January 20, 2015 • Athletic Administration

A.D.ministration: Is your job safe?

10 ideas to create job security in the athletic director position

In March, an athletic administrator was asked to stop down at the principal’s office. Within seconds of sitting down, the athletic director was bluntly informed that he would not be retained for the next year. There was no warning. No formal, written evaluation over a period of 14 years. No due process.

On a feeling or whim, the athletic administrator’s career and life changed in an instant. There was no recourse. Why? No board policy or procedures existed which required an annual formal evaluation and written documentation of improvement plans for athletic administrators. They served on a year-to-year basis at the pleasure of the principal.

Over the 14 years in this position, there were no problems involving this athletic administrator — only great service. And by any measure or standard, this athletic director was very good in meeting his responsibilities and leading the program. Not only did he provide years of outstanding loyal and dedicated effort, but he also earned his CMAA certification, took additional LTI courses, and was a role model for other athletic directors around the state.

Your first reaction may be, “Well, this could never happen to me.” Hopefully, you’re correct. But are you sure?

The following suggestions may help to ensure that you aren’t blindsided and that you have some protection in your position.

1. Propose an evaluation process.

Prepare a proposal and convince your superintendent or school board that an evaluation process has to be created and employed in your district. It’s important to emphasize the aspect that evaluations are not done with the intent of providing a basis for termination, but for the growth and development of the athletic administrator, just as it would be for teachers and other administrators within the school system.

2. Prepare an evaluation draft.

Take an active role and help to prepare a draft of the proposed evaluation instrument. You know the responsibilities and tasks of the position better than anyone within the district. Since this tool plays a significant role in your career and future, you want to have a major input into this initiative.

3. Seek attorney’s help.

Consult with the district’s lawyer in order to prepare due process procedures to be used in concert with an athletic administrator’s evaluation and professional development provisions. Once this document is prepared, you need to get it approved for use by the school board. Hopefully, you will never need these procedures, but having them in place provides a safeguard that you will be treated fairly.

4. Earn certifications.

Make a concerted effort to explain the importance and procedures for earning your Certified Athletic Administrator (CAA) and Certified Master Athletic Administrator (CMAA) designations. Point out that these certifications are earned by completing accredited National Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association (NIAAA) courses and these represent the only non-school offerings that are accredited in the country.

5. Record your time.

Document the time that you invest in game management responsibilities and provide an overview of how you spend your time in a normal week and month. It also is helpful if you could attach your game management checklists for each venue to your time log to provide a better snapshot of what you actually do.

6. Set regular meetings.

Schedule a meeting — weekly or bi-weekly —with your supervisor. Use this opportunity to review what has happened during the previous week, what’s on the horizon, and your goals for the department. This communication is critical in order for your supervisor to not only understand the responsibilities of your position, but also to be aware of what you have accomplished.

7. Share achievements.

Always provide your supervisor with copies of complimentary letters, notification of awards and certifications that were earned. Anything and everything positive that you have accomplished in your position should be shared with your principal and superintendent. In addition, always keep a copy of these documents in a file for use in your annual evaluation and for future reference.

8. Welcome observers.

Invite your supervisor — principal or superintendent — to shadow you for a day to get a better perspective of what’s involved in your position. Considering the responsibilities that these individuals have on their own plate, you may want to schedule several brief sessions to see various segments of your normal duties such as game management or conducting a preseason coaches meeting.

9. Describe your job.

Utilize every opportunity in various meetings — preseason parent meetings, booster club, parent-teacher association, board of education — to explain the role and responsibilities of your position. While these groups do not make the decision about your future, they can be influential. It will only help when more people in your school and community understand the wide array of duties that you have and the enormous time and effort that you put into your position. A positive public relations campaign is worth the effort.

10. Network with other athletic directors.

Develop and maintain working relationships with other athletic administrators who can attest to your excellent qualifications and that you perform your duties to the highest standards. If needed, these individuals can and should be asked to write letters of support and reference if your ability or efforts are ever questioned. While your supervisor may not be well-versed in the nature and responsibilities of an athletic administrator, support from colleagues can be invaluable because they do understand the demands of the position.

Most athletic administrators work hard and are totally immersed in completing their lengthy list of responsibilities and tasks, so they never think about the possibility of losing their position. It’s imperative that you make every proactive effort that you can to help maintain and secure your position. If you don’t look out for your best interest and future, who will?

David Hoch, CMAA, has 16 years of experience as a high school athletic director and served for 12 years as the executive director of the Maryland State Coaches Association. In 2000, he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association. His column, A.D.ministration, focuses on issues in athletic administration and appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine.

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