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October 2, 2009 • Athletic Administration

Helping Whenever It Is Needed!

Athletes, coaches, administrators, booster clubs, and even teachers within the school building are often called upon for help.

Such requests are quite normal and usually make us feel that we should do our best to pitch in and help.

It is not a simple-minded concept. Athletic administrators also have a complicated daily schedule and an endless series of responsibilities. While we want to be helpful, it can cause major problems. We just cannot be everything to everyone.

For example, when a colleague asked for help with a statewide initiative, I had to explain that I was currently overcommitted and couldn’t take on anything else.

His immediate answer: “I’ve already asked everyone I could think of and have had no takers. This project will fail if I can’t find someone soon.”

All I could do was promise I’d keep on trying.

Of course, almost daily, a coach will walk into my office and start with, “I need…” And that will send me into my little English lesson:

“I need…is a demand that doesn’t work well with most people. A request should start with “Will you please” or “When you have a chance…”

Helping a coach unexpectedly adds another task to an overloaded schedule. To provide a little subtle education, I will often pull out my Daily To Do List and state matter of factly:

“Well, that will put you at #33 and I doubt that we’ll get that far today.”

In case of an emergency, of course, I’ll try to help immediately.

Fortunately, just a handful of people associated with the program feel that my sole responsibility is to serve them. They will often expect you to do things that clearly are part of their jobs or standard expectations.

Anytime you add someone else’s responsibilities to your list of tasks, it should be obvious that it will be one less thing that you will be able to accomplish.

In order to survive and thrive in our position, we have to understand the dynamics of this dichotomy and work out some techniques that will help:

1. Clearly explain that there is a difference between helping and doing. “Helping” implies guiding, leading, offering advice, or possibly completing parts of a task or project. “Doing” means that an individual is undertaking the entire assignment or responsibility.

Unfortunately, there are a few coaches who expect you to serve them and to do absolutely everything for them. Fall into this trap and you will totally compromise all of your other responsibilities and tasks as an athletic director.

It is thus totally reasonable to explain this overload dynamic to anyone who asks for help.

2. Carefully consider your schedule and commitments before saying, “yes” to a request for help. It is extremely important to honestly analyze how much time and effort will be required by any new request.

If you don’t take this into consideration, you will impair your ability to perform your other tasks, meet your deadlines, and keep your program rolling.

3. Help your coaches think ahead in order to avoid last minute, emergency pleas for assistance. Planning and organizational skills can be learned and improved upon, and this is one area in which you can assist your coaches.

4. Set clear parameters in advance for everyone who may ask for help. If, for example, you know you will have to devote most of your time over a period of days to complete the seasonal eligibility reports, you should clearly inform your staff of this fact.

And I would additionally remind them to make this our highest priority, and that I’d appreciate their patience and understanding.

5. Offer suggestions to help whenever possible. For example, you might respond with, “Have you thought about …” or “You might try …” or “You are helping even though you haven’t done everything as yet.”

6. Have your head coaches or officers of athletic organizations delegate some tasks to assistants or other members. When one of our head coaches struggled with the volume of paperwork and, as a result, missed several deadlines, I made this suggestion to her.

Our head coach felt that delegating part of this task would be an imposition upon her assistant. It was thus necessary to explain that helping the head coach with this task (and others) was indeed part of the assistant’s job description.

7. Periodically explain in staff meetings how coaches should approach you for assistance. In a non-confrontational and professional manner, review your position, the responsibilities involved, and the procedures that are necessary in order to maintain fairness and efficiency within the athletic program.

A better understanding of the scope and complexity of your position will help coaches be a little more realistic about requests for help.

8. Ask others when you are swamped or stumped and in need of help yourself. One of the important considerations of helping is that it should be reciprocal.

As a caring, committed professional, you don’t want to abandon or lose your desire to help others. But you owe it to yourself to define limits, educate those associated with your program, and understand the dynamics of this process.

Understanding the concept of help will ultimately aid everyone in the athletic program.


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