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An Athletic Director’s Legacy? – Doing What’s Best for Students, Coaches

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA on October 09, 2018 hst Print

At a meeting of athletic directors, one administrator was overheard explaining to a colleague that in the next year he was going to initiate an effort to massively improve the athletic facilities at his school. This would be quite a legacy, he thought, since retirement was only a year or two away.

While overhauling venues is a highly visible project and an athletic director wants the school’s athletes to have the best, is there or should there be more for which one is remembered than stadiums, gyms, pools, courts and fields?

In history, there are major structures which are labeled as Wonders of the World and were constructed to commemorate someone. The Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Egypt are well-known examples. In education, one can also occasionally find schools that may be elaborate and magnificent. However, they were built for the purpose of providing space and facilities for instruction and not for recognition of a current employee.

For anyone who believes in and embraces the concept of education- based athletics, it would also be a little strange to take actual, thought-out steps to create a legacy. How one is ultimately remembered should be based upon one’s overall body of work that benefits his or her student-athletes and coaches. This is a daily and continual effort without regard to creating a legacy. Athletic directors should do their best every day without concern for their own recognition.

If there is to be a legacy, it should be based upon the answers to the following questions. Did you, for example:

  • Set the tenor and create the foundation for education-based athletics at your school? This is extremely important and necessitates meeting with and laying out your vision with your principal and superintendent. Without their support, it may be an impossible task. In addition, you also need ongoing educational efforts with your parents and the community to explain what is involved in education-based athletics and why it is important.
  • Hire coaches who embrace the education-based concept? This effort is essential and integral because as an athletic director you don’t come into direct daily contact with all student-athletes. However, your coaches do. The most important resource, therefore, of any high school program is not the equipment and facilities, but rather the coaches. These individuals drive and instill the education- based philosophy.
  • Establish clear expectations, objectives and high standards for your coaches? To successfully guide and lead the young people in your program, your coaches need a well-defined roadmap. This involves mentoring on your part and continuing to remind and reinforce the important tenets and principles of education-based athletics. It is also vital that you develop and provide an ongoing professional development program for your coaching staff in order to meet the needs of your student-athletes.
  • Continually expand the opportunities for your students to participate in your athletic program? This means offering new sports or teams in order to meet the interests and needs of your student body. If you believe in education-based athletics, you want as many young people as possible to derive its benefits, which also means that every team should strive to carry the maximum number of athletes that it can. The total number of participants is a real mark of success and a great basis for a legacy.
  • Provide situations for student-athletes to develop leadership concepts and skills? A great, practical and beneficial approach to accomplish this objective is through community service initiatives. Learning one’s role and giving back to the community is an invaluable outcome of education-based athletics; and when giving young people an active part in the planning and execution of the project, leadership skills can be developed.
  • Establish and reinforce the importance and role of your student-athletes and coaches to serve as exemplary and positive ambassadors for your program and school? This means exhibiting good sportsmanship that involves respect, humility and compassion. This effort should also extend beyond the field and gym into the classroom and community. Being an outstanding role model in education-based athletics has long-lasting, enduring and wide-reaching value.
  • Continually help coaches to guide student-athletes to assimilate lifelong qualities and values such as perseverance, teamwork, honor and many others? While it may be difficult at times to quantify actual growth of these qualities, the effort to teach and enforce them is essential. Since this endeavor needs supportive and nurturing coaches, an athletic administrator’s part in this endeavor is to encourage and mentor his or her coaching staff to embrace and propel this educational initiative. 
  • Create mechanisms and mediums to recognize the positive accomplishments of your student-athletes and coaches? While it would be completely normal to mention championships and winning seasons, more is needed and should be done. Your efforts should include emphasizing the academic accomplishments of your athletes, promoting community service initiatives by the teams and highlighting the coaches who have earned their national certifications. Of course, one very obvious initiative would be the creation of a hall of fame in which the school recognizes outstanding former athletes and coaches. This would not only include all-state players or those who hold the school’s scoring records, but the inductees, more importantly, should serve as positive role models and be outstanding members of the community.

Just as coaches may not know what or how much of an impact they had on their athletes, athletic directors may also never know exactly what total effect they have had upon their athletic programs. However, if athletic directors work to benefit their student- athletes and coaches, run their programs with the highest degree of integrity and ethics, they have done their part.

An athletic director’s legacy is working hard every day to do the best to create a positive, nurturing environment for the school’s student-athletes and coaches. Care, effort, trust and respect are ultimately more important and last longer than bricks and mortar. Taking actual, conscious steps to create a legacy is not the answer. Doing what is right and best for their student-athletes and coaches – that will be an athletic director’s legacy!