The work-life balancing act of athletic directors
To say the responsibilities and workload of an athletic administrator are demanding would be a gross understatement. It would be more accurate to describe it as unrelenting and, at times, overwhelming. Even if you are exceptionally organized and work hard, there is never enough time to do everything that you should or want to do in a day or week.
Adding to the stress, some athletic administrators may be given new responsibilities by schools facing budget issues or consolidating positions. It could mean that the athletic director must teach a class or take on lunch or hall duty. When you throw these developments into the mix, you have a very difficult work environment.
So how do you spend quality time with your family or even maintain your health? One can talk about the importance of having a work-life balance, but to achieve it as an athletic administrator takes more than desire. You must take stock of your situation and take serious steps.
Here are 10 suggestions to get you started.
1. Identify priorities.
Understand that there are three basic elements that all individuals should embrace to be effective. And none have to do with achieving a work-life balance.
The three things that people need every day are sufficient sleep, food for energy and 20 to 30 minutes of exercise. You must carve out time for these vital ingredients.
2. Avoid the long day.
Put in a solid, conscientious day of work, but avoid the temptation to stay late to get more done. With game management responsibilities, you will undoubtedly have extended days. But tacking on an additional half-hour or more can set a poor precedent and increasingly take you away from your family. There must be a clear, definitive limit.
3. Establish an off-day.
Set aside Sunday and create uninterrupted time with your family. This means informing your coaching staff and parents of athletes that you will not return phone calls or answer email on Sundays. The message should be clear — Sunday is family time. Everyone should be reminded and encouraged to leave a message on your office phone or send an email, and you will respond as soon as you can on Monday.
4. Limit home calls.
Explain that calls to your home after 10 p.m. — or whatever time you deem appropriate — is unacceptable unless in event of an emergency. And since emergencies are rare, it would be wise to provide specific examples of what is or is not appropriate. Bedtimes for your family, especially children, should be protected and honored.
5. Compare work/family schedules.
Check the game.schedules for the season and adjust family celebrations where necessary. Due to the other schools involved, busing, officials and other factors, you can’t reschedule contests to attend family events. However, most times you can move family gatherings a day or two on either side of a game.
Delegate or make arrangements with your assistant to cover specific games so that you might be able to attend family gatherings. Considering that this individual may also have family responsibilities, it would be wise to sit down and check the master schedule for the season to come up with a workable coverage plan for the both of you.
7. Look for help.
If delegation is not possible, find funding for occasional game management coverage. Many athletic administrators don’t have an assistant, so delegation or collaboration is not possible. For these situations, get approval from your principal or superintendent to pay a coach or teacher to occasionally take on the game management responsibilities so that you can attend a family event.
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Remember that finding solutions for someone to cover the occasional home games is absolutely essential if you have school-aged children. More than likely, their games will be played on the same days or evenings as the contests you’re responsible for. Unless you develop a creative coverage plan, you will miss your children’s games, performances and activities. You cannot allow this to happen.
8. Take advantage of breaks.
Plan and spend extra time with your family during breaks and the summer, and consciously make your work responsibilities secondary. There are still things that must be done as part of your job, but your priority should be family-first when school isn’t in session.
9. Involve your children.
Let your children tag along when.you have to cover a Saturday event at school or when school isn’t in session. Your kids may have fun watching the game or shooting at a side basket during a practice session. Chances are, they will enjoy spending time with you regardless of what they’re doing.
10.Learn to say ‘no.’
It’s OK to say “no” when confronted with requests for assistance from your coaching staff or colleagues. While most athletic directors join the profession because they want to help, you can overextend yourself. Some days or weeks, you simply don’t have the time to take on additional tasks and will further restrict involvement with your family. Therefore, when you face these situations, say you’ll be happy to help when time allows, but now is not that time.
No one ever said that it would be easy to be an athletic administrator, and there are hundreds of tasks and responsibilities with little time to address them. Finding or creating a balance between work and your family is difficult and can only be accomplished with thought, planning and a little creativity. In the long run, it’ll be worth it.
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.