The purpose of this paper is to show the responsibilities and contributions of a high school athletic director and how they handle certain situations on a day-to-day basis. The intent of this paper is to allow the reader to understand the important decisions a sports administrator much make for the overall good of the organization. The concepts and questions asked throughout this interview were intended to provide a deeper understanding of how to deal with conflict, and how to assess different issues relating to sports and student-athletes. It’s important to understand and know to handle certain issues such as performance enhancements, sportsmanship, conflict with parents, academics, and ethics.
Beverly D. Humphrey is an athlete, Olympic trial finalist, champion, teacher, coach, and mentor. She began her coaching career in Greenville, TX as a volleyball and track coach. She was the first African-American head coach for any sport in the Greenville and Lancaster High School history. For the past 26 years, she has been in the Lancaster ISD, where she has been a dominating coach in the UIL with 9 state championships in track. She is currently the Head Girl’s Track Coach at Lancaster High School as well as the Athletic Director for the district.
Being an African-American woman and Athletic Director for an entire district is not an easy task. In order to develop the understanding of African American women athletic directors, the differing experiences African American women athletic directors are afforded due to the intersection of their multiple marginalized identities is needed. The degree to which African American women identify and attribute their personal and professional outcomes and attitudes with race, gender, or an integrated black-woman identity is influenced by personal and contextual factors. (Mcdowell, J., & Carter-francique, A. 2017). No matter her position she has always maintained her poise and is well respected.
Equal access to the power and prestige of the athletic director position is mandated for two basic reasons. First, the law requires equal access under Title VII. Second, it is the right thing to do based upon the fundamental principles of integrity, fairness, and other maxims often used to validate the existence of school-sponsored athletics. The numbers to-date suggest that in reality, the law is not being followed. (Whisenant, W. 2003). The current environment is perpetuated by the systemic nature of the organizational culture by which athletics operates. Acosta and Carpenter (1992) found that hiring decisions are influenced by the gender of the hiring decision maker. They found that female ADs had a greater percentage of female coaches in their programs (50.8%) than did male ADs (46.4%). Lovett and Lowry (1994) came to the same conclusions in their study of head coaches in Texas: women hire women, and men hire men (Whisenant, W. 2003).
The questions asked during this interview were geared towards governance, policy and ethical values. As an athletic director, there are many different issues that will arise that will deal with the above questions. It is important that as the head person in charge that you know how to deal with these issues and find ways to help reduce them in the future. One of the questions asked was geared towards sportsmanship. No matter the sport, the athlete, coach, and parents must learn to exemplify good sportsmanship. Athletes who exhibit high levels of sportsmanship appear to balance feelings of intense striving and playfulness as well as develop ethical standards that supersede strategic gain within the competitive context (Feezell, 1986; Shields & Bredemeier, 1995). The standards that athletes apply to their behavior within the competitive context are influenced largely by personal expectations of sport participation (Ryska, T. 2003). There appear to be two general steps to inculcating sportsmanship. First, those who are attempting to establish sportsmanship must understand its meaning. Second, the individual who is teaching sportsmanship must use a teaching methodology that considers the athlete’s competitive history (i.e., moral callouses). Furthermore, the teaching methodology must be such that the athlete acquires a knowledge and appreciation of sportsmanship. As a result, the athlete will be able to generalize personal decisions beyond his or her specific team environment. Rather than mindlessly complying with coaches’ requests, the athlete will develop the tools to make moral decisions (Rudd, A., & Stoll, S. 1998).
