Athletic Directors are often the top administrators in an athletic program. They directly oversee the coaches, staff, and athletes. Working as an Athletic Director involves more than just hiring and firing coaches. They also deal with scheduling, marketing, budgets, compliance, and the overall management of sporting facilities.
An Athletic Director may work at public schools, private schools, colleges, universities, sports clubs, community centers, or professional sports organizations. This job comes with a lot of responsibilities and requires years of education and experience. Learn more to find out if you have what it takes to become an Athletic Director.
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Athletic DirectorsAthletic Directors oversee all areas of an athletic program from hiring to enforcing policies. An Athletic Director is essentially the manager of the program, working with coaches and stakeholders to achieve more wins and greater recognition for the sponsoring organization or school.
What they do
Athletic Directors oversee all areas of an athletic program from hiring to enforcing policies. An Athletic Director is essentially the manager of the program, working with coaches and stakeholders to achieve more wins and greater recognition for the sponsoring organization or school.
Managing staff recruitment
Coaches are often responsible for recruiting players and hiring the coaching staff. The Athletic Director is the person responsible for hiring the coaches.
Along with coaches, you need to staff other positions in the athletic department, such as assistants, trainers, and budget officers. While coaches recruit players and hire their own staff, you still get a say on those roles. You may get to veto hiring decisions and set the pay rate for various positions.
Reviewing finances and setting budgets
Handling the budget is one of the main tasks of the Athletic Director, which is why many Directors have backgrounds in Accounting or Business Administration. Financial management is especially important for large athletics programs, such as the programs that compete in the NCAA Division I.
Collaborating on scheduling for games and practice
The Athletic Director is responsible for coordinating scheduling and travel for games and practice. However, many Athletic Directors have assistants who deal with the logistics of these tasks. You may need to sign off travel budgets or review game schedules to ensure that they do not conflict with other events or activities.
Participating in fundraising efforts for teams
Schools and universities frequently plan fundraisers to raise more money for their teams. As the Athletic Director, you may be involved in these activities. For example, you help arrange for the team to appear at a local school or a charity event.
Maintaining compliance with laws and policies
Athletic programs have a long list of regulations that they need to follow that are designed to protect the interests of players and students. Athletic Directors are responsible for ensuring that everyone in the staff, including the student-athletes, follow the required laws and the program’s policies.
As the Athletic Director, you may also develop policies or alter existing policies to bring change to the organization. You also need to decide on the punishments for violating the policies, which may include suspending a player from upcoming games or removing a player from the team.
What is it like working as one
You get to help student-athletes excel in their education and athletic careers
Athletic Directors often find that their role is highly rewarding as they get to help student-athletes receive the resources needed to succeed in athletics and education.
You get to shape the direction and culture of an entire program
Athletic Directors have the chance to alter the direction or overall culture of a sports program. For example, you may create a more diverse administrative team or help develop forward-thinking policies.
You may get to attend a wide variety of sporting events
While Athletic Directors have busy schedules, they often get to attend games and practices.
You may participate in fun fundraising and promotional events
Fundraisers and promotional events are often used to raise funds for the athletic program. You get to participate in these events, which may include fun activities.
This is a high-pressure job
Athletic Directors face pressure to cultivate successful sports teams. The pressure of the job can sometimes become stressful.
You sometimes need to fire coaches and discipline student-athletes
The Athletic Director is often the person responsible for firing coaches. You also have a say in the disciplining of student-athletes who violate policies. These responsibilities add to the stress of the job.
Where they work
Athletic Directors may find employment at any organization with an athletic program. This includes both public and private middle schools and high schools. Community centers and local nonprofits may also hire Athletic Directors to oversee their sports programs.
The Athletic Director position is more common for athletic programs at universities and colleges. In the past, the Head Football Coach was often designated as the Athletic Director. This position now attracts individuals from outside of the sports industry.
How to become one
Step 1: Become Involved in Athletic Programs
Aspiring Athletic Directors can learn more about the inner workings of an athletic program by participating in school sports. Becoming an athlete may give you more insight into how athletes, coaches, and administrators work together to build successful teams.
Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Most Athletic Directors have at least a Master’s Degree, which first requires a Bachelor’s Degree. The most logical field of study for aspiring Athletic Directors is Sports Management. However, many of today’s Athletic Directors have degrees in Business Administration or Accounting.
Step 3: Earn a Master’s Degree
After earning a Bachelor’s Degree, pursue a Master’s Degree. Some universities offer Athletic Administration programs that cover the skills needed to be an Athletic Director.
Step 4: Start Working in an Athletic Program
Start working in an athletic program after college to gain work experience. You may need to start as part of the administrative staff. Common entry-level positions include Budget Officer, Ethics Officer, and Assistant Athletic Director.
Step 5: Become Certified
There are three voluntary certifications for Athletic Directors. With limited experience, you can obtain the Registered Athletic Administrator certification. After two years of experience, you can obtain the Certified Athletic Administrator certification. The Certified Master Athletic Administrator certification is for those with many years of experience.
Should you become one
Athletic Directors require good organizational skills and communication skills due to the variety of departments that they oversee. Your day may involve reviewing budgets, recruitment, or fundraising for multiple teams within the program.
Athletic Directors are also often responsible for setting objectives for athletic programs, which requires passion and a clear vision. They must also be able to keep things in perspective. For example, an Athletic Director must remember that student-athletes are students first and athletes second.
As with many executive positions, Athletic Directors need to be confident. The decisions that Athletic Directors make may impact everyone from the coaches to the student-athletes, which requires confidence in your abilities.