An Athletic Director? What Do You Do All Day?

When people ask me what my job is, I take a lot of pride in answering that I’m an athletic director.  Being an athletic director – I believe – is something that almost anybody can do, but only a few of us are dumb enough to actually follow this path.  To be honest, I had no intention of being a full time athletic director, but I’m glad that various jobs have lead me here.  I very much enjoy my job almost every day.

One of the questions I get asked the most often about being an AD is, “So, what do you do all day?”  It’s a great question that I’ve found difficult to answer.  What do I do all day?  I head into most days with a to-do list full of things that I’m going to check off today only to find myself heading home without even starting any of the items.  My usual answer to that question is either that I take care of all things related to our athletic program or that I spend most of my day answering questions.  My days are a random and unpredictable mix of clerical, secretarial, and administrative tasks ranging from typist to counselor to disciplinarian to coach of coaches and everything in between.

When I was again asked what I do not too long ago, I decided to take a couple days to actually keep track of what I’m doing.  I realize that this post won’t appeal to many, but to those who are interested, I’ll do my best to organize two pretty average days for me.  I used Monday and Tuesday, November 3 and 4, as my guinea pig days.  I’ll note a couple brief things before starting: (1) Because most of our fall teams were done playing and none of our winter teams had started, there is a noticeable absence of time spent talking to parents, and (2) we were prepping to host the state football championships (Dakota Bowl) which occupied some of my time as well.
Typically, I spend most of any Monday responding to emails and voice mails from the weekend.  By Tuesday, I’m usually caught up enough to start working on bigger things.  [I made the conscious decision a few years ago to try to avoid being tied to my email and phone on nights and weekends (except, of course, when we have teams on the road).  Not constantly answering emails has made my Mondays much more chaotic, but I’ve been able to enjoy my weekends with family more than in the past.  That’s a win for me.]  I wanted to give you an item by item recap of messages I received, answered, etc. along with when I worked on bigger items, but this post would have been just way too long.  So instead, here’s a quick summary of the stuff I did over two days.

– Elementary and Middle School Intramural Contracts
– Middle School Coaching Contracts
– High School Coaching Contract Requests
– High School Coaches Certification Requirements
– Discussions with Athletic Trainers
– Discussions regarding one of our co-op programs
– Discussions regarding student eligibility, program eligibility, activities association rules,  and attendance/recruitment within our district
– Reviewed/approved/denied purchase order requests for busing, uniform repairs, coaches’ association memberships, and equipment repair
– A ton of memos, letters, questions, and replies regarding the Dakota Bowl
– Items related to various season end volleyball and girls’ swimming tournaments
– Worked on the 2015 schedules for football, boys’ soccer, and volleyball
– Updated financial information for equipment expenditures, coaches’ education, and uniform purchases
– Read and reviewed various articles that were sent to me (including one that became the topic of last week’s blog)
– Facility meetings about our football/soccer/track complex, football practice fields, and an equipment shed
– Responded to requests from a college coach, a grad student during research, two media outlets looking for info, one of our sponsors, and other AD’s
– Spent some time looking for “lost” athletic department laptops.  (It turns out that I had put them away in the right place…which explains why I couldn’t find them anymore.)
– Dealt with various pre-season items for winter sports ranging from wrestling’s weight management program, hockey stats programs, basketball uniform purchases, multiple schedule changes, and coaching staff items.
– Signed a pile of verifications for payments that were sent out
– Met about our 2015-16 Middle School athletic calendar
– Reviewed information sent from a colleague in Washington about his coaches’ mentoring program
– Drafted two new policy documents at the request of principals for possible changes to our athletic handbook
– Did a practice observation
– And, when I foolishly thought my day was done, I had a conversation about busing and scheduling with a parent who approached me at one of my son’s youth hockey practices on Monday night (despite my best effort to avoid everyone else in the building!)

I’m sure I missed a few items along the way, but you can see how diverse an AD’s job duties are throughout the day.  I wish I could explain or show how randomly these tasks come up, but it would take too much time and space.  To summarize, when this two day stretch was done, I had received 213 emails, sent 116 emails, received 14 phone calls, placed 6 phone calls, had 4 drop-in meetings and 2 scheduled meetings, knocked off 6 items from my “middle to long term” to-do list, and added seven more items to that same list (sigh).

So that’s my “A Day in the Life of” story.  Ultimately, I get to talk about sports all day long, so it’s not a bad gig.  Any other questions about what I do?  Suggestions for future blog posts?  Send me a message via comments, email, Facebook, or Twitter!

2 Responses

  1. 3GenTiger

    Mark,

    Would you consider giving the following book a quick review: Perhaps it’s strong enough to make the cut and be listed above?

    How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character nu Paul Tough (http://tinyurl.com/a7j687z) While not directly focused on sports; it struck me as incredibility insightful and applicable for coaches/teaches leading youth sports program within schools because no other venue enables our children to reveal, use and develop important character traits.

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the the New York Times article, “What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?” (http://tinyurl.com/99adrqn) written by Paul Tough (excerpts from the book). While this article devotes most of commentary on kids within private schools in urban communities; I’m curious if this “failure” concept resonates with you. As an AD within a pubic school system thriving in a more rural community (America’s Heartland), is developing character traits seen as a need? Like all school programs, athletics programs plays a role in developing character; but, is it a major core focus or more of an important but perimeter/secondary objective?

    My perspective, Grit, Curiosity, Self-control, Social Intelligence, Zest (enthusiasm), Optimism and Gratitude which this book outlines along with humility are the complete inventory of character traits for athletics who are increasingly role models in our society. No other teacher within a school has more influence on developing character than a child’s coach. In high schools, only coaches have a 4 year relationship with a player, developing student-athletes character everyday. Within today’s modern education environment, SPORTS is the ONLY stage/venue/activity where failure is accepted by parents, teachers/coaches, administrators and educators as part of developing successful members of our society.

    I think this book makes a strong case for developing certain character traits; but, falls short of defining the “HOW”. Would you be willing to devote another blog post sharing your perspective on these particular character traits and if (and to what degree if any) they should be a part of a public school athletic program in America’s Heartland?

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      I will add the book to my personal reading list. I enjoy seeing what thoughts/comments/suggestions I can get from reads like that.

      Regarding the article – I was reminded of two posts I wrote previously. One of them addressed learning how to lose, and the other was about allowing the lessons taught in athletics to actually be taught.

      I actively promote the three goals of our athletic department with our coaches. I don’t talk about winning and losing with them, since my belief is that winning games is a byproduct of many, many different factors – some controllable, some not. What I do want our coaches focusing on during their daily interactions with kids, can be found in this post. We do that because of our influence on the kids. You’re absolutely right about our voices being more frequent and greater to the kids in our programs. I’ve written about that before as a reminder to our coaches about how we should be acting. I’ve had some really good conversations with club based people following my One Sport Athletes posts about the difference in philosophy between educational based athletics (high school sports) and competition advancement athletics (club sports). I absolutely believe that our mission should be teaching kids how to be good adults through their experiences in activities.

      Great feedback!

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