Advice for staying on your school's good side.
March 5, 2019 by Michael Aguilar in Opinion with 0 comments
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It is no secret that ultimate is still a niche sport. As such, it can be difficult to earn and maintain the respect and support of school administration, whether you’re a high school or college team. Administrators often have their time stretched extremely thin and their stress-level piled extremely high, making their patience level for something new on their plate extremely low. That makes navigating the creation and maintenance of your club a tightrope walk that can be difficult to do.
It’s a balancing act that’s worth doing though because without the support of school administration you may struggle to find field space, you may not be able to get permission to miss classes for a tournament when necessary, you may not get permission to use school logos on uniforms,1 and, most importantly, you may not even get approval to exist as a club at all.
However, with the approval and blessing of your school’s administration you can easily gain access to all these things and more. The key is for your team’s organizers to understand the way, generally, that a school works. If you have an understanding of how a school works, then you can make sure you are communicating the right way with the right people to get the approval that your team desires.
1. Know Who to Talk To (and When to Talk)
One thing that is sure to be a roadblock in any request is asking the wrong person or at the wrong time. Do not come out of the gate demanding an audience with your principal or dean as soon as something goes wrong or in the process of creating your club. Most schools have someone in the administration who manages clubs. You need to figure out who that person is and what their preferred method of communication is. If you want to form a club, many schools have a process. If you have a conflict you need resolved or require special assistance, make sure you are catering to the preferences of whoever heads clubs — they are no doubt pressed for time already.
2. Don’t Say Anything Until You are Ready
Once you know who to talk to, it’s important that you are respectful of their time. One way to do that is to make sure that you are ready to present any solutions to the problems or issues you are presenting to the administration.
DO NOT approach the administration simply with a problem. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
- “We lost our access to the field that the local parks and rec department was letting us use and our state championship tournament is only one month away!”
- “We’re having a leadership issue between two captains!”
- “We don’t know how to raise money so we can afford jerseys!”
Do everything you can to problem solve on your own in each of those situations.
- Talk with the parks department and see if there are feasible alternate field sites you can use.
- Have other leaders on the team or coaches speak with the captains before bringing the conflict to the administration’s attention.
- Shop around with every jersey company and make sure you have the lowest price.
If you still can’t solve your problem alone, come prepared with a suggested solution the administration can help with.
- “We lost our field space and are hoping that, if we are flexible, we can get some time on the school field. What times would be available?”
- “Our captains are having trouble getting along, can they set up a meeting with you so you can help them get through their issues?”
- “Jerseys are very expensive. Can we use the parking lot for a car wash to fundraise or can you tell us who the varsity sports order their uniforms through? Do they get a special school deal?”
Two of those three issues are issues I had as a high school coach and the school provided solutions that met our team’s needs. In each case, our suggested solution was the exact course of action that the Activities Director ended up pursuing.
3. Don’t Cause any Problems
This one seems obvious but it also has proven difficult for many teams to avoid, even — or especially — at the collegiate level. If your program keeps popping up on your administration’s radar for negative reasons, their willingness to work with you when you need something is going to go way down.
This means you need to avoid the obvious problems like inappropriate cheers at tournaments, bad sportsmanship, or obscene social media content. It also means you need to make sure you handle all your responsibilities on time. Turn in all your forms on time. Make sure you have an attractive display at your club advertising days. Do all the little things right — you want all of the administration’s associations with you to be positive.
4. Help Them Care
Any given school is likely going to have 20+ varsity athletic teams. Imagine trying to keep up with all of those results and understand them in the context of a season! It’s hard enough for me, as a teacher and parent, to keep up with my personal favorite sports teams’ seasons.
So, help your administration out. If you see the Principal/Athletic Director/Club Sports Admin in the hallway the weekend after a tournament stop and let him or her know how you performed and make it relatable!
“We finished tied for fifth, which was a little worse than what we wanted but we played much better on Sunday then we did on Saturday, so we were happy about making good mental adjustments.”
Get to know your administrator’s habits. Often high school administrators try to make themselves visible by being in the halls during changing periods. Some college club administrators have dedicated weekly hours in their office. Figure out when an administrator that you know is available for a quick chat between classes that is convenient for both you and the administrator and try and give them regular updates on the season.
If the administration has a concept of your results and how you feel about them, they are more likely to feel invested in your success. The more invested they feel, the more likely they’re willing to work to help you out when the time comes.
5. Buy Into the School Mission
If your school is anything like the school I taught at or the schools I went to, then there is a school mission or idiosyncrasies that make your school unique that your administrators LOVE, often times with good reason.
Our Catholic high school has a song that it sings to close Mass. It is taught to incoming freshmen on their first day of class and it’s the last thing that the senior class does together at graduation. It’s a song about trusting God with your problems and believing that he will guide you in your actions and provide you strength. We would sing it as a team to close every competition. Administrators often commented on how they loved to see the boys singing together after play, whether on social media or at games they attended.
Now, that’s an example from a Christian school but public schools will often have school mottos or alma maters that are important to them. Incorporate those into your team attitudes and mentalities. The high school I graduated from was a fairly regular public school but our principal loved the motto “Ever Upward and Onward!” If you think I wouldn’t have instituted an “UPWARD! ONWARD!” call and response cheer after scores, you have another thing coming.
Many schools will have service initiatives throughout the year. Go AS A TEAM and wear your jerseys! Participate willingly and happily! Make your presence, especially the fact that you are present as a unit, known at important school functions. There are few things that communicate your seriousness to an administration better than showing that being a part of your program has made you a more active part of your school.
I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of these suggestions sound corny and extremely “goody-two-shoes” but, as I suggested at the beginning of this piece, when your sport of choice doesn’t carry the cultural weight that many other activities do, you don’t have the wiggle room that those activities do.
Once you’ve proven to your administration that a part of your program’s priorities is contributing to the school’s positive environment, you may be surprised at how many doors start to open to you.