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Educating your school administrator.

The more the administrator knows about the athletic program the more likely he is to support it

Though statistics are unavailable, it would appear that more and more high school administrators (principals and superintendents) are bringing little, if any, experience in athletics with them.

It isn't essential, of course, but it may be a handicap in dealing with various public groups, the athletic program, and running a program with a shrinking pool of resources.

We believe that most administrators are extremely responsive to the athletic program and the problems of the athletic director, and would also be favorably disposed toward any kind of orientation program that would enhance their understanding of the athletic program.

The general principles that have to be understood:

1. Athletics contribute much to the total educational program, and athletes generally have higher attendance rates, earn better grades, and create fewer problems because of their athletic participation.

Athletics are not extra-curricular; they are co-curricular and play a vital role in the well-being of every school.

Since athletics are the most visible aspect of the educational program, the public is more inclined to relate to them than to any of the other programs. It may not be fair, but schools are often judged by the quality of their teams.

2. All sports are equally important. While football or basketball will attract the most fans and media attention, they should not be perceived as "more important" than the other sports. Each sport provides a unique educational opportunity for the students.

3. Wins alone should not be considered the ultimate determinant of "success." As long as the sport provides an enjoyable experience, challenging competition, a high level of interest, and individual and team improvement, it should be considered successful.

4. The funding for most athletic programs represents only a third of the total school budget. Considering the number of students who benefit from the experience, sport is a real bargain. More students are affected by athletics than by any other school program.

The funding must cover the cost of officials, transportation, protective equipment, and uniforms. These expenditures are not exorbitant; the administration must understand that this money is absolutely necessary and should be shown exactly where it goes.

5. When hiring teachers, it is imperative to look for candidates who can, and more importantly, want to coach. All athletic programs work best with coaches who are regular teachers in the school building.

We understand, of course, that as teachers age, they usually give up their coaching stint, thus creating a need for qualified coaches.

We are not suggesting that full-time job applicants who are willing to coach should be chosen over much more qualified teachers. But, when considering equally qualified candidates, the edge should go to the individual who will bring something extra to the table (total program).

6. You also have to hire the right person to coach, someone who is dynamic, enthusiastic, has a passion for the sport, and will be a good role model for the students. An administrator must also understand that with success, this excellent coach may eventually leave for a better position.

If you don't ascribe to this philosophy, the alternative is to fill the position with a "caretaker" who may coach 10 to 15 years. Caution: By hiring a less than exceptional coach, you may put the sport in a rut. In short, when a successful coach leaves, you have to go after another outstanding candidate. Replacing a coach every few years is a small price to pay for excellence.

7. Anyone teaching physical education at the high school level should be expected to coach one or preferably two sports, although not necessarily as a head coach in both. Anyone with a physical educator's background and training should be required to coach.

If permitted by the teacher's contract, those who are unwilling to coach should be assigned to a middle or elementary school.

8. When it becomes necessary to terminate a coach or to deal with a problem parent, the A.D. must obtain the support of the principal or superintendent. Since athletics are highly visible and often highly emotional, A.D.'s require an administrator with principle, strength, and integrity to stand behind the A.D.'s decisions.

9. Long hours, countless details, and stress are involved in the management of athletic programs. No one seems to notice when things are gong well, which is 99% of the time. But when things get dicey, everyone becomes acutely aware of the situation.

The athletic director supervises the largest staff in the school, and it is essential for the principal to understand all of the roles the A.D. has to play, the dedication involved, and the complexity of everything.

10. Many decisions by the top administrators will have a direct impact upon athletics. As the athletic director, you have to implement them. It is therefore imperative for the administrator to keep you totally informed of anything that will affect your program.

So, how do you educate your administrator? Through communication! Take five minutes whenever possible to update him on new initiatives, ideas, and developments, particularly since most of these will require his support. Give him copies of positive articles, participation figures, and awards lists. Promote and share with him any honors conferred upon the athletes, coaches, and athletic program.

For philosophical issues, policies, procedures or mission statements, you should sit down with the administrator and explain the stance that should be taken. Develop a plan, bring supportive materials and data, and be prepared to substantiate the proposed course of action.

Invite your administrator to attend and to participate in every awards banquet and pre-season parents' orientation meeting. Also encourage him to attend as many varied athletic events as possible. It is very beneficial for students and parents to see the principal or superintendent supporting the students in these co-curricular programs.

Also, keep your principal or superintendent abreast of critical coaching evaluations and informed of any problems stemming from athletic contests. While he does not have to hear all parental complaints, you do want to inform him of potential phone calls or requests for appointments.

No one wants to be blind-sided; the background information will give the administrator an opportunity to prepare.

The education of administrators should not be confined to the secondary level. Presidents, vice-presidents, and deans at four-year or junior colleges can be equally clueless about athletic programs. Education and communication are the only answers.

Summing up, in addition to your many other duties as an athletic director, it is essential to educate your principal or superintendent. The more he understands athletics, the most likely he will be to support them.
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Title Annotation:athletic programs
Author:Hoch, David
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Nov 1, 1998
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