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Community Relations

So you want to be an AD

 

One of the most important components of Division II’s philosophy is community engagement. You are operating in a more intimate environment than most of your Division I peers, so it’s important for your supporters to know - and respect - your student-athletes and coaches.

This section contains several documents to help in that regard:

  • Community-engagement plans
  • Tailgate policies
  • A community-action plan

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What would you do to create a better environment at your institution’s athletics events?
  • What events could you develop that would, in a fun way, familiarize members of your community with your coaches and student-athletes?
  • How does the nature of your community and your program affect your community-outreach efforts? For example, if your program doesn’t sponsor football, do other sports lend themselves to tailgating? How would community-outreach programs differ for urban and rural institutions?
  • What initiatives would help build a bridge between your program and faculty/students at your institution?

In general, you will not be able to rely on television or other mass media to promote your program. You’ll need to sell your events locally, probably as a family-oriented, live-entertainment option. Here’s the trick: You need to follow through on your promises. When members of the community attend your games, they need a reason to return. That means creating an entertaining environment, keeping things suitable for families (no profane chants from the student section, limited histrionics from the coach) and making sure the experience is a pleasant one (clean facilities, comfortable seating, quality concessions and so on).

Apart from the games themselves, tailgating may provide your best large-scale means of association. As fun as tailgating is, make sure you develop - and enforce - effective policies. It will save headaches in the future.

If you combine all those elements with competitive teams, you will be rewarded with fan loyalty.

It is, of course, a two-way street. In exchange for the support, your program must be willing to give back. A basic approach is to use your events for food or toy donations, but you’ll probably want (and need) to take more personal approaches.

You should consider outreach efforts to local elementary schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and nursing homes. Your community probably has ongoing beautification efforts, so identify ways your program could help.

And don’t forget the fun stuff. Community service is valuable on several levels, but you also need to think about ways to engage the community. That could be something as big as a community- wide picnic to celebrate the arrival of spring or something as small as having your football student-athletes stay on the field after a game to play catch with kids who attended the contest. Youth camps and clinics are another excellent way to interact.

There’s also the need to engage students and faculty on campus. Your program may derive substantial support from student fees, so make sure student-athletes and coaches show their gratitude. Look for opportunities to interact with sororities and fraternities. As for faculty, they often are required to accommodate travel-related time away from class. Let them know you appreciate their patience.

You should keep one important warning in mind. While most student-athletes are happy to be part of your school’s community- relations efforts, the demands on their time are extreme. All of them must practice, compete, study and attend class, and some of them also have jobs. Be sensitive to their situation when considering required community-relations activities.

You also have individual community-relations responsibilities. As an athletics director, you will want to become close with your Chamber of Commerce, Local Organizing Committee and probably join a service club yourself – not to mention participating side-by-side with your student-athletes and coaches on their community-outreach efforts.