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Ideas on a Successful Contest from the Athletic Director’s Perspective

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA on September 29, 2020 hst Print

Everyone has their own viewpoint of what constitutes a successful game. Many would point to winning and the final score. While there is nothing wrong about enjoying a good victory, athletic administrators may have a different way of defining success.

An athletic director has to set up the stadium and is involved in every aspect of game management for a home contest. Many athletic directors have a checklist to follow and there are numerous tasks to accomplish before the opponent’s bus and the officials arrive. In spite of their best efforts, there can be an occasional problem. What could possibly happen or go wrong? Well, here are a few actual situations from many years in the athletic administration profession.

Fans begin to trickle in, but the ticket sellers are late. You jump into the ticket booth to take care of the early arrivals and thank goodness that everything else is ready to go because you are stuck there until your workers arrive.

Some fans from the visiting school when they arrive at the ticket booth exclaim, “What, we have to pay to see our son play? We don’t pay at our school.” Since all county schools have the same ticket policy, this simply isn’t true. Being prepared, I duck into the ticket booth, secure a printed copy of the county-wide provisions and share it with the disgruntled fans. “See! Yes, you will have to buy a ticket. The ticket policy is the same for all schools.”

In addition, there are a few individuals who arrive late in the second quarter and question, “I have to buy a ticket? I’m only going in to see the band or cheerleaders involved in the half-time show.” The explanation is simple, “Yes, there is no way to determine who is here to see the game or half-time. Therefore, anyone walking through the gate needs a ticket.”

Standing near the ticket booth, I see three young men running across the soccer field and it can only mean one thing. They are aiming for a line of trees that block the view of the lowest point in the fence that surrounds the stadium. I hightail it down the steps, run along the perimeter, and wait behind a tree until the last one cleared the fence. I pop out and ask, “Hi guys, do you want to go along with me and buy a ticket?”

Even though the scoreboard was inspected by a factory technician before the start of the fall season, it went out during a September football game. I checked the main switch, the connections with the control panel and there were no obvious problems. Not being an electrician, the only thing left to do was to run into the school to retrieve the spare control panel. After plugging it in, the scoreboard was operational again. Although, my shirt was soaked in sweat.

On one warm evening game in early September, the visiting team ran out of water and ice before half-time. Our trainer was busy. The coaches were obviously involved in the game. Being the only person available, since the student managers are not allowed to drive the golf cart, I jumped in and went back to the ice-making machine in the locker room to refill both coolers.

Just before half-time of a football game, a group of our students start walking around the end zone in mass toward the visitor’s bleachers. There is no good reason for them to be heading over to the opposite side other than to cause a confrontation. Cutting across the track, I catch them as they are turning the corner. “Hey, guys. If you are just trying to get a little exercise in by walking around, why don’t you turn around and go back and forth in front of the home stands? That would be a good idea. Thanks.”

Next to the refreshment stand, there are a few trees, picnic tables and an open stretch of grass. Suddenly, a Frisbee lands on the stadium field accidently thrown by a student from this area. After retrieving it from a disturbed official, I confront the students. “Hey guys, we can’t be throwing a Frisbee during a game. So, enjoy your refreshments at the tables. But no Frisbee! OK?”

As a fan walked by me to leave the contest, he remarked, “Wow, that was a heck of a touchdown run in the third quarter, wasn’t it?” “Gee, I don’t know, I didn’t see it. I was handling a problem … Please tell me about it.”

After both teams and all of the fans leave the stadium, I load up the golf cart with the bag of emergency supplies and extra layers of clothes. I really hope that the battery still has enough charge to get back to the school building. In addition to using the cart to refill the water and ice containers, a teacher used it to transport a few elderly fans to the parking lot and the athletic trainer already took a load of her supplies back to the school. And even though I always charge the cart after use each evening, I can’t always be sure that others do the same if it is used during the day. There have been games in which the loaded cart didn’t have the juice to make it to the garage on the lower level. This means I have to carry several loads of bags and supplies back to the building, which isn’t a lot of fun after a long day.

Getting in my car to finally drive home after turning off the stadium lights and locking the gate, I reflect on the evening. “It was a great game. There were no problems tonight!” Just like an athlete or coach, however, you can’t bask in the moment of a problem-free game because you will have another contest tomorrow. But it sure was great for one evening. What a heck of a game, even though I don’t know the final score! And after watching both teams leave, I’m not even sure who won.