The Work No Longer Speaks for Itself: How ADs Need to Celebrate Their Coaches and Student-athletes

‘The work no longer speaks for itself.’ I read that quote in Scott Eblin’s book, ‘The Next Level: What insiders know about executive success’ in 2019. I don’t remember much about the book, but I think about that quote all of the time. Here are two reasons why I think the work no longer speaks for itself:

a) People are over-informed and that has created a demand for a narrative from the leaders of the things they care about. Student-athletes, parents, principals, superintendents, and the local media demand to hear from their athletic directors.

b) People are platformed. Whether it is 10 followers or 10,000, everyone has a microphone and will use it. If they have not been provided a narrative from their leader (see the previous point), they will create their own. The sin nature will likely make them create a negative narrative.

What’s my point? My point is, if you are not talking about the things that are happening with your coaches and student-athletes all of the time, it might as well not be happening and your communities will assume it is not happening.

This is why one of the most important things an athletic director can do is celebrate what their coaches and student-athletes are accomplishing. Here are 5 ways every athletic director can make sure the work is spoken for in their athletic department:

Set the standard of achievement – An athletic director cannot jump onto social media or start firing off emails informing every one of every single bounce of the ball. Do not communicate about your department like grandma posts to Facebook. Not every drop of sweat is worthy of celebration. You must sit and think through things like…
– Will I celebrate varsity only or every level?
– Will I post only the wins?
– How will I celebrate the efforts of my coaches?
– What will I say about important losses that doesn’t sound like excuse making?
– If I do it for one program, how can I replicate it for other programs? Is it sustainable?

Know school records or major milestones – I have found the historical-record keeping of athletic departments is hit or miss. But, you can quickly identify major milestones of your existing athletic programs.
– How close are current coaches to a wins milestone? 100th basketball win? 50th football win? 20th player signed to go on to college under the current coach? Your coaches may not know the school’s history of the program, but they certainly know their history with the program.
– Keep a spreadsheet of your varsity head coaches career coaching record. Review it at the beginning of each season to see if anyone is nearing a milestone
– 1000 point scorers? 100th goal scorers? Who in your department is closing on a milestone? Ask coaches at the beginning and conclusion of each season

Capture the ‘heart and soul’ – Who in your department is the ‘heart and soul’ of your culture? The people that everyone in your department and school loves dearly. Consider these possibilities…
– The individual that mows and lines your fields?
– The history teacher that has worked the admissions table at basketball games 5 years in a row.
– The mother who has coordinated your concession stand for 20 years
– The local businessman who has been your PA announcer for homecoming for a decade
– The varsity coach that cleans out his own bleachers
Take pictures of these folks in action and celebrate their service on social media or email. It may be the most well received communication you send out all year.

Tell the story – At the beginning of a season, ask your coaches for an important story that is unfolding in their program. Once you have identified 4-5 stories, assign the coach a month that they will write 2-3 paragraphs. Edit that writing, post it to your website, email it to your local media as a press release.
– The twins that are pitcher and catcher in your baseball program
– The soccer player that is returned from a catastrophic injury
– The football quarterback playing for his dad, the head coach
– The coach who officiated the wedding of a former player in the off season
Capture these stories and tell them. And when you do…

Tag the local grass roots media – This is a new evolution of modern times in high school sports. Anyone with a phone can become a local high school sports reporter with a massive following. Do not fight against this. These folks are looking for content, contacts, and inroads. Be one of the first to reach out and tag them on everything you post. They will become huge fans of your department and go tell the story of all that is being accomplished for you.

Here is one last reason, this is such an important evolution for an athletic director. What you punish, you might eliminate. What you celebrate, your people will replicate. Go out and celebrate your coaches and student-athletes and they will repeat what you celebrate.

Dr. Chris Hobbs is the Director of Institutional Advancement at Second Baptist School in Houston, Texas. He spent 16 years as an athletic administrator in Virginia, New Jersey, and Florida. Dr. Hobbs holds a masters’ degree in sport coaching from the United States Sports Academy and a CMAA from the NIAAA. In 2018, he was named a top 40 under 40 sport industry leader by Coach & AD magazine and in 2019 he was named the national athletic director of the year by Varsity Brands, BSN. You can follow him on Twitter @Dr_ChrisHobbs

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