'Dream job' brings Kat Vosters back to NCAA Tournament
Kat Vosters grew up in Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, has been a Badgers fan since basically birth and even used to have a little Badgers cheerleading costume when she was a kid.
And when Wisconsin starts its quest for a national title on Friday night, she'll have the best seat in the house.
She earned it, too.
Vosters is wrapping up her first season as Wisconsin's director of basketball operations, a job that basically means she helps oversee virtually every detail about the program - whether it's planning travel, keeping track of academic matters, checking in regularly with the university's compliance department or anything else that pops up.
She's a rarity: Finding women in the director role for men's Division I programs is tough, with the only others that she was aware of being Kirsten Green at Harvard and Kreigh Warkentien at UNLV. But don't tell Vosters that she's a trendsetter or a trailblazer, or else she'll cringe.
''I don't really think of myself as that way at all,'' Vosters said. ''I understand it's rare. I understand what I'm doing hasn't necessarily been done by many people. But I'm just doing my job. And I happen to be a female.''
Vosters has been with the Badgers for six years, starting as a student manager and working up the ladder. In each of those six years, Wisconsin has reached the NCAA Tournament. This season's Badgers - the top seed in the West Region and probably the second favorite behind Kentucky for the title - open against Coastal Carolina.
She graduated from Wisconsin two years ago, at the time thinking her stint with the team was over. There was no opening on the staff, so she was going to take a job in Arizona. But for some reason, she pushed her start date for that new job back a few months.
''I knew I wasn't going,'' Vosters said.
Intuition, perhaps. A few weeks before she was to move, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan - who raves about Vosters - called her with a job offer. Someone on the staff left, other people were being shuffled around and that meant the program's assistant position, if she wanted it, was hers.
Vosters didn't even have to think. The move to Arizona was immediately canceled. A year later, she got the promotion to director of operations.
''It's unbelievable,'' Vosters said. ''I'm not long out of college, and I have my dream job. It's really unbelievable.''
Ryan describes Vosters as a ''valuable member'' of his team.
''She worked her way up,'' Ryan said. ''She's very organized, she worked hard and she proved herself.''
On game days, Vosters has a seat on the front row of the bench, charting just about everything that Wisconsin's opponents are doing - points per possession, points off offensive rebounds, points in transition and so much more.
Like Ryan said, she's proved herself. She's never wanted to be the ''female'' anything for the Badgers. She just wants to do her job.
''I worked very hard from the start, when I got hired to be treated the same as everybody else,'' Vosters said. ''I wanted to carry all the big bags, just like the guys did. I wanted to help out in the locker room, just like the guys did.''
The only difference is that before she enters the locker room, she yells out her arrival - just in case.
''The players, they're comfortable with me,'' Vosters said. ''And I'm comfortable with them.''
Half the time, they don't even know the lengths Vosters goes to in order to keep their routines on track.
When Wisconsin was playing at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas earlier this season, the key she was given to the room that the team was assigned for pregame meetings and walkthroughs somehow stopped working. To make matters worse, much of the team's equipment was locked in that room.
So she found another room, and the pregame matters went on as scheduled. Wisconsin won, too. And while national player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky and other standouts like Sam Dekker get much of the credit, some also should go to a longtime fan who bleeds Badger red.
''We always find a way to figure it out,'' Vosters said. ''We find a way to make it work. It might not be exactly perfect, but we get it done.''