Underpaid & Underappreciated
How athletic directors can make the case for a higher salary and more support
With all of the tasks given to athletic administrators, there’s never enough time to do everything. Some days are simply overwhelming, and very few upper-level administrators understand the magnitude of your position, its impact and the toll it takes on you.
While athletic administrators are paid a salary, the compensation is not usually commensurate with the time and effort spent in performing the duties involved. It’s common for athletic directors to work 13- to 14-hour days and weekends. This means that most are underpaid, underappreciated, overworked and not at all understood.There are a few concrete steps athletic directors can take to educate their superintendents or school boards about their duties and responsibilities. This creates a case for a salary increase and also the potential to provide organizational relief to make your job more manageable.
Here are seven helpful strategies.
1. Log your activity.
Create spreadsheet with three or four columns listing your major responsibilities for each day, including weekend obligations. For example, you may host field hockey and boys soccer in the afternoon, and junior varsity football at the stadium in the evening. You should include league and preseason parent meetings and any other time-intensive efforts or events. Enter the number of hours each day you spent completing these duties.
Conclude each week with a total number of hours that you invested, and begin a record of each day for the upcoming week. Do this throughout the year and you’ll end up with a good blueprint of some of the major events each week and the hours that it takes to perform all the duties in your position.
2. List your responsibilities.
Make a list of all of the duties, tasks and responsibilities that you have. This effort should include everything that you do throughout the year. You want the most inclusive and exhaustive list that you can prepare. This illustrates the scope and depth of your position.
For example, don’t simply list “scheduling.” Your list should include every aspect involved, like scheduling games, officials, transportation, game security, ticket sellers, facilities and meetings. Don’t leave anything out.
3. Track participation.
Collect and document the participation numbers for all of your teams. With this information, you can show that you lead the largest segment of the student body. No teacher or administrator affects or impacts the number of students that you do. This needs to be made clear to your supervisors and the school board.
4. Talk with other athletic directors.
Survey athletic administrators in surrounding districts or in your part of the state to determine what they are paid — at non-private schools, salaries are public records. Teacher associations have been doing this with respect to teacher salary negotiations for decades. And don’t limit your research to only salaries, but also determine what benefits — such as flextime, the use of game managers and other supportive mechanisms — these athletic administrators might have.
This step is important to show where you rank in relationship to others in your field. Once you have these comparative figures, share them with your administrators and the school board to make the case that you deserve more money or support.
5. Welcome a ‘shadow.’
Invite your principal or superintendent to shadow you for a day. This should be a complete day, and not just for an hour or two. Considering the responsibilities and schedules of these upper-level administrators, it might not be easy to find the time. However, this step — an uninterrupted, extended day — is important to fully understand what’s involved in your position.
I remember a comment from an assistant principal who once attended the National Athletic Directors Conference. His reaction was, “Wow, I never realized that you did all of this.” Do what you can to provide perspective and insight on your job.
6. Compare jobs.
Create a document that takes the information already complied with respect to your weekly duties, hours invested, and the scope of your job and draw a comparison to other positions in the school. For example, list the normal length of the workday and salary for assistant principals, department chairs, teachers and coaches. Even though these other individuals occasionally have an evening assignment, it should be easy to demonstrate that you invest more time. That comes with a level of compensation that does not match the responsibilities.
7. Stay current.
Make a continuous effort to update your list of duties or job description whenever new responsibilities are added. Don’t wait until you have a scheduled session or meeting to discuss salary or support considerations for the next year. Keep your principal or superintendent informed. Tell them your role has expanded, requiring more time, energy and effort. Constant education and communication is vital.
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Take these steps and prepare supportive, illustrative documents. The final task is to meet with your superintendent or school board and present a proposal. During this appointment, present your case for a salary increase or other program improvements by using your prepared. It’s extremely important that you invest sufficient time and effort to make sure that your presentation is logical, clear and as concise as possible.
One could convincingly argue that a salary increase is not the only answer — appreciation and support also matters. As you begin to make the case for an appropriate raise, continue doing what you can to fight for adequate support and funding. The goal is fairness not only for the athletic director, but also for coaches and student-athletes.
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.