Lessons Learned from a Near-Disaster

Drop everything you’re doing right now and focus on this.  That’s been me every day for me for the past three weeks.  That's when two coaches contacted us to say their programs were on the chopping block. 

It has been an exhaustive process, but in both cases a combination of hard data, effective plan of attack and a courageous coach are prevailing - so much so, we believe there's a chance both schools will add scholarships and/or staff.  Having been in the trenches, I’ve determined there are seven basic things a coach needs to have on hand.  First, if/when the curtain falls, you may not have the time, ability, or resources to get them.  Second, they will make it far easier for the CSCAA to help you. 

  1. The reason your school has swimming and diving – It might be winning, enrollment management, a recreational outlet, or even to balance a revenue sports’ excesses.  You need to be able to explain – in one sentence – why your institution offers athletics and why swimming and diving are a part of that portfolio.  If you can’t, you’ve already lost the fight.
  2. The fiscal impact of your program – Schools make cuts when there’s not enough money to go around, so what are you bringing to the table?  Tuition, fundraising, facility rentals, lessons, camp – collect it all because when push comes to shove, money talks.
  3. The sum of all your fundraising and the number of donors – One number shows the depth of your support, the other the breath.  You need to know both because if your number comes up, you’ll find your allies in alumni development close ranks.
  4. How you’ve served the community – How many hours has your team devoted?  How many free lessons have you offered?  Perhaps most importantly, have the phone number of a beneficiary you can quote to tell others about the impact your team has made.
  5. Names and numbers of your award winners – All-American, All-Conference, Athlete-of-the-Week, All-Academic whatever.  Keep a list of them and know how you stack up with others within your department. 
  6. Every metric of your team’s academic successes – APR, GSR, GPA, Scholar All-Americans, whatever can be tracked, track it.  If they’re not good, show how you’re remedying that.
  7. Your standing vis-à-vis other teams – this goes for numbers 3-6.  Know where you stand in your conference, in the classroom, in your service hours and in your fundraising vis-à-vis other teams in your department.  If cuts are coming, you need to adopt the adage of the hikers encountering a bear – you don’t need to outrun the bear, you just need to outrun the other person.

We’ve been fortunate in that the teams that reached out did so before the season had even begun.  It’s given us time to prepare our case, plot strategy and position resources that can be deployed in real time.  We’ve even been able to take one adversarial athletic director, overwhelmed by our preparedness, into an advocate, in part because we were able to empower him to make smart decision.  When a natural disaster – think flood, fire, earthquake – hits, it isn’t time to stock up on water, check the fire detector or collect your important legal documents.  Think of these seven things as a first step towards building your Emergency Preparedness Kit.