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August 3, 2021 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

Between the Lines: Makin’ It Look Easy

I used to think being an athletic director was easy. From my point of view, it looked like the sort of dream job former athletes could thrive in and still stay close to sports. 

While covering high school athletics in Massachusetts, I always observed the ADs — whether they were patrolling the sidelines, working the scoreboard, ensuring the athletic events were running smoothly. I’d follow their social media accounts, where they’d update the public on game times and scores, NLI signings, and video clips of student-athlete performances. 

easyAnd while observing all of this I always thought to myself, ‘Man, this looks like a pretty sweet gig.’ Sure, the hours seemed long during the school year, but there’s the light at the end of the tunnel of summer vacation. And while you have to deal with the never-ending dealings with parents and coaches, and navigating conversations with them, that is not all that different from what high school sports journalists deal with on a regular basis. 

Boy, was that a naive way of thinking. 

Since accepting this position I’ve achieved a greater understanding of what being an athletic director truly entails. It isn’t just watching games from the sidelines on a Tuesday afternoon, or working a scoreboard for a JV game on a Friday, or tweeting a game-winning goal. They have to balance budgets, which often comes with making difficult decisions and cuts. They have to oversee and lead a large group, displaying confidence, pride, sportsmanship, and inclusivity. They’re responsible for upgrading and enhancing facility projects and gaining the appropriate funds to do so. They have to be expert politicians, working with the media and school and state administrators to build relationships. 

And then there’s just the general upkeep of an athletic program, the plumbing that is so crucial to any structure but is often overlooked. Who keeps the schedule of events? Who ensures the referees are available and paid? Who is building the level of expectation of the program and what it means to put on your school’s uniform? Who schedules the transportation for road games? Who works with the parents and booster clubs to celebrate the efforts of student-athletes on a regular basis? Who makes sure the facilities, equipment, and fields are ready to use? Where do all the decals, athletic apparel, and equipment come from?

» ALSO SEE: I Want to be an Athletic Director. Now What?

I bet any athletic director can answer those questions. 

It wasn’t until shortly after starting with Coach & Athletic Director that I realized I was observing those ADs all wrong. Being an athletic director isn’t easy. The athletic directors I was observing and working with just made it look easy.