Networking is an essential part of success in virtually all professions dealing with leadership, administration, and the public. It can be especially useful for athletic directors – at both the high school and the college level. Many people might think the purpose of networking is to line up a future job, but that’s only one small piece of the professional networking puzzle.
Very few people are born networkers. Instead, most have to grow their confidence and work on being comfortable networking. Even those who are very outgoing in most social situations might find it hard if they’re not comfortable talking about themselves and their accomplishments. Even so, the time and effort you put into networking is worth it, and it can have a positive impact on your athletic program.
Networking is Growing More Important for Athletic Directors at All Levels
Why does networking matter? If getting another job isn’t the point, what is?
No matter what they might call it, good athletic directors work to build their skills and stay at the top of their game so they can do their best work. Still, the world of student athletics is getting more complex, especially at the high school level. Even the most energetic and engaged athletic director can’t always stay ahead of all the latest trends.
Directors, coaches, and other athletic staff all around the country are constantly working on their organizations. They’re ready to share new ideas and help you to implement them. Talking with a colleague for fifteen minutes can help you get perspective faster than hours of seminars, workshops, or readings in the field – because the connection is personal.
Even if things are going swimmingly with your program, there are ways you can improve. Networking allows you to identify issues with your program and brainstorm creative ways to solve problems faster, ultimately helping to improve overall team performance – on and off the field.
Luckily, Networking is Also Easier Than Ever – for High School and College
It wasn’t that long ago when most people had just one option for professional networking: Going to conferences. This can still be a good option, but it’s only one of many in today’s fast-paced world. Athletic directors should look for new ways to stay connected with others across the U.S. and even around the world if they want to stay informed.
Let’s look at some networking approaches that are making a big difference:
Social Media – A Fast, Easy, Instant Connection
Social media is the king of networking. An athletic director who uses multiple social apps to their full potential can do practically everything that used to be done face to face. For example, Twitter is a great way to publicize your own athletic program’s innovations and successes. LinkedIn, with its laser focus on the professional world, is ideal for connecting with affinity groups and having deeper conversations about best practices.
Attending Conferences – The Traditional Way of Networking
Not every conference is a life-changing experience, but most of them have a lot to offer. When you attend a conference out of state, be sure to come prepared: Bring plenty of business cards and a notebook for writing down key points and new contacts’ names. It’s best not to stop there: In the later hours, most convention attendees will visit informal mixers. This gives you the chance to meet in a more relaxed setting or continue conversations from earlier in the day.
Going to Athletic Events – Mixing Business and Pleasure the Right Way
When all is said and done, everything comes down to the love of the game. It’s important to keep that in mind so you can encourage it in colleagues, athletes, and even parents. Why not take time to go to an athletic event you don’t usually attend? Coaches are busy during and after the game, but a quick drop-in now could lead to a deeper connection later on. In most cases, long-term effort yields the best networking results. That might mean becoming a fan of a few more teams!
For Best Results, Make Networking Part of Your Program Philosophy
When you find a networking tactic that works for you, it’s a good idea to share it with the other decision-makers in your program. Over time, your school can develop a reputation as one that’s receptive to ideas and involved in the conversation around making athletics the best it can be.
That can give you the winning edge when it comes to implementing new ideas.
Remember, good networking is about “what I can do for you,” not “what you can do for me.” As in the big game, leave your ego off the field. You don’t have to overstate your program’s accomplishments – be honest and authentic. In a relaxed, unscripted conversation, the points you have in common are bound to come out. Those lead naturally to the areas where newly-introduced contacts can contribute to one another’s success.
Networking can be tough at first, but like any skill, you hone it as you practice it. Make it part of your leadership philosophy and you’ll find more opportunities to use it. You could end up getting some of your best ideas through networking!
Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is the pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.