Monday, December 6, 2010

Wearing Multiple Hats

One of the parts of my job that I have the most fun with is doing the public address for most of our home athletics events. While I have been the sports information director at Pacific University since 1999, I have been doing P.A. for home volleyball and basketball games since 1994. Since becoming SID in 1999, I have also picked up announcing duties for soccer, wrestling, track and field, swimming, baseball, softball and women's lacrosse.

When I am pulling double duty as SID and PA announcer, it can sometimes be a delicate balance. If there is an issue with the table, do I keep doing PA and let my students work it out, or do I go help resolve the situation? If I am short on student workers, what do I let go of first or can I handle two or three jobs at once? I know that in the world of the small college sports information directors, this is hardly unusual.

What follows is an article that I was asked to write for the newsletter of the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers (NASPAA), an organization devoted to developing training and professionalism for sports PA announcers nationwide. This appeared in the December 2010 issue.

It is 15 minutes before the start of another Pacific University volleyball match, but this time I am in a bit of a panic.

Earlier in the day, I realized that one of my main statisticians had a class conflict and would not be able to work that night. Then, 30 minutes before the match, our scheduled libero tracker calls in sick.

As Pacific sports information director and event manager, this means that I have to pick up another duty for the evening along with my usual public address duties. On this night, I moved the microphone and announced as I tracked substitutions and the libero’s movement. In both the eyes of the fans and the officials, I was able to do it seamlessly.

For many of us in sports information at the small college level, wearing multiple hats is all part of the job. While I prefer to focus solely on the PA and let my student workers handle the rest, there are times that I have to do multiple jobs just to keep the game moving. In my 12 years at Pacific, I have juggled public address with volleyball scoring and libero tracking, basketball scoring, baseball/softball scoring, run scoreboard and even spotting and inputting for our official stats.

In some cases, multitasking is just part of the job. It is easy enough to score a baseball or softball game and do the PA simultaneously, but doing it during a volleyball or basketball game can be a challenge that requires a lot of focus. I know some colleagues who do this on a regular basis and do it flawlessly. My hats are off to them.

If you are faced with a situation where you have to pick up a second duty in addition to public address duties, it helps to keep things in perspective and understand where your priorities have to be. Consider these tips if you find yourself in such a situation…

KNOW YOUR LIMITS: Take into consideration the task you are being asked to add and decide if you enough hands or enough concentration to take it on. If the answer is no, do not be shy to tell the event manager “no” or to make the manager choose between the additional task and the PA.

MAKE THE OFFICIALS AWARE: When I take on an additional duty, I always make sure the officials are aware of the situation. This will but some understanding from the officials, as they want the game to follow smooth as much as you do.

KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES: This may not be a welcome thought for the PA professionals reading this publication, but there are times when another essential game duty is more important than the public address. If you have to score a game or assist with stats while doing PA, the book or the computer has to come first. The PA announcement must become secondary.

The same is true for any additional duty key to the flow of the game. Even when I have a full crew, I sometimes have to step in and troubleshoot for my stat crew or remedy another problem. I may miss an announcement or two, but that will save me much more time after the game if I wait until later to fix it.

It is possible to pull double duty as a public address professional, but it requires more concentration that you might think. Take the time to consider if you are up to the task, and know when it’s too much. And know that those who do aren’t any less the public address professional. They are just doing what they can to get the job done.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Media Guides...The Fond Farewell

It is curious that one of the big things that drew me to this business is the thing that could have driven me away from it.

From the time I started at Pacific in 1999, I have thrived on the media guide. I have loved the concept of taking a program’s history, rebuilding it, shaping it into a tangible form and producing a publication that is nothing short of an advanced placement history book for Boxer athletics.

But there is some truth to the saying that if you love something, you have to let it go. And I have reached that point. For the 2009-10 year, I will not produce a single media guide. A bittersweet decision, certainly.

From the view of our coaches, the media guides are great pieces; something that not many other schools at our level do now. But the fact of the matter is that eight of our 20 teams (cross country, track and field, tennis and golf) didn’t have one. Those coaches made their displeasure heard, but also agreed that the time isn’t there for me to add four more publications.

