A.D.ministration: Planning strategies for athletic directors
9 suggestions to help ADs stay organized and on task
The process of planning is vital for the athletic administrator. You may have heard the maxim, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This quote has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, and even though ol’ Ben wasn’t an athletic director, it certainly applies.The purpose of planning is to make your management efforts more efficient and effective, and everyone should embrace this objective. However, what things should an athletic administrator actually plan? With the end result in mind, it should be pretty clear that you should plan anything and everything you can.
I’ve heard that for every hour you invest in planning, you save two. That’s a pretty good exchange rate, and it goes a long way toward improving what you want to accomplish in your position. Planning may be your key to success.
Considering the various tasks and responsibilities that athletic directors deal with, planning should be done for the following:
√ Preseason meetings. These meetings for parents and coaches should include PowerPoint presentations, agendas and handouts. These items need to be created or gathered. Refreshments, projectors, sound systems and additional aspects also must be arranged.
√ Tournaments. Invitational tournaments, regardless of size or number of days, require enormous preparation. These tasks would typically include inviting the teams, scheduling officials and contest workers, preparing a program, and producing advertisements.
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√ Difficult conversations. Meetings with a problematic parent or a high-maintenance coach require thought and preparation. You have to gather the pertinent materials, including copies of policies and procedures that may be relevant to support your position in this conversation.
√ Student-athlete reports. Eligibility reports have to be collected and verified. Regardless of what regulations exist in your district or state, you must have a copy of every student-athlete’s permission form, preseason physical exam, a signed informed consent form, a signed code of conduct, and any other required paperwork. It helps to have your coaches submit them in alphabetical order.
√ Cancelations and rescheduling. Inclement weather hits early one spring day and contests have to be postponed. This development requires many changes and communication with a host of individuals. And your teams now want to practice inside, which presents another challenge.
√ Team gatherings. Awards evenings or banquets that require gathering the names of the recipients, ordering the awards, arranging the sequence of speakers, scheduling the venue, and creating a program for the event must be handled. It’s vital to consider the history, tradition and normal procedures that occurred in previous years. You also want to be careful of setting a new precedent for future occasions.
This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list, but merely provide a few examples. Planning enhances most responsibilities that an athletic administrator encounters.
The following nine suggestions should help when you begin or improve the planning aspect of your position.
1. Plan to plan. While this may seem like a redundant use of words, it’s a practical suggestion. You want to set aside time in your weekly schedule to plan various events or for situations that are scheduled.
2. Allow for time. Give yourself enough lead time in your planning process. To get started, begin as early as possible. Why? New ideas and details will suddenly become apparent when you least expect them, and this can, and usually does, occur over a period of days. Sudden inspiration can come during the drive home, as you jog a few miles, or while you sleep.
3. Get help. Ask colleagues who may have hosted or performed similar tasks to get useful ideas. Seek input from anyone who might be of help.
4. Do research. Always refer to records and guidelines from previous events. These documents provide a good starting point for your planning, particularly if you made notes of improvements for future editions. This would automatically lead to the next suggestion.
5. Be organized. File all notes, agendas, checklists, materials and evaluation comments for future reference. All of this information saves time and will be an invaluable resource. Of course, you also have to use an effective filing system in order to retrieve these documents easily and quickly when needed.
6. Make lists. Try to create a checklist once you list all of the tasks or details that you must accomplish. This way, you simply go from item to item during the day of the event so that you don’t forget anything during the set-up process, which is easy to do.
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7. Visit the venues. Inspect venues that may host any of your events. This step should be undertaken well in advance, allowing you to make improvements or modifications. The setting and layout of a venue can provide some limitations or advantages of hosting a contest or meeting. These facts are invaluable in the planning stage.
Try to determine what personnel and additional equipment may be needed for an event during your inspection of the facility. The nature of the scheduled contest or meeting should provide you with a few basic requirements and the visual inspection should help. You will need all of this information to effectively complete your plan.
8. Communicate. Don’t forget to communicate and share your plan with anyone involved with an upcoming event or task. The implementation of your blueprint or organizational strategies depends upon these individuals.
9. Evaluation. Evaluate whether the event was successful and what needs to be improved after its completion. This is the time to make notes as to what modifications must be made in the future. You should also update and rearrange your checklist, since you now have first-hand experience and are in the perfect position to do this. This step helps in your planning efforts the next time around.
While these suggestions should be helpful in your effort to become more effective and efficient with your planning, there’s also one more maxim that should bring this process into focus: “Poor or ineffective planning becomes someone else’s emergency.”
While it’s unknown who said this, it’s one powerful reason for putting in the time and effort to plan as much as possible. It will help to avoid critical mistakes that could have a significant impact on your department.
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.