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Life in the Balance

So you want to be an AD

As you seek to become a Division II athletics director, you will frequently hear the term "Life in the Balance." What does it mean?

The phrase comes from the Division II strategic-positioning platform, which is the basis for Division II’s approach to intercollegiate athletics. Under the section “Who We Are,” the platform states:

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What steps would you take to make sure that your student- athletes were taking advantage of the educational and social opportunities that your institution offers?
  • How would you help your coaches balance their need to win against the social and educational needs of the student- athletes?
  • As athletics director, what steps could you take to help the rest of your institution and your community perceive your athletics program as a fully integrated segment of your college or university?
  • How would you judge if your staff members are spending too much time on their jobs and too little time with their families or other aspects of their personal lives?
  • Does the faculty athletics representative serve as a voice for student-athletes, especially on matters pertaining to academics and time demands? If so, how would you ensure that voice was heard?
  • Is your exit-interview process able to identify whether student- athletes had a satisfactory overall experience at your institution?

"Life in the Balance. Higher education has lasting importance on an individual’s future success. For this reason, the emphasis for the student-athlete experience in Division II is a comprehensive program of learning and development in a personal setting. The Division II approach provides growth opportunities through academic achievement, learning in high-level athletic competition and development of positive societal attitudes in service to community. The balance and integration of these different areas of learning opportunity provide Division II student-athletes a path to graduation while cultivating a variety of skills and knowledge for life ahead."

The term was used to describe a legislative package, adopted at the 2010 Convention, that reduced playing and practice seasons in most Division II sports in an effort to ensure that student-athletes had more time to have a complete college experience.

The legislation also mandated a midwinter break that prohibits practice and competition during a weeklong period in late December. The purpose of that rule, which has been well-received since implementation, is to ensure that student-athletes and athletics personnel alike have the opportunity to spend time with family (and have some downtime from athletics) during the holiday break.

Although much of the Life in the Balance initiative is directed at student-athletes to enhance their overall educational experience, efforts also are being made to help administrators and coaches with their work-life balance. As an athletics director, you must consider how you will view such matters. One study on the work-life balance of Division I athletic trainers concluded: "Many ... factors are not avoidable; however, factors such as support from a supervisor, job sharing between co-workers, and prioritizing time away from the role of the athletic trainer appears to help stimulate work-life balance."

Much of that has to do with management, and as athletics director, management is your responsibility.

Athletic trainers certainly are among the busiest of personnel, but coaches, sports information personnel and those responsible for game management also can work extreme hours. The consequence of such a condition can be burnout - not only from a particular job but also from the entire field of inter - collegiate athletics. Quite obviously, you want to win, and you want your student-athletes to succeed. But what limits are you willing to place on your professional staff members to protect them from an environment where the job becomes all consuming? It’s something you need to think about before you take any AD job.