Pride is a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
This aspect is the foundation of any strong athletic department’s culture, and crucial to any success that the department may experience, whether on the field of play, in the classroom or in the community. Programs which lack pride may find occasional success in these areas; however, they may be unable to sustain it, because athletic talent graduates, new ideas become old and the culture has not been properly developed.
An important role of an athletic director is to continually identify ways to promote the success of a school’s student-athletes and teams, and to build that pride within the school and community. Understanding and executing this role is a crucial step to gain the much-needed support and appreciation from all stakeholders. Measuring success of student-athletes and teams in multiple ways ensures that all programs have an ability to be promoted equally, which helps develop a collective pride and culture across the entire department.
Education-based interscholastic athletics can be a source of great enjoyment and involvement for many communities. It can bring schools and communities together. There is an inherent desire from all stakeholders to see their school succeed.
The question becomes, therefore, how do we sustain a positive culture of pride and how do we promote it?
Being Present at Events:
• In order to grow and maximize a positive impact within the program and to create the desired culture, it is essential for the athletic director to be visible at events. This step shows the community, coaches, stakeholders but most importantly all the student-athletes that you are “all in.” Make sure everyone knows your name, not as if they are surprised that you are there. The more visible you are, the more positive athletic program and culture you will build.
Getting the Best Gear for Student-Athletes and Branding
• One thing that usually gets student-athletes excited is having the best possible athletic gear! By being creative with your budget, developing relationships to acquire ancillary funding such as grants may help you achieve this goal. This step goes well beyond the logo on the front of the uniform. When students are proud of what they are wearing, there can be a tremendous uptick in positive school pride and an improved culture.
• Branding is a major focus point when it comes to building not only a positive culture, but also to promote your athletic program. It is essential to have everything uniform across the board. To accomplish this goal, create a committee or focus group that consists of all stakeholders to decide upon a logo which can be used across your program. There should be one brand, one beat, one voice! Branding plays a large role in fostering a positive culture.
• Understanding the students’ view of your athletic program is key to its success. While there are always administrative decisions that need to be made in order to operate the program, such as scheduling and budgeting, it can be extremely valuable to go to student-athletes for input. Gathering data isn’t a difficult task, because it is as simple as developing a Scannable QR code that leads to questions for the students to answer. By seeking input from your athletes, this will speak volumes and help to build a positive relationship!
• It is essential to promote your program through multiple methods. Social media is an amazing tool, and the student athletes can relate to it. Develop “hype videos” or a “picture day” to generate excitement within your program. Continue to update your athletic website with the most up-to-date information. Streamline all mediums to ensure that your program is fully being promoted, which will not only generate interest with prospective student-athletes but will also help create that positive culture.
Livestream Athletic Events
• Athletic administrators have experienced great developments in technology as part of their position and they should embrace them. Live streaming events, for example, is the new norm and you should utilize it as a tool to promote your program. There are several ways to livestream contests such as the NFHS Network, utilizing your existing school district staff and technology, and various social media platforms and private vendors. This is a positive platform to market your program.
Community Service and Involvement
• Being an athletic director doesn’t stop on your school’s campus and it is critical to be an integral part of the community. Attend and host community events such as a peewee football game at half-time of your contest and also incorporate the youth league cheerleaders. These kids will never forget this opportunity and will look forward to being a varsity athlete when they get older. In addition, participate in special ceremonies, sponsored walks and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. All of these examples will generate a favorable impression of your program and it is always good to give back to the community, because with their backing there is nothing that you can’t accomplish!
The role and responsibilities of an athletic administrator are vast; however, creating and promoting a positive culture for all stakeholders and the community is an aspect that cannot be overlooked. If you, as the leader of your program, are not doing it, who will?
Peter Cardone is the Director of Health, Physical Education & Athletics for Glen Cove City School District in Glen Cove, New York. He is also the vice-president for Nassau County Officials as well as serving as a member of the High School Athletic Council for Nassau County Section VIII Athletics. David Barth, CAA, is the Supervisor of Health, Physical Education, Athletics and Recreation in the South Huntington (New York) School District.