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June 13, 2012

Sometimes it isn’t about winning, it’s about survival!

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Written by: Brian Mancuso
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Happy anniversary to me! Recently, I celebrated my 1 year anniversary, (no, not of marriage) but of my hiring as a high school athletic director. The last year of my job has been challenging as I have transitioned from a 29 year old, “know it all economics teacher” to a greenhorn administrator. I have numerous war stories that I could share with you that would make all of you laugh. Since I know that many of the readers of this site are interested in a career in athletic administration, I thought a column on how to survive in athletics would be practical. Listed below are some tips that will help you survive!

Tip #1-“Develop a plan, then develop a backup plan!”
I was given this piece of advice almost immediately after my hiring by a fellow AD. Throughout the year, I am directly involved with the coordination and scheduling of more than 200 events in 19 sports. Sometimes, my plans don’t work out. For example, I could discuss at length about the time that I was supposed to supervise a track meet, but instead had to drive an injured athlete to the hospital after an injury. Or I could discuss the time that a 12 minute severe rain storm cancelled an entire Saturday of events. I would like to say that these events are the exceptions, but sometimes they are the norm.

Tip #2-“Surround yourself with great people… and expect them to do great things!”
Something that I have always strived to do is put people in a position where they are going to be successful. I have a staff of approximately 50 coaches and 30 event workers. I am very lucky to have coaches who like kids. When coaches have questions, I try to guide them and give them proper guidance.
When hiring event workers, I look for people who have a sports background. I also look for workers who can solve problems. A couple of points to remember: every second that you spend dealing with an unnecessary problem is time that you could have spent doing something else. Also, I try to create a positive game day experience for our fans and our event workers have more contact with our fans than anyone else. I suggest using teachers because it helps to promote good will in your building, but also because they are better able to relate to the students, which can help if there is a problem.

Tip #3-“We are all in this together…. You are only as good as your weakest link.”
At my first athletic director conference, a retiring AD made it a point to state that “athletic directors are only as good as their weakest link.” This is one of the greatest pieces of advice that I have ever received.
Say for example that your wrestling team is traveling to Evansville for match. How are your parents or your team going to react if they arrive at the school and nobody is around for the meet? Chances are parents are going to call you and ask what is going on. Chances also are that they are going to be very upset. Even though this situation may not be your fault, you are going to be the person who gets to deal with the angry parent.
Because of situations like this, athletic directors realize that we are in the same fight. If one school screws up an event, chances are that another school will have to bear some of the consequences.
Many coaches are often unfriendly to one another because of the competitive nature of the coaching profession. Many coaches will not take the time to help new coaches deal with problems. ADs put aside petty differences and work for the common good. ADs return phone calls and offer advice whenever asked. (At this point, I probably should insert a thank you to every AD I called for advice during the past year).

Tip #4- “When stressed, go to lunch!”
Being an athletic director can be very stressful. You will probably encounter many people who have no idea what you actually do. You will also encounter community members who think you show up at the start of the contest and leave when the contest is over. (If any of you prospective ADs think this is the life of an AD, you are sorely mistaken.). Being an AD means working 60 plus hours a week and being on call all day and all night.
ADs must be able to deal with both short term and long term stress; otherwise, individuals will not survive in this field. The Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (IIAAA) estimates that the average career length for an AD is 3 years.
I have a motto that I use in my office. When I get too stressed, I “go to lunch.” When I say “go to lunch”, I don’t necessarily mean driving 4 minutes to Buffalo Wild Wings for 30 cent wing carryout. (If I did this every time I was stressed, I would be in debt and overweight. In case you were wondering, jerk and sweet bbq are my 2 favorite sauces). When I am stressed, I try to take some time and back away from the situation at hand. Maybe I go and visit a classroom. Maybe I make a phone call to a friend. By backing away from a situation, I am better able to make a decision.

Tip #5- “Do it for the kids!”
At the end of the day, I always remember that I am here for the kids. There is no greater feeling then when you see a kid get through adversity or when you see a kid get recognized for an important accomplishment. The leadership of the athletic director helps make this possible.
My first year as an athletic director has been memorable. This is a challenging, yet rewarding profession! At the end of the day, I tell people that I get paid to go to games and nothing could be more fun.

Brian Mancuso is the Athletic Director at Terre Haute South Vigo High School and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Athletic Administration at Indiana University. He is also a Registered Athletic Administrator through NIAAA. He can be reached via email at btm2@vigoschools.org.

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Brian Mancuso



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