October 2, 2009 • Athletic Administration

Game scheduling basics for coaches, athletic administrators

What’s so hard about scheduling games? The phone rings and you simply plug in the first, second, and third teams that call. You’re done in a jiffy.

If it were only that simple. There are, however, a number of considerations to this seemingly straight-forward task which might make it easier.

It is not unusual for many leagues to provide the basic schedule for all sports and an athletic director simply has to find opponents for non-league, open dates. This is a great start if you find yourself in this situation.

Some leagues may actually set aside time for all members to meet and work out all of the details while others may utilize a small committee to accomplish the task.

With a league effort, issues such as a balance between home and away contests and many other considerations can be handled in a fair and equitable manner.

What can’t be considered, however, in this standard approach is that teams can be at various stages of maturity and would benefit from schedules of varying difficulty. Teams with a large nucleolus of returning, experienced players may need the challenge of playing tougher teams.

Conversely, the confidence of young, inexperienced teams could be totally destroyed with a similar schedule. If you can partially tailor the schedule to meets the needs of your team, it can be huge for their development.

Game scheduling basics

Before actually scheduling contests, consider some of these factors:

1. Try to maintain natural rivalries with neighboring schools. Long standing traditions can help ensure a large attendance and interest in the contest. It often binds alumni together and creates a rallying point for the community.

2. Factor in the distance that you have to travel for a game. With the price of gas constantly increasing, you may need to stay closer to home due to your meager budget.

3. Take a serious look at the type of fan an opponent may bring to your venue. Unruly, disruptive fans may not be worth the enormous effort that it may take to ensure everyone’s safety and enjoyment of the game. If you have a choice, dealing with fewer problems may be a better alternative than bringing in a large gate.

4. Try to schedule the same opponents for both male and female teams in sports such as soccer, lacrosse, basketball, and volleyball. This approach will free up your venues. You can better utilize your facilities when one gender is at home and the other is away.

5. Schedule two teams – obviously you also have to consider the roster size – to play at the same school so that you can send both on one bus. In Baltimore County, for example, our tennis team always travels with either our baseball or softball teams. This creative effort with scheduling helps with strained transportation budgets.

6. Explore the possibility of sending your team with a neighboring school to invitational meets for cross country, wrestling and similar sports. Two half-filled buses don’t make fiscal sense.

7. Schedule an opponent for two years on a home and away basis. Without taking this approach, you will be stuck trying to fill open spots annually. This could become very difficult depending upon your school’s location and the point when the open date occurs in your schedule.

8. Aim for a 50-50 balance whenever possible between home and away contests for all sports. By taking this approach, you can avoid huge fluctuations with your yearly transportation expenses and better predict what it will ultimately cost per year. This is a sound money management decision.

Beyond these basic, fundamental ideas, you may also want to consider if and how much input you will accept from your coaches concerning their schedules. As a former coach, I know what it was like to have my AD say, “Here’s your schedule,” prior to the season.

I much preferred the opportunity to offer requests and perhaps even make tentative arrangements.

A good workable process for scheduling can include your coach making suggestions and even exploring possible opponents, if you provide all of the parameters – such as travel restrictions and facility usage. Once the coaches have a possible opponent and a tentative date, they turn all of the information over to you so that you can finalize everything with the other school’s AD.

For me, email is an ideal method to complete this step. You can state that the two coaches have already communicated, list the suggested time, date and venue, and wait for confirmation. Once you receive a reply, you then have documentation — the time and date affixed to the message — which you can and should retain in your files. Of course, email also eliminates phone tag which can be extremely aggravating.

Because all of our league games come from within our county, we don’t usually use contracts for these contests. However, for schools with which you don’t have a normal, existing working relationship, using a contract — your standard state or NFHS contract — may be a good idea.

Since scheduling is a task that you have to complete for all sports and teams which you offer, you want to make it as easy, practical and efficient as possible.

By thinking through your decisions, you should be able to avoid potential problems and everyone — coaches, athletes, parents, fans and administrators— will be happy.

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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