Many athletic administrators are often so consumed by their day-to-day responsibilities and tasks that they do not take time to self-assess their own professional growth and performance. Some may fear knowing how others may judge their job performance. However, an assessment indicates what is done well and where improvement may be needed.
Feedback from shareholders is necessary to avoid or negate an unhappy constituency who may not be satisfied with the operation and direction of the program. Most constituents, like good athletic administrators, want coaches who work hard, are passionate about their sport, care about kids, have integrity and use best practices and standards of care. Everyone in an education-based athletic program should value personal growth and learning, equity, good sportsmanship and fair play.
Athletic administrators are responsible for assessing programs and personnel, which includes promoting their growth and success. They are responsible for leading the program in the right direction and developing and promoting coaches who are student-centered and education-based.
Self-assessment goes hand in hand with the assessment of athletic programs and personnel. Taking time to periodically self-assess allows good athletic administrators to become even better leaders, and to continually work to improve every aspect of the athletic program and the people they lead.
As athletic administrators develop a self-assessment structure,
• Formal assessment survey questions should match:
Athletic Administrator Job Description
School district expectations, procedures and policies
Stated goals of the athletic program
• Informal assessment can include:
Documented conversations such as emails, notes from meetings
Artifacts such as meeting agendas and minutes, checklists, surveys and survey data
Many athletic administrators have little or no past experience with self-assessment. If there is no understanding that this technique is a critical factor for continuous improvement, the administrator is more likely to stagnate. It is vital to know how athletic administrators are perceived by the constituents of the program, or crucial leadership and administrative opportunities may be lost.
A lack of self-confidence in one’s own abilities can also be an impediment to self-assessment and self-improvement. Fear that coaches, parents and administrators may produce unsatisfactory, mediocre or even average evaluations can be a frightening prospect.
Other barriers to self-improvement include past experiences with poor or unwelcome feedback. Also, some may have an unwillingness to change and exhibit personality flaws such as laziness, arrogance or hostility.
Coaches are equally responsible for achieving the goals of a long-term strategic plan as well as making day-to-day decisions that are education-based and student-centered. With collaboration and participatory decision-making, coaches have greater ownership in program direction because they are active participants and not bystanders.
The vision, perceptions and ideas of coaches should be respected and considered. As a result, the retention of good coaches is enhanced with a simple, formal anonymous survey that the athletic administrator develops and distributes. This tool gives these staff members a say in how the program is being run and how they are being led.
After all, coaches are part of an athletic administrator’s team, and the feedback the administrator receives from coaches regarding performance is important and can be used for self-improvement and program improvement. Coaches who are consulted become major players in community relations and shape the perceptions that constituents develop regarding the athletic program.
Students are the individuals who athletic programs serve. Education-based outcomes, at the end of the day, do two things:
• Promote schoolhouse learning, teachable moments and life lessons, and
• Develop citizenship that promotes positive personal growth.
In short, does their participation in interscholastic athletic programs enrich their high school experience? Are they better people as a result of their time in the athletic programs?
The primary assessment role by students does not include completing surveys that evaluate athletic administrators, although it could include their coaches. Student surveys that ask simple questions concerning their participation and the program can serve multiple purposes, including providing informal assessment.
For example, the following questions can be useful: “Are students enjoying their participation experience?” “Are students having fun?”
Informal self-assessment can take place when athletic administrators compliment student performance. In that setting, students will open up to administrators and provide appropriate feedback.
Parents need to be educated about student-centered, education-based interscholastic athletics. They are more likely to provide financial support as members of booster organizations and taxpayers and less likely to interfere with coaching decisions. Parents should be collaborative and supportive – not adversarial and detrimental.
Winning and losing is kept in perspective, helping to retain good coaches. Giving parents a chance to formally or informally assess the athletic program – without giving them a specific avenue to evaluate an individual coach – is a way to garner their support.
The simplest formal assessment is a survey the athletic administrator develops and distributes. Informal evaluations come from paying attention to day-to-day communication such as orientation, booster club and ad hoc committee meetings, allowing for continuous program improvement.
Administrators who staff positions and handle salary negotiations are empowered when the constituents are happy with the program and personnel. Shareholders may offer up compliments and criticism in front of upper-level administrators, board members and athletic administrators. The professional development of the athletic personnel, including athletic administrators, should be part of a long-term strategic plan.
An annual formal assessment by the administrator’s supervisor – principal or superintendent – is imperative for job retention, especially if criticism has validity. Sometimes, even if stated concerns are not valid, and because perception is often reality, it can influence job retention.
The process of self-assessment gives athletic administrators multiple sources of feedback that allows them to validate a student-centered, education-based philosophy of interscholastic athletics. At the same time, using both formal and informal methods of assessment appropriately, professional development of the athletic administrator can be an integral part of the continuous improvement of personnel and program.
Michael Williams is the director of athletics for the Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) Area School District and was the former coordinator of athletics for Howard County Public Schools in Maryland. Williams is the vice-chair of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Leadership Training Course (LTC) 707 and co-chair of LTC 799 as well as a Maryland state Leadership Training instructor.