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Working with Custodial Staff and Grounds Crew to Identify Responsibilities

By Lisa Myran-Schutte, CMAA on September 08, 2021 hst Print

New seasons are so exciting and yet there is always so much to do. After years of kicking off the season as a one-person show, it is time to re-evaluate and depend on others. Working with others is amazing, but if there are miscommunications and misunderstandings, that is where the drama begins. To create an open dialogue and pleasant working environment, clear expectations need to be addressed.

Activities directors many times will do it all themselves and then get frustrated when they are the only one setting up or tearing down an event. The best way to conquer this yearly cycle is to be purposeful in planning. It will be amazingly worth it as you experience the “help” for the first time.

Start with making a general list of all the jobs that need to be done on a game night. Begin with one sport and include everything from the ticket table placement to plugging the microphone in. The activities director needs to analyze the list. What jobs really can be done by others? For example, setting up the chairs for the team benches on game nights can be done by the athletes. Custodians can set up the bleachers and scorer’s table.

Once the lists are done for each indoor sport, set up a meeting with custodial staff. Discuss the chaos of game night and what can make it more efficient. Realistically, custodians may have more ideas. In one school, the custodians all left the classrooms they were cleaning and arrived at the gym at a given time. One custodian drove the floor scrubber to clean the gym floor, one pulled out bleachers and the last one wheeled the scorer’s table and set it up. All of it was done within 10 minutes, including the floor. When doing it alone, it took the activities director 25 minutes, and the floor did not get scrubbed. The stress level for that activities director was reduced tenfold.

The discussion with the custodial staff is very helpful. The inclusion of custodial staff in problem-solving really creates a culture of teamwork. The value of everyone being involved is felt and appreciated. This is where the culture improves and respect increases. Respect for the activities department and respect for the custodial staff. American writer Jim Stovall stated this about teamwork: “You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.”

When it comes to outdoor sports, there may be more involvement. The activities director may need to meet with maintenance and grounds staff. Again, gaining input from these individuals is priceless when it comes to efficiency. Even if you have contests off site (hockey rink, etc.), what are the duties of everyone involved? Be diligent in getting all details on paper.

Once all pregame and postgame duties are set with fellow staff members, the activities director should begin to tackle the preseason checks and postseason checks. Again, this is an opportunity for the activities director to give up some control and allow for teamwork. Meeting with everyone involved may allow for the scoreboard “verification of working” to be a maintenance job, and the activities director may gain a few minutes back to his or her day.

Creating a printed event planning guide for everyone to see and check whose job is whose for any given sport is ideal. The event planning guide allows for open discussion with jobs that are not working or what needs to be re-evaluated. The maintenance department and grounds department should have a copy (it may collect dust, but for new staff it is a godsend). The guide also allows for the activities director to take a night off and the supervisor will know what needs to be done pregame and postgame.

As an activities director approaches this process, it is important to have an open mind. It is essential the custodial meeting or grounds meeting is led with an attitude of needing help. Brainstorming how game night or preseason can be done more efficiently is the door to improving the culture of how respect is given and received within the activities department and maintenance and grounds departments.

Once the event planning guide is finished, the activities director should meet with coaches. The idea of sharing the individual sport duties with the corresponding coach will give the coach a reality check of what is needed in order for the game to happen. This also informs him or her what duties are expected of the athletes on game night.

There are so many teams behind the scenes than just the team on the court or field. Use them, include them and appreciate them. Any activities director who is successful is only that way due to the teams behind the scenes – the custodial team and the grounds team.