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Athletic directors have a big impact on high schools Print E-mail

oada-logo by Kevin M. Bryant, Past President, Oregon Athletic Directors Association

According to recent research (McFarland, 2001), the three most potentially explosive issues with which school administrators must deal are: (1) professional negotiations, (2) construction of new buildings, and (3) coaches and athletic teams. Because of the tremendous interest in high school sports, school officials are more apt to be approached by adults in their community over matters concerning sport teams and coaches than any other aspect of the educational program.  This type of pressure and challenge leads coaches to focus on winning so much that life-skill-related lessons sit on the back burner or are forgotten altogether.

One former colleague told me only two things were needed for the success of a high school principal: 1) clean grounds and 2) a winning football team!! Certainly the job of principal hinges on more important outcomes than the two listed above; however, it may not feel like that when parents upset over the performance of sports teams, coaches or athletes at your school are sitting in your office or waiting for you in the outer office area.

Your athletic director has a significant impact on your school climate, community relations and the sanity of the principal. Did you know that over 30 percent of high school athletic directors move each year (similar to principals and superintendents? This lack of stablity, connection, vision and continuity can lead to some significant problems in your community. Athletic Directors stand in the gap, with the large majority serving as teachers on special assignment (an assignment that combines two of the worst things about the job: administrative expectations and teacher pay). Helping your AD survive and even better, thrive, is a challenging proposition but one worth the effort. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Give timely, consistent and positive reinforcement. No one needs to hear from someone only after they mess up.

  • Find ways to give your AD opportunities for personal and professional growth.Your AD is in many ways on an island. The perception might be as the father of one of my daughter's friends told her: "Your dad (meaning me) has the best job ever -- he gets paid to watch games!" It is a lonely profession with not many understanding the myriad number of things that ADs are asked to do, and the timelines they are asked to do them in. The annual Oregon Athletic Directors Association (OADA)  Conference in April of each year is critical for your AD to stay current with key issues, maintain professional relationships and get a sense of vision for the athletic program. It helps to get away to do this. Every other year or so it might help if your AD could get to a national conference to pick up national trends, ideas from speakers and workshop presentations as well.

  • Keep your "updates" with your AD current. Know what is going on -- keep an on-going dialogue taking place. In so doing, you will keep big issues managed and small issues from becoming bigger. Taking good care of your AD will prevent you from having to start over again every couple of years, which in the long run will make your job more productive as a principal or superintendent.

I went to a nonprofit workshop several years ago where the speaker talked about leaders in two broad categories: as builders or maintainers. Both are needed to run a successful organization. Which is it that you need at this time in your community, school and athletic program? In some cases you will need to help your AD be what you want them to be. Your leadership is needed in this case to give your AD a clear picture of what you want them to do and be in your school and community.

Lastly the OADA is connected to the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) and the Leadership Training Class (LTC) program. Three levels of certification exist nationally: the registered athletic administrator (RAA), the certified athletic administrator (CAA) and the certified master athletic administrator (CMAA). Classes, seminars, tests and projects are all a part of helping your AD to become more effective and skilled in the performance of their job responsibilities. You can have an AD who does the basic things (schedules, officials, buses, paperwork) or you can continue to stress with your AD the need to take on the vision, strategic planning, parent-related issues and coach-improvement tasks that result in your athletic program not being one of the top three issues facing every administrator at every school. The choice is really yours. Keeping your AD around for years to come is the result of constant work in relationship building, value and encouragement needed to help your AD stay the course.

McFarland, A. (2001, July). Altering the Evaluation Process of Interscholastic Coaches Based on Alternative Classroom Teacher Appraisal Methods. 1-19. Retrieved 11/15/2005, from ERIC database (ED 465737).

In addition to his role with OADA, Kevin Bryant is Associate Principal for Athletics/Activities at Tigard High School. He is a Certified Master Athletic Administrator (CMAA) and the Chair of PAC-9 Cross Country and Track/Field. If you have questions or comments for Kevin, please use the comment form below.

Comments (1)Add Comment
President, Athletic Boosters
written by Terri Borrud, September 11, 2006
Hi, I am a new president of our school athletic booster club and I am very interested in getting more information on your Booster 101 Workshop. Historically, this organization has done very little (sponsored a tailgate once a year - $1500 profit). With the constraints on athletic budgets, I have been charged with the responsiblity to develop the club and raise more money.

Any info you could provide would be most appreicated.

Thank you,

Terri Borrud

Deerfield Athletic Booster Club President

Deerfield, WI

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This page was last updated on Thursday, August 17, 2006 .