FAIRFIELD — Yes, they are a part of the team.
A crucial part at that.
While the title of water girl doesn’t sound all that glamorous, the Vanden High School football team couldn’t function without Lea Williams and Altia Picott.
“They just do a fantastic job for us,” said Vikings head coach LeVon Haynes. “They’re like assistant coaches. They take care of the players’ needs. They’re like little administrative assistants.”
Williams, 15 and a sophomore, and Picott, 16 and a senior, provide a whole lot more than just ice-cold water.
“Anything we need to get done, they help us out a lot,” Haynes said. “They’re behind the scenes and they don’t get all the recognition all the time.”
Williams and Picott handle everything from paperwork to wrapping ankles and hands to equipment and inventory.
“They just do it effortlessly,” Haynes said. “They get it done.”
Perhaps most importantly, they fit right in with the team.
“They’re not intimidated by the boys,” Haynes said. “They bring them in as their little sisters.”
Despite being the younger one, Williams is the more experienced water girl.
“They’ve given me the title head water girl in charge,” she said.
Her duties include supervising the two junior varsity water girls as well as handling business for the varsity team, of which her older brother, Dion, is a member.
“We do everything they need,” Williams said. “Play cards, we put them together and laminate (them). Everything that the players have, we get it together and get it organized so it’ll have a smooth transition. They can receive and just go.”
After games and practices, she and Picott will tend to injuries, get ice and, of course, prepare the water.
“The title water girl has other aspects to the job,” Williams said. “We do a lot.”
Vanden students finish school at 2:13 p.m., but that’s when the water girls’ day really gets started. With junior varsity practice at 3:30 p.m., Williams said she’s often at school until nearly 9 p.m., and not just during the season.
“Even in the summertime, we were there every single day,” she said. “Giving them water and taping. We are a team and I consider myself a part of it.”
Picott is still new to this whole thing, but she’s already enjoying it.
“I just started last week,” she said. “I’m really happy that I have this chance to just do it for a year.”
Getting to know the team and the individual players has been the best part so far, she said.
“They’re really nice to me so far even though they’re just starting to know me,” Picott said. ‘We kind of blend in.”
She said the long days are a challenge, but with a little time management, she gets everything done.
“I get to school at 7 a.m. and some days I don’t leave till 8:30 (p.m.),” she said. “I love to do it. I am there for them.”
Not even homework gets in the way.
“I do my homework when I have time,” she said. “I do it in the office before practice starts.”
Despite only having the one year to serve as a water girl, Picott said it’s something she’s wanted to do.
“I wanted to be a water girl since I’d been at Vanden,” she said. “I had been in band two years previous and my junior year never could find someone to contact.”
This year it finally worked out. Picott said she’s been in school with Dion Williams since elementary school, and she heard the team needed help.
She said it can be a challenge to do her job, though, particularly when it comes to taking care of them even when they don’t want to be taken care of.
“Because they are boys and they can be stubborn,” she said.
Being in the locker room with the team was a bit awkward at first, but for both girls, it’s evolved into a feeling of family.
“It makes it so it’s really nice and it’s a good environment for us to be in,” Picott said.
‘We’re all like a family,” she said. “It really is like a family. They protect me. They have that protective mindset. I think that really sums it up, the definition of a football family.”
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.