The athletic director’s summer checklist
To the typical outsider, summer is a time for rest and relaxation for those in their local school districts. But for athletic directors, it’s an opportunity for planning, organization and other tasks that can’t be tackled during the school year.
Athletic administrators might have their own summer checklists unique to their states, including workshops or deadlines from their state associations, but here are some additional tasks you may have forgotten.
1. Organization.I remember once visiting a school, and during a tour I walked past the storage closets tucked away in the gymnasium. Wrestling mats were rolled up in the back, with deflated volleyballs and basketballs on nearly every shelf. To retrieve equipment, coaches would have to blaze a path to the back of the closet by moving a dozen different items. Don’t let this happen to you.
Whether it’s the closets in the gym or stadium, or the athletic department’s storage unit, use the summer as an opportunity to get organized. Purchase new shelves, racks and baskets, and make sure coaches can easily locate the equipment they need for games and practices. It might take a full week, but look for some volunteer coaches who can spare a couple days to help clean out and organize the athletic department’s storage centers. It’ll be worth it when the fall sports season arrives.
The janitorial staff is responsible for keeping your facilities clean during the year, but the summer is a good time to do a deep clean to rid your locker rooms of the dirt and grime that might not be visible.
This is something that cannot be ignored, and it’s not only within your facilities. To eliminate threats in apparel, schools are investing in new laundry machines that can eradicate germs and other viruses. You also want to do your best to prevent MRSA and other staph infections, along with skin infections like athlete’s foot.
Make sure the crew responsible for your summer cleaning doesn’t cut corners, moving lockers, scrubbing showers and getting underneath bleachers. Use antibacterial towelettes throughout the year to keep your facilities free from bacteria. When all summer cleaning is finished, do a walkthrough to make sure the job meets your standards.
3. Staff communication.
A lot of your coaches are gone for the break, but some might still hold summer workouts and practices as you approach the fall season. Remind them of any related deadlines and protocols that are critical to their respective sport. This is especially important in football, where coaches are afforded a limited amount of time with their players, and they also must be cognizant of rules regarding heat indexes. It’s likely that your coaches are up to speed on what they can and cannot do during the summer, but it doesn’t hurt to offer a few friendly reminders. This is essential in states where rules have recently been changed or added.
Athletic directors must also communicate program budgets to each coach. This is typically done during the spring, but check to make sure that each coach is clear on their spending limits.
If you take time to organize your storage closets, it’s also a good time to take inventory of what you have and consider what you need. Your records could show that the soccer team has 17 balls for practices, but once you sort through storage, you might learn you have only nine that are in good use. Make a spreadsheet of what you have, or ask coaches to accomplish this for their respective programs. You can then see what’s in the budget and whether you’re able to make some minor purchases.
5. Facility improvements/wish list.
Decisions on summer facility improvements were made long ago, but athletic directors still have a few options here. Start by evaluating the condition of your facilities — fields, locker rooms, gym, bleachers — and determining whether anything is an immediate concern regarding safety. Maybe your turf ripped during a spring practice, or the bleachers are unstable and require attention. The summer is a perfect time to nitpick and make all the fixes that slipped through the cracks during the school year. After your evaluation, determine what can be done within your budget.
Then create a wish list. For example, that aging scoreboard doesn’t require immediate attention but an upgrade would be nice. More schools are installing giant videoboards in their stadiums, partly because they can help generate revenue by selling sponsorships and advertising. The summer might be a good time to host a golf outing fundraiser for these types of purchases, so create your wish list and prioritize what needs the most consideration.
6. Team evaluations, changes.
If you didn’t have an opportunity to meet with coaches individually before the end of the school year, it’s time to do so. More importantly, make time to meet with any new coaches who will be working with your student-athletes for the first time — and not just the head coaches.
A short, informal meeting will do just fine. Make sure they understand the expectations, feel comfortable with their role and have set attainable goals for their first year. Not only does this help you gauge their preparedness, but it also lets them know that you’re available and supportive if they have any concerns or questions. Don’t wait for the season to start before you set a meeting.
7. Fall preparations.
When the fall sports season closes in, you want to hit the ground running instead of scrambling to put the pieces in place. It’s helpful to create your own personalized checklist at the beginning of the summer. That way, when it’s August, you can easily review your list and start checking off the tasks. Coaches can handle the responsibilities in their individual sports, but things to consider are pep rallies, field preparations and volunteers for your home events.
8. Family vacation.
Summer can be busy for athletic directors, but it’s still critical to carve out time for a family vacation. Families sacrifice a lot during the school year, with athletic directors spending many nights and weekends at games and tournaments, so take at least a week or two to get away from it all. Resting the body and mind will make you more effective when it’s time to come back to work.
This isn’t an exclusive list, but all athletic directors should use the summer as an opportunity to take an uninterrupted look at their program and what can be accomplished. Don’t wait until it’s too late.