April 16, 2020 • Athletic Administration

Leadership strategies for ADs in response to COVID-19 crisis

As we are all aware, COVID-19 has had a major impact on sports worldwide. All athletic activities and competitions have been canceled or postponed to ensure our coaches, athletes, game personnel and spectators stay healthy and safe. 

This is an unprecedented period for all; however, there is no need to start over if you are providing effective leadership. For those athletic administrators that may need to refocus or need new methods for providing exemplary leadership during this difficult and challenging time, please consider the following strategies:


athletic directorCommunicate regularly and keep all department members informed by utilizing the virtual environment. As you interact, listen and be sure to create a sense of belonging, while being understanding, genuine and transparent. Implementing this strategy will enhance the trust level between you and your department members. Making use of Zoom, social media platforms and e-mail are proven communication methods for connecting with and disseminating information. 


Develop a clear plan during this crisis, with input from department members, which works in conjunction with the direction the university’s executive leadership team is taking. When you work together to brainstorm and share ideas, you will become very effective, while being able to solve problems quickly and efficiently.


Consider how COVID-19 impacts your department members. Be accessible 24/7. Share how you feel, stay patient, positive, calm, confident, compassionate and collaborative. When showing the department members you sincerely care about their well-being, your relationships will develop and grow to a more personal level. You will also see positive changes in your department member’s attitude, temperament and disposition. 


Most sport administrators consider themselves as superheroes. Now is not the time to work in isolation or without the support and expertise of the athletic department team. Empowering your department members will create multiple options for resolving the many difficulties caused by the pandemic today and in the future.


Provide positive feedback and show meaningful appreciation to your department members. Creating and implementing periodic awards that recognize and honor those individuals that go above and beyond for the betterment of the department and the university will be very beneficial. It is also important to engage department members in a social setting. Participating in a virtual game night and/or a happy hour will also boost morale.

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Locate or provide resources for department members to do their job remotely, while focusing on their well-being, which should include mental health assistance. Providing appropriate technology and programming will reduce the stress and anxiety of your department members. 


Contribute your time, service or financial resources to community activities that support the less fortunate. Possible opportunities for you and your department members include, but are not limited to, contributing gift cards and personal income to the University’s Emergency Student Fund as well as sending your unused concessions to the university’s food bank. Also, practice and encourage healthy behaviors. Following social distancing guidelines and participating in virtual workouts will assist with keeping department members healthy and safe. 

In closing, this is a very difficult time for all of us, however, there is nobody better than you, the athletic administrator, to meet the challenges that we are facing today, as well as those we will face in the future months. As a leader during this crisis, you have an opportunity to impact your department members by refocusing and/or implementing new leadership methods that will be useful during and after this time of uncertainty. Your department members will appreciate and value your efforts! 

Lastly, as an athletic administrator, it is vital that you also take care of yourself. Remain connected to your colleagues and stay close to your families and friends. Even more importantly, please follow all the directives of the health professionals.

Stay healthy and safe!

Tom Gioglio, E.D. is currently completing his fifth year at Lock Haven University and his 22nd year as a Director of Athletics.