December 1, 2010 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

Measuring the success of your athletic program

If you ask the average fan, or even some coaches, how you measure success in athletics, the most common answer is winning. Parents might, in addition, include factors such as seeing their child as a starter on the team or possibly earning a college scholarship.

A.D.ministration success of programAs an athletic administrator, your criteria should be different and more global. Sure, it’s nice to see your teams win. After all, winning games and championships is definitely much more enjoyable than the alternative of losing, but an athletic director should also be involved in much greater issues, goals and outcomes.

At a typical football or soccer game in our stadium, I actually see very little of the game. Like most athletic directors, I am stationed near the ticket booth at the start to help with problems. During the game, I may have to chase after a wayward fan or transport an injured player back to the school. Usually, I only get a glimpse of the last few minutes of the fourth quarter…before keeping an eye on the departing fans, closing the press box and locking up everything. It is an added bonus if the game ends on time.

Since athletic directors do, and should, have a different vision of athletics, consider the following items when measuring the success of your program.

Measuring your success

1. Were there any problems at a game? At the conclusion of a contest, evaluate several factors. If there were no disruptions in the stands, no major injuries and the weather held out, then it has been a good evening.

2. Do your coaches serve as good, positive role models? A coach who is encouraging and provides a great learning environment is another measure of success. Coaches who understand the educational nature of athletics and constantly help their players with lifelong lessons are invaluable. Regardless of their record, which is largely dependent upon the available talent, these individuals are the backbone and basis of a successful program.

3. Are your players — in all sports — learning and improving throughout the season, and generally having a good experience? Coaches, athletes and teams should prepare and strive to win games, but the learning, improving and having a good experience are the factors that signify real success.

4. Do your athletes and coaches give something back to the community? Service projects and clinics undertaken by teams and coaches not only help others, but they can also be important in building team camaraderie. Any community-service effort is a win-win situation for everyone involved because the concept of being part of and contributing to something larger than team play is vital to a successful society.

5. Are your coaches continually working to improve their craft? This could mean completing the NFHS Coaching Education program, attending clinics and reading professional books and magazines. Our athletes and programs are the beneficiaries of the professional development of our coaches and for this reason it is an important component of success.

6. Do you have the highest participation rate possible in your athletic program? Since athletics has real educational value, athletic directors should seek to provide every opportunity for young people to be part of one of their teams. Adding new sports and teams, within the limits of your budgets and facilities, should be one of your ongoing goals. A high participation rate is the real indicator that young people want to be part of your program and you are meeting their needs.

7. Are your athletes student-athletes? This question isn’t meant to be a play on words. When your athletes also perform well in the classroom, they are living up to the true meaning of the term. In education-based athletics, when athletes achieve on a high academic level, they are successful.

It is also important, therefore, to honor your athletes who achieve academically through various forms of recognition — awards evenings, certificates and public address announcements during the school day. This effort needs to be a major objective in your program.

8. Does your booster club exist as a supportive organization working within the framework of the school’s and athletic department’s mission? This means that they raise funds and promote school spirit in a fair and equitable manner without vested interests and hidden agendas. When this approach is taken, the athletes and athletic program benefit greatly…and the booster club acts as a successful and supportive part of the school.

9. Do your athletes represent the school in a positive, exemplary fashion? When athletes conduct themselves with class, respect and within a framework of sportsmanship, they are the best possible ambassadors for a school. Athletics is the most visible aspect of education and often this is the only basis someone has to judge the quality and effectiveness of a school. If your athletes and teams do their part representing the school, there is no greater mark of success.

A wise athletic administrator doesn’t measure success merely by wins or championships that are amassed. There is so much more that is involved and important in high school athletics. Any school, which has several of the aforementioned components involved in their athletic program, is a success.

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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