- General Best Practices
It’s still summer, but the fall athletic season is right around the corner. And while many of our schools excel at overall communications strategy, athletic communications are often a challenge. With numerous teams and various levels, coaches who have multiple commitments on and off the field, and constantly changing game and practice schedules, developing a comprehensive athletic communications plan is not for the faint of heart. Here are five key tips to ensure your athletic communications are game-day ready for the start of the fall season.
1. Gather valuable feedback from your community and get buy-in.
Current parents are the biggest consumers of athletics communications, since they’re the ones schlepping their children to and from practice and games. Go right to the source and find out what they’re looking for when it comes to communications from coaches and the school. Do they want rosters available on mobile devices so they can look up team members on the sidelines? Would they like text alerts when a practice is changed or a game is cancelled? Design a survey and send it to your current parents, or convene a group of interested parents and conduct an athletics focus group on campus. Parents will appreciate you asking for their feedback, and this goodwill helps with buy-in when your department rolls out its communications plan.
And don’t forget coaches: they also need a say in what communications they can send out to parents and students, so be sure to include them in the process as well, as they will be your chief communicators during the athletic season.
2. Head to the drawing board.
Once you’ve gathered input from parents and coaches, draft a plan that covers the athletic season from tryouts to practices to the final championship games. And, be sure to consider both the student and parent perspective when designing athletic pages on your website and building your communications to ensure you’ve covered all aspects of communication.
Trinity-Pawling's successful athletics program draws on organized site sections to display information and boost team spirit. (For more information on this school's success with athletics manager, check out this blog post!)
Beyond just a site page, Loomis Chaffee's Sports Information Center is a visually-appealing, professional site within their site:
Trying out for a team and competing for your school can be an emotional and sometimes stressful experience for some students and their families, so be sure communication is frequent and open.
Consider including the following email communications in your plan:
- A welcome email to all students from the Athletic Director listing all the fall sports available, your school’s athletic policies, the times and dates for tryouts, and contact information for all of the coaches
- An email from specific coaches once students have signed up for teams, detailing the tryout process, the upcoming practice and game schedule, and the dates students will hear what team they’ve made
- A welcome email from coaches to all students on a team’s roster, with team expectations, uniform information, and the practice schedule and games.
All of this information should also live on your school’s Athletics page. Finalsite’s Athletics Manager can help your school build out team-specific pages with roster information, tryout dates, and game schedules. Schools can pick and choose from elements in Athletics Manager to create their own custom team pages and include information such as events, rosters, or teams.
Using Finalsite Calendar manager and Composer, these sites keep team information organized, visually-appealing and easy-to-access for fans:
Taft Athletics sports schedule:
Episcopal School of Dallas team pages and calendar:
Avon Old Farms Soccer Page:
3. Cover your bases with game day and practice communications.
As an independent school, sometimes away games can be quite a distance, and there’s nothing worse for a parent than traveling to a game that’s been cancelled or postponed. Make sure everyone is on the same page with timely text and email alerts. Athletics Manager lets coaches easily send out text alerts to parents if there’s been a change in game or practice time or if a game’s been cancelled. And, website visitors can subscribe to receive alerts on scores and game highlights.
And for those far away games, Athletics Manager can provide directions to the facility through Google Maps.
4. Empower Your Coaches.
Coaches are your athletics department’s front-line communicators, so give them the tools they need to communicate effectively to parents on the fly. Athletic Manager’s mobile editor, Coach Mobile, allows coaches to post scores, manage teams, and schedule, cancel or postpone games from the sideline, their offices, or the team bus.
5. Ensure a Consistent Message and Don’t Forget Social!
In the spirit of C.O.P.E. (“Create Once, Publish Everywhere”), once an administrator, such as a coach or someone from your communications team, makes a change in the Athletics Manager module, the change appears site-wide automatically. This helps ensure everyone sees the same message and saves you and your coaches time -- and prevents upset fans who are out of the loop.
Have an active social following for your school’s teams? Consider adding Finalsite Feeds to key athletics pages to pull in social content from your community. Schools can filter by hashtags-like Lakeside School’s popular #GoLions tag--and moderate comments from fans.
Communicating effectively to your student-athletes, their families, and your coaches can be a daunting task, especially when considering all of the elements of a busy athletic season. Athletics Manager provides a robust platform and communications tool to manage all the diverse needs of an athletics program, from communicating practice changes and scores to providing accurate team rosters on game day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rebecca Delaney is a writer and editor based outside of Boston. She has worked in marketing and communications for independent schools and higher ed for several years. She graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and Northwestern's Medill School.