August 1, 2016 • Athletic Administration

Help for the overwhelmed athletic administrator

Some athletic administrators are being asked to take on additional responsibilities beyond those involved with managing their program. This may be due to the difficult economic climate and the need to function with less available money for the district. Therefore, when an individual retires or leaves for a new position, rather than hire a new person, the decision is made to pass some or all responsibilities to an existing staff member, which creates a “combined position.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 9.40.50 AMAthletic administrators have been given new titles and responsibilities on top of everything that is already involved with guiding an athletic program. There are now athletic directors who also serve as the director of transportation for the entire district, the testing coordinator for either the high school or district, or the director of facilities.

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Other athletic administrators have had to start teaching classes. If there is a vacancy, almost any combination of positions is possible. In some cases, upper-level administrators may not totally understand what is involved in an athletic administrator’s position and the immense time demands. And for other district leaders, the budget simply necessitates unusual and creative solutions to staffing challenges. While the reasons may vary, the dilemma of additional responsibilities is occurring at an increasing rate and has become a major concern for athletic administrators, as it should be.

If you face this situation or believe that you may in the future, the following considerations should help.

1. Illustrate the athletic director’s responsibilities.

Document and share what you have to accomplish in your position and the number of hours which you invest on a daily and weekly basis. If a decision hasn’t been reached, sit down and explain the problems that the additional responsibilities can cause. Point out that effectiveness and efficiency may be compromised as one of the outcomes if you are handed another title and additional tasks, because there will simply be less time to accomplish everything.

2. Brainstorm alternatives.

Be prepared with alternatives that upper-level administrators might consider when they have to find ways to cover the responsibilities for retired personnel or newly vacant positions. While the athletic administrator may represent their current solution, there may be other possibilities that are not as obvious. It’s always better to supply creative solutions as opposed to simply complaining or being aggravated, which does not come across as a constructive reaction. If you help produce an alternative solution, you may avoid additional responsibilities.

3. Ask for assistance.

Request additional personnel to help with the new or total list of responsibilities. If you already have an administrative assistant, try to get another one. With a second assistant, you would be able to delegate some of the routine tasks such as answering the phone, providing copies of the various forms and filing eligibility materials. A vital point to make is that an additional administrative assistant is a cheaper alternative to hiring a new person for the vacant staff position, and it is absolutely necessary to complete all the increased workload.

4. Improve time management.

Work on and implement improved time management skills and approaches. With less time and new responsibilities, you really have no choice than to become more efficient. You undoubtedly already work hard, and you can’t add more hours to the day. The secret is to utilize and maximize every single minute.

5. Avoid overworking.

Reject the impulse to stay longer at the office. Everyone has a limit, and you need certain essentials to continue to operate at an efficient level. At the bare minimum, you need seven to eight hours of sleep, along with food and exercise. If you short-change just one of these three requirements, you will suffer. Less energy, focus and clarity may result, and these elements are essential to perform at optimal levels.

6. Gather insight on the new job.

Contact the individual from whom you are inheriting the additional responsibilities and get all of the advice and help that you can. Continue this process of gathering background materials and hints from others in the field who also handle these tasks. Oftentimes, all that you have to do is ask a professional and he or she will help. With new responsibilities, you may need and want all the help that you can get.

7. Work ahead of schedule.

Plan ahead and complete as many tasks as possible before they are due. This partially depends on whether you have advance warning when absorbing new responsibilities. Utilizing time in the summer can provide a buffer and ease your schedule later in the year.

Try to get a head start because your athletic duties are stressful enough.

8. Communicate with superiors.

When major conflicts and problems arise due to the added responsibilities, discuss them with your principal or superintendent. If you handle the problem without providing the details or an explanation, there will never be any adjustment or assistance that you might need. The only hope for improvement is through clear communication and apprising your upper-level administrators of all of the challenges that you face — and politely ask for help.

9. Consider another job.

Consider looking for another position if there is no hope that things will improve. While you may love serving as an athletic administrator and helping student-athletes and coaches, additional responsibilities may make your hectic schedule unbearable. Applying and moving on to a new position should be the last alternative, but without sufficient sleep, exercise and family time, your quality of life will suffer.

While the addition of a new title and responsibilities is not desirable or a good management approach, it may occur. Like many aspects of life, it’s important that you take all possible steps to avoid being placed in this situation. If this development does take place, you need to be prepared in order to mitigate the negative effects that it may have.

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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