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Section 4: Pre-event prep

As an athletics administrator, chances are you have been a student-athlete either in high school or in college. That means you probably faced a big rivalry game or competition where there was plenty on the line, and the weeks and days leading up to the match got a little more intense along the way.

Well, the stage you’re at with this community engagement event you’re working on is kind of like that, only if you’ve done the
communicating we’ve urged you
to do to this point, you’re probably
not under as much pressure as
when you were an athlete. Consider yourself as the
head coach of this community
engagement team. Your job is to
motivate your team and put them
in the best position to succeed.

In the weeks leading up to the event, here are some basic steps you’ll want to take.

  • Designate a manager for the run of show. As we mentioned in Section 2, it’s a good idea to appoint someone to manage the run of show – most likely the host institution’s SID. And by “manager,” we don’t mean “czar,” either. It’s important for everyone to have frequent access to the run of show and to have the ability to change it when warranted, so you don’t want someone who’s overly controlling as your manager. At the same time, you do want someone who is good at collaborating and organizing.
  • Make sure everyone on
your internal team has a run of show. As with any good event-management strategy, you want to ensure that everyone in the gym knows what will happen during pregame, at every timeout, at every minute during halftime, and during postgame ceremonies. (Or if it’s a sport other than basketball, then plan what will happen during similar breaks.)
  • Decide how you will communicate. You’ve probably been emailing each other until now, but when the event tips off, that mode of communication won’t be immediate enough. Determine whether you’ll be using cell phones or radios during the event, and plan to arm the right people with those tools.
  • Review responsibilities. Even if people have heard what they’re supposed to do 100 times, 101 can’t hurt. Make sure each one of your internal staff members has everything he or she needs.
  • Have a Plan B. While it may not sound like good karma to anticipate things going wrong, you don’t want to be the one holding the bag when they do. If you’ve done this game-management thing before, you probably know that technology – while often your best friend – is also a primary culprit. But you’ve got a Plan B, right? So when
the video you’ve cued up on the Jumbotron doesn’t play during the first timeout, don’t sweat it.You’ve got backup music or some other alternative in place to keep the positive game environment going.
  • Assign community performers appropriately. 
While it’s not always possible
or practical, it’s a good idea
to evaluate schools groups or individuals you’ve got lined up to perform. If you have a volunteer or community pep band, what’s their repertoire? Can they be “peppy”? Do their abilities allow them to provide the entertainment you need for that segment of the event? Are you confident in your choices for the national anthem? While it’s tricky to “evaluate” or “audition” people who are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, at the same time you don’t want to put them in a position where they might embarrass themselves – or you.
  • Develop a promotions plan. Determine local media outlets and assign people to contact them in order to promote your event. Your conference member SID will already have media lists available, and some will have media who will travel to follow specific teams. If your event is at a neutral site, you may have to make an additional effort to promote your event locally. Use your Local Organizing Committee to your advantage.

That’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but it’s a good foundation and should at least help you to begin covering your bases. It’s a good way to minimize the stress of event management, too. Part of what makes for good community engagement after all is a smooth run of show. Make ’em think you can do this stuff in your sleep. (Then after the event is over, maybe you can actually get some sleep!)