The position of a high school athletic administrator is extremely demanding and perhaps overwhelming at times. It encompasses many responsibilities and takes a great deal of time daily to handle everything. This may mean that an athletic director could miss family functions such as birthday parties, seeing his own children compete in athletic events and watching them participate in performances. Why? Athletic directors have to manage events at their own schools and their family life often suffers.

To make matters worse, extra responsibilities may be added to an athletic director’s plate in some districts. In addition to the routine duties, they may be asked to organize the testing program, manage facilities, head up the transportation unit or a host of other possibilities. Often budget crunches and retirements cause districts to become creative to overcome these hurdles and one solution may be the school’s athletic administrator.

Not surprisingly, therefore, there is a huge turnover of athletic administrators around the country. This should be alarming. And with many positions in education, there is a learning curve. Having to replace an individual after a few short years and get the next person up to speed is detrimental to the program. Constant turnover affects the consistency and efficient operation of the program, and the attainment of long-range goals.

What can be done to counter this problem?

  • Athletic directors should communicate regularly with their supervisor – principal or superintendent – and keep this person apprised of what the job entails and the time that has to be invested. A good way to do this is to keep a log, which includes several basic responsibilities for any particular day and the time spent on each one. Also, include the total of the overall hours spent performing those duties each day.
    Periodically, this list should be shared to accurately document the time and effort.
  • Athletic directors should communicate the purpose and value of education-based athletics with upper-level administrators. Gaining an appreciation of this philosophical concept is key for many to understand the important role that an athletic administrator plays in a school and the enormous benefits that students gain from participation. It may be difficult to get support without a complete understanding of what the concept involves.
  • Athletic directors should arrange for their principal or superintendent to spend an entire day shadowing them and get a first-hand look at what they do on a typical day. Obviously, this should be done when there is a mix of events that illustrate the demands of the position. While it will be difficult for an upper-level administrator to devote a full day to this exercise, it can be a very important, beneficial step in order to get an accurate overview. Therefore, it is well worth the effort.
  • A proposal should be developed and presented to add an assistant or administrative assistant for the athletic administrator’s program. An extra professional in the department will allow for delegation and lessen the load a little. This will also make the operations more efficient and ultimately more effective.
  • A plan should be created for occasional coverage of game management responsibilities. This could be done by using gate receipts to pay a trained, out-of-season coach to fill in, which would allow an athletic director to attend family celebrations and events. An occasional break may help to prevent burnout and ultimately keep the athletic director in his or her position longer.
  • Athletic administrators should try to get approval to use flex time. If an athletic administrator is in the stadium or gym until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., it is unrealistic to expect him or her to be in the office at 7:00 a.m. the following day. Due to the schedule of multiple sports, this situation often happens several times a week. Being able to come in later in the day after an evening coverage can be invaluable to help prevent burnout. While many individuals work hard within the school, efforts to decrease the hours that an athletic director puts in may be a critical factor in retention.

In addition to the steps that an athletic administrator should take to educate his supervisor to possibly improve the situation, there are also a few things that principals and superintendents can do to help retain quality athletic directors. They should take every opportunity to acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of this person. As simple as it is, showing appreciation, not only in the educational realm but in all aspects of life, is one of the best forms of motivation, a factor in loyalty and perhaps the key to retention.

The more successful an athletic administrator is in implementing these suggestions, the better the chances of surviving and actually thriving in the position.