In high school, I had a coach who would always say “If you’re on time, then you’re late.” At first thought, this may not seem to make much sense, but he was trying to share a very important message with his players: show up early, be prepared to play, and make the best use of your time.
You might be wondering... what does this have to do with being an Athletic Director? Well, with the fall season in full swing, it’s actually time to start looking ahead to the winter season — because if you wait until it arrives to start preparing, you’ll be too late!
Here are five key things Athletic Directors should do this fall to stay ahead of the curve and prepare for the winter sports season:
1. Review guidelines for winter sports
It’s important to take a look at your Seasonal Sports Guidelines at the beginning of every major sports season. Check with your state athletic association and make sure you got all of your paperwork in.
You’ve got to make sure that everything meets your program standards, eligibility requirements are up-to-date, and your teams are following the vision and mission of your school. To have your kids miss out on an experience because of a paperwork issue, would be disappointing, and is something that you see every year with at least one team in the state.
Sports guidelines generally include your program-wide philosophy, athletic eligibility requirements, code of conduct standards, and any other sports-specific guidelines. Of course, the guidelines you review now should be specific to winter sports, like basketball, wrestling, swimming, diving, and volleyball.
2. Make sure the winter gym schedule has room for your teams
Scheduling use of indoor facilities is often a challenging task during the winter season. With so many sports, student programs, and extracurricular activities going on , keeping the gym schedule clear for practices and games is big priority.
Finding the best method to tracking these events is crucial. It might be helpful to use a calendar dry erase board in your office or common area to highlight major events like tournaments — you can even color-code practice schedules for different teams so you always know what’s happening.
3. Secure off-site practice space as needed
Sometimes, your regular practice space just might not be available during the winter. In this case, your teams will need somewhere to practice off site to keep their competitive edge. As an Athletic Director, you will need to assess those needs early on, determine if additional space is needed, and find a way to transport your athletes to and from their off-site practice space.
If you’re lucky, you’ll never actually have to do this. Every year we hear about gyms getting flooded. Holiday schedules and inclement weather can also limit availability to facilities. Look at the calendar and try to anticipate where an issue might come up. Have an idea and a plan of what you will do if one of your facilities becomes unavailable.
Still, it’s better to check the box, and make sure your team will always have a place to practice before winter comes and the gymnasium or weight room is booked by another team or activity.
4. Review condition of gym banners & graphics
Another vital check before the winter sports kick-off is assessing the current state of your gymnasium and indoor facilities. When winter comes, visitors, fans, and students will be flooding the gymnasium or natatorium for games, tournaments, and all-day events.
These facilities very often become the front-door to the school and athletic program. You have tremendous pride in the program, make sure your facilities reflect that. Simple and small changes can go a long way.
To make sure that everyone visiting your school has a great first impression, it’s essential to keep your facilities updated with fresh banners and graphics. . For maximum visitor impact, consider updating with these three key products: championship banners, large format wall graphics, and conference banners. In addition to decoration, consider some more functional signage such as directional signs, parking signs, and clearly marked entrances and seating areas.
5. Update website with deadlines, schedules, and rosters
Once you have everything in order for the winter season, it’s important to ensure that your school’s website is updated with important winter sports information for your athletes and fans. Think through the different ways you can communicate with your families and fans and make an attempt to over-communicate any changes or updates.
Make sure that tryout deadlines, initial practice schedules, and team rosters are all easy to access online as they become available. Photography of your updated facilities and links to your Winter Sports Guidelines will also help give website visitors a more exciting experience.
Now that you’ve got a strong starting point for winter sports prep, reach out to a Team Fitz rep today to help set your athletic facilities in order for the upcoming season.