Today’s interview is with Aaron Vega who is the Kitman for Saint Louis Football Club who play their football in the United Soccer League (USL).
Not only is Aaron a kitman but he is an avid football shirt collector with an amazing collection as you will see in this article.
1. Who are you Kitman for and how long have you been in the position?
“I am the Kit Man for Saint Louis Football Club of the United Soccer League (USL) in the United States. This upcoming season will be my 4th with the club and 2nd as the official Kit Man.”
2. How did you get your current role?
“I began as an unpaid intern in 2016. And then interned again during the 2017 season. After proving my worth they then created the Kit Man position for me and hired me on full-time prior to the 2018 season.”
3. Have you had any previous experience? (If so who for)
“This is my first position at a football club of any kind. So I don’t have any previous experience.”
4. Is it a role you’ve always wanted to do?
“It had never really occurred to me until the completion of my internship in 2016. I got my bachelors degree in Psychology back in 2010. And I followed that up with getting my masters degree in Journalism in 2013. It did hit me that I wanted to do something in sports but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I thought I might enjoy being a sports reporter and that’s why I sought my degree in journalism. But after completing the coursework and getting experience in the field it just wasn’t something I enjoyed. So I started to think of other professions. So I moved back home and helped my parents get their sporting goods business up and running. And it was during my time there that I began to think it would be interesting to work for a football club on the operations side of the sport. So I emailed and called a bunch clubs seeking an internship opportunity. Saint Louis was really the only club that contacted me and so I jumped at the opportunity. They were only in their second year of existence and so I thought it was an ideal spot to land. It proved to be the right call as I am now employed and enjoying every minute of it.”
5. What are your responsibilities as a Kitman?
“As the Kit Man here my responsibilities are many. I am in charge of ensuring all of players’ gear is laid out for training sessions and on match days. I, of course, am also in charge of making sure that gear is washed and cleaned daily. I also work with the coaching staff to prepare for each training session. It is my duty to get any and all equipment they may need for that day. I am also responsible for ordering and inventorying team gear. With that also comes the responsibility of maintaining an organized equipment room. I also travel with the team to every away match and act as the point of contact on the trips. Traveling with the team is definitely one of my favorite parts of the job. I get to see and explore cities I otherwise probably wouldn’t go to on my own.”
6. Do you have a beer/wine with the opposition Kitman after the game (like managers)?
“I am not a big drinker so I’ve never had a drink with an opposing Kit Man. But I do meet up with them before/after the game and simply talk. We often just discuss life and similar experiences we’ve shared. I will admit some are more enjoyable than others.”
7. Have you had any certain players have special kit requirements?
“I’ve been lucky enough to not have any high maintenance players so far. The most common thing I deal with is players liking socks a certain way. Some prefer cut while others prefer medium sized socks. I have had dealt with a few who have special dietary requests or requests on match days. One player always asked that I have a small ball in the locker room so he could juggle and play a little two touch before every game. It was something that helped him relax I think. But been fortunate so far.”
8. Do you get any input on the clubs kit designs?
“So this upcoming season is the first time I have had input on the designing of the team’s kits. It was something that I started to get interested in as I gained experience. So after talking my way into having a say, the club’s General Manager finally gave in and allowed to me design the home/away kits for next season. I think I also wanted to do have a say because I was not happy with the club’s kits in the past. I am a fan of being unique and thought the club’s kits should be that. I think I definitely accomplished that with what I designed and am very excited to see them in person.”
9. Do you own any football shirts, if so how many and what’s the most treasured shirt you own?
“I do collect kits and my collection is currently at 110. My eventual goal is to own at least 365 so that I can wear one every day of the year. And I don’t know that I have a most treasured one but do have a few favorites. I have two different Lyon third kits. Their 2013 third kit glows in the dark while their 2012 third kit has a 3-D design on it and came with 3-D glasses. I am also fond of Kappa kits. Roma’s 2011 third kit, Italy’s 2002 Home Kit and Torino’s 2015 Third Kit are my favorite. You can check them all out on my Instagram page: @TheKitKaiser.”
10. Do you get to keep shirts from your club or opponents?
“I get to do both. It’s one of the perks of being a kit man. I always keep one of each of our kits every season. I also reach out to the opposing kit man before a match and arrange to swap kits after the game. There’s only been one club whose kit I didn’t get and I am still bummed about that. But if I continue at the rate I am at now I will reach that 365 goal rather quickly.”
11. What in your opinion is the best football kit of all time?
“I think Mexico’s home and away kits during the 1998 World Cup are my all time favorite. Being Mexican I might be being a little biased but I think they’re just phenomenal. The design is different and fits the country perfectly. That would be my choice.”
