COVID-19: Your Role as a High School Athletic Director
We are living in an unprecedented time. COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the every-day lives of Americans and millions more around the world. It is hard to find anyone who is not affected by the virus in some way, shape, or form.
With school closures, sport cancellations, and mandatory “stay at home” orders - athletic directors are now facing professional challenges that months ago seemed only feasible as part of a movie script. As an athletic director, you may have plans for a variety of crisis situations, but likely not for a global pandemic. On top of that, this situation is extremely fluid - and information from the federal, state, and local levels is changing in real-time. Therefore, you may be left wondering:
“What should I be doing right now?”
While there is likely not one answer to this question (and I do not claim to have all the answers), I do believe the below will be a helpful starting point - and at the very least can get the wheels turning for those of you reading.
1. Stay in the loop
As a leader in your community, it is important you stay aware of the latest developments surrounding COVID-19. However, it is critical you get your information from trusted sources. There is a ton of false and misleading information being shared - particularly via social media. How do you know if information is accurate? Harvard Health Publishing recommends you look for information coming from sources/sites who:
rely on experts who use well-accepted scientific analyses and publish their results in reputable medical journals
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
This time of unprecedented uncertainty demands consistent, accurate, and timely communication. Leverage your existing channels of communication (social media, email, website, etc.) to keep your various stakeholders (students, parents, faculty/staff/coaches) informed on school-specific, athletic-specific, and COVID-19 information. As an athletic director, you have the ability to reach thousands of individuals. By sharing accurate information, you can make a huge difference in ensuring the safety of your community. Remember: we are in this together and everyone must play their part.
3. Engage, motivate, and uplift
COVID-19’s impact has been devastating and, sadly, is likely only going to get worse before it gets better. As their leader, your stakeholders are looking to you for answers. In a world filled with uncertainty, fear, and negativity (not without reason) - use your position to share some much needed positivity. This does not mean you should promote misinformation regarding COVID-19 and unproven/overly optimistic recovery scenarios. However, it does mean you can engage with your community members in a variety of creative ways to keep people motivated, grateful, and positive despite all that is going on. We are already hearing from ADs who are taking the lead on this front. Whether it is daily motivational quotes on social media or “Senior Spotlights” (recognizing senior spring athletes who have sadly lost their final high school season) - there are lots of ways to make a difference digitally.
Here are some more ideas:
“Thankful For” Challenge: share a video to social media expressing what you are thankful for despite the current circumstances (you can encourage your community members to do the same)
Video Conferencing: virtual meetings with coaches, teams, etc. to get some much needed facetime
Spotlights: highlight community members who are making a difference during the COVID-19 crisis (the pandemic has revealed so many amazing and uplifting stories of people putting others before themselves - let’s share these!)
Throwbacks: look back on and share great athletic moments from your school’s history - you can share videos, graphics, or whatever is available to you
4. Be available
Your coaches, student-athletes, and colleagues are facing many of the same challenges you are. You may have student-athletes who are looking to continue their athletic career in college, but are nervous because they don’t know how COVID-19 will affect recruiting. Coaches may be unsure about how to manage their teams during sport cancellations. Right now, there are just a lot more questions than answers. So what should you do? In addition to providing resources through your digital channels - simply let your community members know you are there for them. Reach out with an email, a text, a call - it can make a huge difference.
COVID-19 has certainly disrupted the high school athletic world in ways previously unimaginable. But, tough times are what leaders are made for - and when leaders are needed most. And remember the wise words of Coach John Wooden:
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
Hopefully, you have found some of the above ideas/concepts helpful as you continue to respond to COVID-19. If you have additional ideas, please feel free to share them. Remember: we are in this together.
Stay safe & stay healthy!
Matthew Glick is the Founder/CEO at Gipper. Gipper is a platform that helps high school athletic departments create professional sports graphics for social media - in seconds, on any device, and without needing any design experience.
Learn more @ gogipper.com/athletics