By: Brian Silipena, CMAA - Pompton Plains, New Jersey
I began my journey into athletic administration on 8/20/18 when I was hired as the new Assistant Principal in Charge of Athletics/K-12 Health and Physical Education Supervisor. Previously, I spent 10 years as a HPE teacher and coach of several sports. At that time, the Athletic Director encouraged all Head Coaches to be “the AD of their sport.” Taking that to heart I learned the many ins and outs of being an Athletic Director and Health and Physical Education Supervisor. I quickly found out that there is no better teaching tool than learning on the job. Throughout my first year as an athletic administrator I found some very important points that made my first year successful. It is my hope this article will serve all new athletic administrators.
Be Organized - You are going to be wearing a lot of hats as an Athletic Administrator. Be sure to organize yourself so you do not become overwhelmed. With the use of technology, Google Drive provides an excellent storage place to keep all your documents organized.
Follow the lead of your Administrative Assistant - Whether your assistant has been there for twenty years or one year they may have a better idea on how procedures run in the athletic department than you do. Using your assistant as a resource on how the daily goings on take shape will give you a better sense on how to run your department.
Ask Questions - You are now the head of your department but that doesn't mean you know everything. Don’t be too proud to ask questions. The more you ask the more you will understand.
Listen - There will be plenty of people who want to talk to you. Be a good listener. Conversations can range from small talk to, “You know what you should do?” In any case, people feel valued when they are heard. Make time to listen.
Be Visible - An entire day can go by if you are sitting at your desk replying to emails and answering the phone. Get up and get out of your office. In my situation, I have 5 buildings that I supervise. I always try to do my best to make my daily rounds whether it is through observation or walkthroughs. Being visible shows your teachers and coaches that you have a vested interest in what they are doing. This goes a long way.
Find a Mentor - There is no doubt at some point you will have to talk to somebody about a situation you have encountered. It may be a local conference AD, a state AD or someone you have experienced or respected in past positions. There are many times that I will call my mentor just to make sure I am doing things the right way. I consider him my Jedi Master. As you will find out very quickly, no other profession is as dedicated to help each other than Athletic Administrators.
Open Door Policy - It is important that you establish an open-door policy. Coaches, Teachers, Administrators, Parents and Student Athletes will be in an out of your office daily. It is important to be approachable. Remember, people feel valued when you hear them out.
Enjoy your time off - The position of Athletic Administrator can be physically and mentally exhausting. It is imperative that you enjoy your down time. I have a 24/7 policy in place where my coaches must call me with any important issues/problems that occurred after hours. There is no reason to check your email before you go to bed. All issues that are there at night will still be there in the morning. Since your hours are now longer it is important to enjoy all your time away from the office.
Keep a Journal - Throughout my first year I felt it was helpful to keep a weekly journal. Even though you will be extremely busy, you should carve out time to write down what you are experiencing. At the very least, you can use this as a reference the following year.
Begin to build your brand - Along with everything that is going on daily, you should begin making an impact with a personal initiative. For me, I started a School Spirit Council. This is a new initiative in our district that focuses on how to raise school spirit as well as sportsmanship. Bringing this new council to my school shows that I am capable to continuing to run an effective athletic department while incorporating new ideas.
Overall, I believe that I had a very successful first year. And I hope that these suggestions act as a guide for all new athletic administrators. Even though all athletic departments are different, I feel that these points are important to your own individual success.