12. How was your playing career, who did you play for, what position etc.
“My playing career didn’t go past high school. I had offers to play collegiately but didn’t take any. Still regret that decision to this day because it would’ve been cool to say I played in college but no point dwelling on that now. But I was a striker when I did play. Short, quick and clinical. A real Jamie Vardy type. Only not as good or else I’d still be playing lol.”
13. Have you made any errors like, forgot the kit or bought the wrong kit?
“I’ve been lucky enough to have never packed the wrong kit but do have a good story about why you always bring both goalkeeper kits. It was the 2017 season and we were away to Orlando City B. It was my first time flying with the team. I had only traveled on bus trips with the team to that point. The league usually sends out a form that shows the officials what kits both teams will be wearing. We had our volt goalkeeper kit listed but had spoken with the league and Orlando and they both said our black kit was fine to use instead. So while helping the Operations Manager pack I asked if we should pack both goalkeeper kits just in case. She said, “No. We should be fine.” So match day arrives and we’re meeting with the officials and they notice that our keeper is in his black kit and not the volt that was listed on the form. They apparently weren’t told of the change and were not pleased at all. They said we had to change because the black kit and Orlando’s purple kit were too similar. They weren’t. So scrambling the only alternative shirt I had was our green home kit. It was a large and just had the number 0 on it. Our keeper that day was making his debut for us and was not at all happy. So he went and spoke with the refs and after a bit of convincing they finally allowed him to wear the black kit. Ever since then I have always packed both goalkeeper kits just in case. It was a very good learning experience.”
14. What’s been your proudest moment as a Kitman?
“I don’t know that I have a proudest moment yet. I think working my way from intern to a full time employee is something I’m proud of. And any match day that a player doesn’t have to come up and ask me for something I may have forgotten to put out is always a good thing. We did make the playoffs this past season for the first time in the club’s history and to have been a part of that is something I’m also proud of.”
15. What characteristics do you need to be a Kitman?
“I think it actually takes quite a bit to be a good kit man. With all the gear you’re put in charge of you need to be organized. It makes things so much easier when you know where everything is. It’s important that you also have an eye for detail. When setting the locker room you want to make sure that the only thing the players have to worry about is the game they’re about to play. Making sure the locker room is setup in a way that is pleasing visually goes a long way I think. You need to also have thick skin. As a kit man you’re often the last to get thanked but the first to get blamed if something isn’t right. Need to understand that anytime a coach or player yells at you during training it’s almost never personal. I think that’s very important. And you also need to have a good sense of boundaries. As a kit man you’re kind of stuck on your own. You’re a member of the staff but also expected to be a confidant among the players. Someone they can vent to and just be there when they need to talk. And while it’s perfectly fine to develop friendships you also have to be aware that it is a professional relationship first.”
16. What’s the funniest kit related story you can tell us that has happened to you or you have witnessed?
“I have couple from this past season that come to mind. The first involved a player, who is fair to say, not the brightest. So we provide our guys with two kits every game. One to wear out and a spare for them to change into at half if they decide to. So we’re getting ready to go out for the second half and he’s asking me “Where’s my second kit?” Confident I had laid it out I start looking in his locker and don’t see anything. I start to scramble and am not finding it anywhere. He walks out and I’m still looking when I see that his sweat soaked kit from the first half is in the hamper meaning he was already wearing his second, dry kit.
The second one involved a player wearing the wrong shorts. So the guys have their game shorts but also have a pair of non-numbered warm up shorts. Well one player had forgotten to change into his numbered shorts after the warm up. It’s a fine in the league if a player plays in non-numbered shorts. I noticed as the national anthem was playing and so eagerly waited for it to end so that I could run to the locker room and get him his proper shorts. As soon as the anthem was over I bolted back to locker room. Got him the right pair of shorts and a fine was avoided. The coaching staff was quite impressed with how quickly I had made the run. Took me a while to catch my breath but I at least avoided the fine.”
17. Who does the laundry at home? ?
“So because I am single it is I that does the laundry at home. And it was funny to see just how little I care about my own clothes compared to the treatment I give the gear I am in charge of at the club.”
18. Finally, why do you love being a Kitman?
“I think it’s for the reasons I talked about in answering these questions. I am getting paid to be a part of football club. I get to travel. I get collect kits. I get to work with professional athletes and great coaches. I wear football boots for work. My office is a football pitch. I have never once dreaded coming into work in the morning. It may have taken a while but I finally found what I was meant to do and consider myself very fortunate.”
Thanks to Aaron for the interview. Be sure to checkout his football shirt collection on Instagram @TheKitKaiser.