Another question asked was dealing with conflict among parents. Coach Humphrey stated that coaching is a rewarding job, however parents can make it difficult at times. As the athletic director, learning to diffuse conflict is important. At the times conflict in unavoidable and it’s crucial that you have the necessary tools to help face it head on. Lack of communication can cause things to escalate and end badly for all involved. Parents and coaches have a tremendous influence on a child’s behavior, and negative role modeling for young athletes, such as exhibiting a coach’s win-at-all-cost mentality, can have a long-lasting effect on the student-athlete. By recognizing the causes for conflict, the target groups will share a deeper level of appreciation for what each side requires for success. By reducing confrontational situations between the two groups, the main goal of athletic participation for the athletes will be met, that being a positive learning experience relevant throughout the athlete’s life (Foster, P., & Schultz, Robert. 2009). Effective leaders in athletics share common characteristics which can greatly influence the behavior of others. Strong leaders in athletics are able to form personal relationships with their players and provide a strong support system for the athlete when away from home. The effective leader will be granted a high level of trust and, through encouragement, will better motivate the athlete to perform at a higher level. Leaders will be aware of what the followers find rewarding and punishing and be keenly aware of when an athlete needs reward or punishment (Foster, P., & Schultz, Robert. 2009). To help aide in reducing conflict, coaches and sports administrators must possess leadership qualities. To be an effective leader or coach, two of the primary qualities are integrity and strong values. Leaders and coaches must love what they do and be able to build long- 15 lasting relationships with their players (Fakehany, 2008). Another common leadership characteristic is that leaders in any profession are authentic and dedicated individuals who continually seek to improve their own knowledge to be able to impart their wisdom to others (Foster, P., & Schultz, Robert. 2009). Once conflict is eliminated, a more unified front between the coaches and parents will make for a better atmosphere for players to participate and in turn will enhance group performance (Hughes et al., 2006). Due to individuality, athletic programs within a school operate under varying philosophies, and, because of the uniqueness of each team, a distinct set of circumstances must be considered before instituting a conflict resolution plan (Foster, P., & Schultz, Robert. 2009).
To complete this interview, I reached out to coach Humphrey via email asking if she would take some time out of her busy day to answer the above questions. Since she is such a busy person and with the track season vastly approaching, I was unable to do a face-to-face interview, I instead sent her the questions that I wanted to ask, and she sent back her response. She was quick with her responses and stated how elated she was to be of help and that I selected her to complete this assignment.
Overall, Coach Humphrey has paved the way for many athletes. Becoming the first African-American woman athletic director is huge. Doing this interview, it allowed me to get a better understanding of some of the issues that she faces as a woman of color as well as an athletic director. I was fortunate enough to have her as my volleyball coach in high school and she played an instrumental role in my life and wanting to continue my volleyball career in college. This interview also allowed me to see a different side of coach Humphrey from a professional side. Her answers to the questions asked proved that she is very professional and has the utmost respect for the district, the coaches and most important the student-athletes. She cares about the overall well-being of the athletic department their overall success.
Throughout this interview process, I’ve learned that holding the title as athletic director requires a lot of discipline, determination, and maintaining a positive attitude. High school athletic directors are often in a tenuous position as they tend to have a close working relationship with coaches and frequent communication with parents. When the chain of command is broken, the athletic director is typically the parent’s first contact, and very often the athletic director will learn of a potential problem before the coach knows one exists ((Foster, P., & Schultz, Robert. 2009). The overall success of the department depends on the decisions and actions of the athletic director. As the athletic director, retaining good and effective staff is vital. Coaches and sports administrators must be proactive and consistent. Having effective communication allows things to go smoothly and reduces conflict. A big part of being an AD is making sure that all programs are in compliance with school regulations and that no violations occur.
While reading the responses of the interview questions, I realized that a strong athletic director is able to connect, engage, listen, and develop relationships with a variation of constituents including coaches, student-athletes, administrators, the local community, and donors. To be an effective leader and AD, you have to know and understand the people you are leading. This allows you to gain their trust and respect. When you develop these types of relationships and show that you are invested in your coaching staff, it makes a world of difference. As an athletic director, you must be able to help motivate and inspire to achieve the overall vision. Providing professional development is another key aspect to help push and motivate coaches. As a true leader, you must be a walking representative or what you say. The values, visions, and beliefs should be represented through the athletic director so that others can follow suite. The athletic director should clearly define the goals and objectives of the program so that coaches can incorporate this within their own individual teams. Is it also important to remain motivated and inspired throughout the year towards the organization’s vision and mission and make the necessary changes if needed.
In doing this interview, I learned that how this coincides and impact sports managers. As sports managers you must help maintain communication and the image of the client. Sports managers are similar to athletic directors, because they can actually work as the athletic director and must oversee all aspects of the athletic program. A sports manager much also ensure that all parties involved are in compliance and adhering to the rules and regulations.
The purpose of this interview was to help identify strengths and areas of improvement among high school athletic directors. In summary, this interview highlights some of the issues that can occur and how to deal with those issues. Sports administrators such as athletic directors, youth sports directors, and college athletic directors all share a common goal and that is to ensure the overall success of the program. The success of the program depends on the skills of the athletic director. As an athletic director, you must possess leadership skills across several different levels. It is important to have an action plan in place to help the program be successful. Overall, high school athletic directors must be strong with interpersonal skills. This interview helped to reinforce the need for effective communication and the focus of how building relationships are vital to the overall success of the program.