Keeper of the Kit
He’s the man in charge of keeping the players kitted out in all the latest styles.
Kit manager Dougie Mills - or Shizz, as he’s known around Scotstoun – is the epitome of a club stalwart. For the last 17 seasons, he’s been the man managing all the kit and equipment that is needed to keep a professional rugby club of more than 50 players on the field.
As the club’s longest-serving member of staff, he has – in his own words - perfected the art of “dodging the snipers.” Having first come to Warriors in 2003, Shizz has been involved in and witnessed a lot of changes at the club.
“I first came in back in the 2003/04 season, and then a year later Gavin Scott left to join the Scotland squad and I was asked to take on that role – a facilitator, that was what it was called. I then moved into my current role the next season, and the rest is history as they say,” said Mills
“When I first started, our S&C work was done up in Grangemouth and our rugby training was done at Dalziel Park. By far and away the biggest change during my time here is the fact that we’ve got a stadium that we can call our own now.
“Previously we’d be travelling around the place, but the facility we’ve got here at Scotstoun is top-class – the S&C facilities are tremendous, the pitch is fantastic, and we’ve got decent changing rooms to boot.”
A kit manager’s job doesn’t just start on game day, and it doesn’t just involve organising the playing strips. Shizz works tirelessly throughout the week, preparing not only the game day kit but also ensuring the players and coaches have access to training equipment and kit to ensure training runs smoothly.
“Generally Monday is just training, so the biggest part of my week doesn’t really start until I get a look at the team for the weekend’s game,” said Mills.
“That’s typically on the Wednesday if it’s a Friday night match, but it varies really.
“We’re off on the Tuesday, so if I know the team by then I’ll start getting strips ready for the players with their respective sizes. I’ll sort all of their kit out, so that’s playing gear, warm-up tops, waterproofs and so on.
“At the same time, I’ll be sorting out training gear and equipment, making sure that the coaches have what they need to facilitate training and making sure players have what they need – they’re always forgetting stuff, it’s like running a creche!”
Away trips for Mills start a few days earlier than the players and coaching staff. He’s the man that blazes the trail, travelling ahead of the team to ensure everything is in order prior to squad’s arrival.
“Short-haul, I make sure everything’s loaded in the van at least a couple of days beforehand, and if it’s in Dublin or Galway or so on I’ll head over a couple of days before the players and make sure everything’s in order,” he explained.
“I’ll aim to have everything ready for the players when they arrive.
“For the long-haul flights, the priority is making sure the kits get there – as long as we’ve got that, we can make sure the game starts. We can beg, borrow or steal anything else! I’ll pack their full strip in what we call their gym sacks – their shirt, warm-up top, shorts, socks and waterproofs will all go in that, then they’ll put their boots and gumshields in there as well and take that on as hand luggage.”
It’s not always plain sailing for Mills and the team, as they transport everything that’s needed to stadiums thousands of miles away across land and sea. There have been some big hiccups along the way and there is little in the way of wiggle room.
“The reason we pack kit into the players hand luggage is because we played Toulouse one year just before Christmas and were flying via London,” tells Mills.
“We got down there and the snow hit, so we were sat on the runway for about three hours. We were constantly checking ‘is the kit on, is the kit on’ and being told that it was, and lo and behold when we landed in Toulouse everything was still in London.
“We landed on the Wednesday, and we didn’t get our kit until the following Tuesday. We had to delay the game, lost it once we did play it and then flew home the following day – which happened to be Christmas Eve.
“The lesson was learnt after that!”
Mills is just one of a legion of staff playing their part in the smooth running of the club behind the scenes, with everyone playing their part to perfection. So what message would Shizz pass on to those looking to follow in his footsteps?
“It’s just the same as getting involved with the other side of it,” he said.
“It’s a case of getting involved and seeing how the operation works, making yourself useful and taking the opportunity as and when it comes up.”