My good friend Trip Durham talks about “casting your shadow” in the sense that athletic administrators should be seen and recognized around campus. I think this is great advice and a particularly important reminder to get out of the athletic department and expand your influence on campus. This creates exposure for you, good will around campus, and positive influence for the department.
Similarly, it is important to “cast your shadow” as you work to continue to grow in the profession of sports. Just as mentioned above, this implies increasing your personal visibility and stature while at the same time enhancing the reputation of your university and department. Make no mistake that you are always representing your department….meaning that as people meet you and form opinions about you, they are also forming opinions about your department/university. What I am suggesting is that you actively seek out more opportunities to do this beyond your campus and local community.
Here are some ways that you might grow your stature and reputation in college athletics.
Be Really Good at What You Do – Let’s face it, the folks that we admire the most are the ones that show up every day and earn it. First and foremost be dedicated to your job and institution. Seek out opportunities to develop and improve your skills and freely share your knowledge to help others grow. If you have the skills, opportunities will come your way.
Professional Development – Never stop learning! There exists a plethora of great opportunities to improve your skills by participating in conventions and workshops designed to help you grow. NACDA, BOSCA, CASE, NCAA & NAIA convention to name a few are chock full of sessions designed to share best practices and exchange ideas. Attending these events exposes you to these ideas and enables you to interact with others in the profession that you can add to your network of contacts. In the early stages of your career you should be intent on attending and soaking up as much knowledge and as many relationships as you can. Eventually, you should be the person presenting at the workshop or leading the meeting. Actively seek out opportunities to be at the front of the room sharing the idea. What better ways to show your stuff, share your ideas, and increase the visibility of your department.
Networking – While conventions and workshops offer great opportunities to meet others in the profession, it’s not the only way to do this. Frankly, sometimes conventions can be overwhelming with so many meetings and so many people swarming around. A natural place to start is within your conference. If you are an Athletic Director you probably meet with other AD’s in your conference on a regular(quarterly) basis to discuss league-wide issues and business. I advise others, Asst. A.D.’s, Directors, etc to do the same thing. Reach out to peers in your conference to share advice and ideas. Make plans to meet and engage socially at the conference tournament or some other event. Build your own “affiliation” group. Kelly Perry is the Asst. A.D. for Compliance on my staff. She is one of only 15-20 people that hold this position full-time at an NAIA Institution. Kelly has taken this advice and begun working to coordinate this group, bringing them together to discuss issues and exchange thoughts and ideas. The end result is that Kelly will have more connections in her field and more people will know Kelly and the work that she does at Oklahoma City University. My advice to Kelly was: “If the organization doesn’t exist to meet your needs or to give voice to your group….create it.”
Leadership – I once heard Dan Parker tell a group of aspiring AD’s, “Prospective employers aren’t impressed that you are a member of an organization…they are impressed when you are the President of the organization. Aspire to lead…and remember that leading means serving. Don’t just join NACMA and expect to gain the benefits of membership, seek to become a presenter, and then a conference rep, and eventually an officer in the organization. Keep in mind that you have to earn these leadership positions by giving of your time and by doing your job well. Leaders of these organizations cast a nationally prominent shadow that benefits them, the organization, and their department. Guys like Jeff Bain(former NACMA President) and Matt Donovan(former NAADD President) are great examples of this. Their leadership of these organizations cast an incredibly positive light on their campuses (Martin Methodist and the University of Indianapolis) while inspiring people like me to follow their lead.
Utilize Twitter – Notice that I am specifically pointing out Twitter as opposed to Facebook, Instagram, or other forms of Social Media. I think that Twitter is an excellent way to send your message and build a following. Plus it’s free. Follow industry leaders; share your thoughts, ideas, insight into new things that you are working on. Join in on chats like the weekly #scachat that occurs on Sunday nights at 8pm CST. Chats like this bring together folks that want to share and learn and they are a great way to make an initial connection and share your insight. Why not take advantage of them. The primary decision to make here is using Twitter as your professional social media outlet. It’s obviously fine to share personal items on Twitter but make a concerted effort to use this to share thoughts that help your followers shape their opinion of you professionally.
It’s important to remember that none of this is easy! It requires you to handle all of the aspects of your day job while looking for other opportunities to grow(you should be doing this anyway) and share your personal experiences. The key is to add value to your position and university while also growing your personal and professional stature.