by Ryan Chipka, AthleticOps.com Editor
With summer winding down, the anticipation of the upcoming fall semester and collegiate athletics seasons is starting to pick up. Within a few weeks, students will begin reporting back to campus with the promise of a new season and a fresh start. Although the next few weeks provide opportunities to rest after a long 2016-2017 athletic year, it also provides valuable time to prepare for the upcoming fall.
Over the last few years, countless times I’ve heard coaches say something along the lines of “you know it’s crazy how little time we spend actually coaching each day.” Often, a coach spends most of his or her day working in the office on numerous duties that don’t involve teaching or coaching on the court or field. Some of these tasks involve filling out paperwork for an upcoming camp, logging the team’s compliance hours, or making travel arrangements for the team’s upcoming road trip. The reality of this has led to an increase in the demand for an operations-specific employee on staff. The director of operations (ops) comes with many different duties, backgrounds, and titles. Athletic programs everywhere are creating positions to aid the coaching staff with their day-to-day operations, budget management, camp execution, player development, and team academic performance. This position has allowed many coaches to focus more time to coaching on the field while also making sure that the team and program’s infrastructure remains intact.
As any operations person will probably tell you, the day-to-day duties are unique and variable to the day or time of year. Depending on the sport each month and semester brings a different focus for their day-to-day priorities. For a spring sport, the fall’s focus may be on academics as classes begin, while in the winter, focus may be on finalizing the team’s travel, and in the spring the priority may shift to scouting and managing the team’s public relations. The list of duties and responsibilities under the watch of an ops person can be overwhelming, and at times there may seem that there aren’t enough hours in the day to address them all. Despite the various tasks to be completed, if one is organized, able to communicate well, and not afraid to stay late, the job can be very rewarding.
As the position has grown especially over the last few years, so has the focus and goals of the position. It’s common today to see not only a director of operations but also a director of player development, director of media relations, director of performance science, director of player personnel, and director of video production amongst others. All of these positions are centered around the growth and development of the program. College athletics is as competitive as it has ever been and the recruiting wars that take place across every sport in every conference has pushed coaches to be more creative in the development of their coaching and recruiting efforts. This drive to be more creative and find the next big thing program-wise has helped fuel the surge of operations-related positions. Specialization amongst coaching staffs is quickly transforming from a luxury to a must-have.
The responsibilities and influence that are associated with these positions have helped launch many former operations personnel into administration roles. It is common to see ops personnel move on to become assistant athletic directors and full-time coaches after as little as one year on the job. The tools and experiences obtained from operations positions are tremendous training for future coaches and administrators.
As you look around at the college athletics landscape, it’s easy to see the time and financial investment that so many colleges and universities are making to their athletic programs. The resources and services that are being provided to student-athletes today are unmatched by any other time period. Administrators and coaches have turned over a new leaf in their creativity and performance in the recruitment and development of student-athletes. One of the biggest and most rapidly growing areas within that relationship is the role of the operations-specific individual on staff. Without this position, much of the creativity and execution of these ideas and resources would not exist. As the new academic year quickly approaches, I would like to encourage all ops persons to keep up the great work and continue to push the boundaries of what benefits can be provided to our student-athletes.