High school athletic administrators have an endless list of responsibilities. At any given time, each of these tasks may seem to be the most important. However, as concerns rise in some sports with regard to controlling crowds at high school events, effective planning and coordination of athletic contests is one of the key tasks facing athletic directors today.
Planning an event involves many elements, and it is best for athletic directors to focus on the elements that they can control in order to best prepare for what they may not control. Accounting for the possibilities is necessary during the planning stage in order to host a successful event.
Initially, the development of a checklist to account for the different responsibilities needed or required for the sport or venue is paramount. This may include – but is not limited to – bleachers, benches, scoreboard, field markers and first aid supplies. Depending on the circumstances of the event (state championship or cross-town rival), the items on the list can be adjusted to accommodate the need. Taking this checklist a little further, one may develop a written handbook or operations manual that provides descriptive and specific explanations of each item involved.
In order to complete the checklist, the next step is to identify the key elements and expectations for the event including personnel and communications. Depending on the venue, the administrator should identify key locations such as restrooms, locker-room access, concession stands and exits. As a part of the checklist, actions needed in an emergency situation should be added. The school’s Emergency Action Plan should be given to all event staff, which would include individual responsibilities of each staff member.
Once the different sport-specific checklists are developed, creating the event staff list is the next step. It is important that those who are working the event, in any capacity, fully understand their duties and responsibilities. Inclusive of the traditional game responsibilities, they also must be willing and able to fulfill the necessary steps in the case of an emergency. Creating a specific description for each event staff serves to communicate expectations of each individual. Following are some examples of potential event staff.
Ticket sellers/takers: Along with selling and taking tickets, this staff member should be vigilant as people buy their tickets and enter the facility. They monitor the crowd for anything unusual or suspicious and communicate to the security staff or the athletic administrator.
Security staff: Security staff has the primary responsibility to maintain order and monitor the crowd before, during and following the event. They must remain focused on the crowd, not the game. They are assigned to a specific location so that all areas of the facility are monitored and secured. To avoid any confusion, create a map of the facility and identify the “duty” location for the staff.
Announcer: One of the most influential event staff members is the announcer. The clear and informative announcements, separate from the event updates, are instrumental in maintaining control over the crowd. It is recommended that the announcer be provided a script of announcements that are made throughout the event. The music played should also follow guidelines that assist in maintaining the environment. Finally, an announcer must have a neutral tone regardless of the score as this is important in maintaining the integrity of the game.
One final recommendation is that all event staff should have a method to communicate with the athletic administrator.
The communication regarding event expectations is key in setting the behavior standards for everyone in attendance. Again, the amount communicated depends on the event. One form of communication is with the opposing team. Communicating the procedures and expectations of what they will encounter as they arrive can help avoid problems. This information can include where the bus should park, the door they should enter, locker room use and expectations as well as the game and halftime schedule. Develop an email or fax that is sent to the opponent prior the contest and which can be modified depending on the contest.
Promoting the game via websites, social media, flyers/posters or other methods can also assist in setting the expectations for those in attendance. For example, perhaps tickets can be purchased in advance, and the promotional efforts should include this information to help monitor ticket sales. Another example may be that for safety and security reasons, bags are not permitted in the gym. This should be communicated ahead of time to avoid any confusion.
Lastly, signage within the venue is another form of communication to those in attendance. Clearly marked locations, directional arrows to the restrooms or concession stands and other information will help answer the attendees’ questions and provide them with expectations. This may include ticket prices, line locations and formations (exact change, students only or VIP pass), or that attendees are subject to search if this is the school’s expectation.
As the seasons and experiences occur, remember to review procedures and practices. Encourage feedback from the event staff to include in your evaluation of procedures and modify any practices if warranted. This will not only maintain safe and effective practices, it will also effect the morale of the event staff ensuring their continued involvement.
Blackburn, Michael; Forsyth, Eric; Olson, John R.; Whitehead, Bruce. 2013. NIAAA’s Guide to Interscholastic Athletic Administration.
NIAAA. 2010. Leadership Training Course 630. Athletic Administration: Interscholastic Contest Management. Indianapolis, IN: NIAAA.
NIAAA 2004. Leadership Training Course 525. Event Announcing and Game Management. Indianapolis, IN: NIAAA.
Sample Football Pre-game Management Checklist:
Game Manager: ____________________
Final Game Score: __________________
___ Field marked
___ Grass cut
___ Yard line markers out
___ Pads on goal posts
___ Water on for teams (water keys needed) – quick connects, hose, etc.
___ Cover for track protection – plywood/rubber tarp, etc.
___ Cover drains and other hard surfaces
___ Ticket booth setups (sign lights desk chair)
___ Chain and lock all non-entrance gates
___ Check visitors’ locker room (clean, paper, chalkboard, drinks)
___ Check officials’ locker room
___ Stadium lights on, when needed
Press Box Set-Up
___ PA system set-up
___ Scoreboard on
___ Telephone radios, phone#’s, EMT’s
___ Roof door open for filming crews
___ Designate area for filming and coaches
Administrative Game Details
___ Meet visiting team
___ Meet officials
___ Administrative coverage/police security
___ Cheerleader information
___ Program distribution and collection for cheerleaders or boosters
___ Reserved seats
___ Parking attendants for buses, officials, administrators, boosters
___ Assist boosters
___ Announcers packet
___ Band practice
___ Specialists on field
___ Coin toss
___ Teams leave the field for band activity
___ Teams back on field for introductions
___ Starting line-ups
___ National anthem
Jeannette Bruno is in her second year as assistant principal at Marlboro High School in New Jersey after serving as supervisor of extracurricular activities at Colts Neck High School in New Jersey. She is a member of the High School Today Publications Committee.