Some of the greatest successes of high school athletic programs may not take place on the field, court or in the gym, but rather in the classroom or in the community. These achievements may routinely occur, but few people outside of the department may be aware of these “victories.” Therefore, athletic directors should have a plan to actively and effectively promote these accomplishments to the community.
The Cambridge Christian School (Tampa, Florida) Athletic Department strongly believes in sharing and acknowledging the positive happenings that take place outside of the realm of competition. To achieve this goal, every effort is made to recognize and promote the individuals – athletes and coaches – and their contributions and accomplishments.
Athletic administrators and coaches must encourage a culture of personal growth and service, which is a vital part of the athletic experience beyond games and practice sessions. These activities can be encouraged by requiring a certain number of activities, a rewards programs, recognition, or even friendly competition.
One of the best ways for administrators or coaches to encourage continuing education and service to the community is for those individuals to model community service themselves. When others see that involvement by key leaders is a priority, they will most likely appreciate the value in community achievements.
One of the biggest keys to promoting your program is an awareness of when and where to promote content. When you have something noteworthy to promote, the question then becomes what can be done to share the positive aspects of the program other than just the wins and championships? Analyze what avenues are the best to reach the constituents of your program. Once identified, these outlets should be cultivated through the production of consistent substantive content. The content can be delivered several different ways based on the vehicle used to deliver it.
For example, you can use Twitter for more than quick notices that the bus will be late or the result of a contest. We have announced things like our charity theme game in which free “white out” shirts were given to all students who brought in a donation for our local children’s home. This game was the White Out for Hope.
One of the tweets read: “The white #MoatMob shirts are in! Time for a Whiteout for Hope. We’re teaming up with @HopeChildrens to help others and have a good time.” The local media that “follows” our account asked for some more information and photos. What started as a community involvement project turned into a great opportunity to promote what our athletic department and student-athletes do in the community.
As schools look for ways to promote the accomplishments of their athletes and coaches, it is important to cultivate relationships with local media outlets. These vehicles allow schools to reach not only their own school environment, but also the broader community. In the same manner as building relationships with student-athletes, coaches and other constituents, the same should be done with local TV and print media prior to pitching them a story.
Following are a few ways to develop relationships with local media:
Depending upon a school’s constituents, website and social media vehicles may be great resources to distribute information about the positive aspects of the athletic program. Remember that each social media outlet has its own unique voice, and this means that schools have to be prepared to format their releases accordingly.
One practical example of this approach is the recognition of coaches in your school who have earned their NFHS certifications. At Cambridge Christian School, this is done by posting the names and photos on the official department Facebook and Twitter pages for our families and followers to see that continuing education is important and valued.
Also, a link to the post and the pictures is made available to the local media. If the media requests further information or chooses to acknowledge the achievement, every effort is made to accommodate any of their needs.
The Cambridge Christian School athletic department won the Florida High School Athletic Association Academic Team Championship for the 2014-15 school year. This is an award given to the athletic department with the highest GPA program-wide in their state classification and is not typically acknowledged by the local media.
A group of targeted posts were made to the school website, official department Twitter and Facebook pages as well as acknowledged in the school newsletter. This accomplishment was then promoted on the FHSAA website and was picked up by both of the area newspapers. As a result, the student-athletes received the recognition they deserved for their hard work.
The promotion of your program’s accomplishments should be viewed as a byproduct of doing the right things and not the goal itself. If you intertwine off-field accomplishments into the culture of your program, your constituency and local media will recognize these achievements as part of your brand and will be more open to promoting the results they see as genuine. The best part of promoting the positive, non-game related aspects of your program and gaining public recognition is that it allows others to acknowledge that your program is about a more holistic, education-based athletic experience and not just winning seasons and championships.
Chad Goebert is athletic director at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, Florida, and is in his ninth year in athletic administration.