), whatever works to help us keep winning."
   The son of Larry and Linda Hammonds lists his parents, grandparents and former Elizabethton High basketball coach Lyn Dugger, who helped him get on at ETSU, as influences on his life, but most importantly lists Jesus Christ.
   Hammonds stays busy traveling and working with the athletic squads at the school, but in his free time he is actively involved with the Valley Forge Christian Church.
   He is very proud of the work he does with the Church's youth groups and Sunday School classes.
   "I'm very active there as well," he said. "I work with the youth groups and teach Sunday school for the 4th and 5th graders. I love working with young people and everybody there."
   During the summer months, Hammonds works within the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department grounds crews for its athletic fields.
   He has also been known to sport a mascot outfit for the Elizabethton Twins.
   "I line the tee-ball and softball fields, work in groundskeeping for the Elizabethton Twins and do a little mascot work as well, which is interesting," he said.
   Although Hammonds carries a heavy work load, the job does have its perks he says.
   "Winning the conference titles have been awesome and just being able to travel," he said. "I've been to all kinds of places: Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Kansas, Iowa and Fresno (California). It's been interesting to get to go to neat places all over this country."
   "I love to travel and it's fun. It's places that you don't get to go to if you're not with athletics or something like that."
   Of all the teams Hammonds has worked with, the current ETSU men's team has been one of the best. He has worked dilligently for the squad and will continue to work by their side until their NCAA Tournament season is complete.
   "These players are great," he said. "These are some of the best guys I've worked with since I've been here. They are super nice guys and respectable. I wouldn't trade them for anything."