For me, the decision not to do them is partly a matter of relevance. The printed media guide is quickly becoming a dinosaur. Fewer and fewer small colleges (non Division I) are producing guides. While some had reduced their guides to high profile sports like football and basketball, many more have stopped producing them altogether. It’s just as easy to get all of the information of the ever-growing World Wide Web.

A number of Division I schools have stopped print guides altogether. There is potential NCAA legislation that would eliminate all media guides at the Division I level. So, in a way, we’re keeping up with the Joneses.

There’s also the question of purpose. Media guides are meant to be for serving the media that cover our teams on a regular basis. However, I can count on one hand how many members of the media have been around to cover Pacific athletics. The bulk of the guides are used by our coaches as another item to help lure the prospective player to choose Pacific over another school.

The upside of that is the opportunity to hand an impressionable 17-year-old a glossy, high quality publication focused on a specific program. The down side is that the guide tells the whole story, good, bad or indifferent. Not the best piece of recruiting swag if you are coming off a 5-20 season.

So the guides are gone, replaced by a series of tri-fold, full color recruiting brochures that will serve all of our sports and show the brighter, positive side of Pacific athletics.

The challenge of designing and developing these recruiting brochures will be exciting, but it won’t be same as the challenge and thrill of developing a strong, high quality, award winning media guide. And believe me, I will miss it.

The media guide challenge that put all of my skills to the test, and one that I passed with flying colors. It was a self challenge of doing something better than Pacific had ever had before.

As an athlete at Pacific, the “media guide” was nothing more than a four-page game program whose layout was basic at best. Head shots, name, hometown, previous school, position. If there was room, maybe a season preview. Oh, you run cross country or play tennis? Forget it…only teams with true home events and home crowds.

My direct predecessor as sports information director at Pacific (who lasted all of six months) raised the bar, creating the first true media guides for Pacific in nearly a decade. There was the combined fall sports piece that tied together men’s & women’s soccer, volleyball and cross country. Men’s basketball, women’s basketball and wrestling all had their own pieces, as did baseball and softball in the spring.

The guides were basic at best. No more than 12 pages for any one sport (which was all that the budget would allow) and 20 pages for the combined fall piece.

In my first year, the guides expanded to allow for records for specific sports where they were already compiled. The largest guide – 24 pages for the combined fall sports piece.

Fast forward to 2008-09. The Pacific sports information office (also known as me) produced a total of 10 media guides, all with full color covers. The smallest guide, women’s lacrosse, spans 32 pages. The largest, the two soccer guides and the wrestling guide, ran 40 pages each.

It has been a labor of love me and one that has paid dividends. In the last five years, my guides have won 28 CoSIDA Publication Contest awards. That includes eight guides deemed “Best In The Nation,” the gold standard when it comes to media guides. Three of those awards have come this year alone for women’s lacrosse, softball and wrestling. In addition, my guides have also received awards from USA Volleyball, Swimming World Magazine and Amateur Wrestling News.

There is nothing like awards to drive you to raise the bar and strive and do more and better work. But it comes at a price, and that is when push came to shove.

To put together a quality media guide, it takes me 30-40 hours per guide. That includes the typesetting, sizing and manipulating photos, compiling biographies, updating records and developing cover concepts.

Add that up….30 to 40 hours per week adds up to almost three work months spent exclusively on media guides. That much dedication meant that other things suffered to make sure that the guides not only came close to meeting deadline, but lived up the quality that others expected and that I expected of myself.

In the past, I would take some of that work home. That was before I had two wonderful daughters that deserved my attention and a wonderful wife that not only deserved my attention, but also a break. For the first time ever, media guide work didn’t go home. And to be honest, quality suffered a bit.

I love the media guides, but I love my family more.

Parts of the media guides will live on as the records section of the guides move online as purely a record book. The update process will take much shorter amount of time, but there will be no printed version. There will be no awards to be earned, no books to hand out to media, parents and prospectives. Just a tri-fold brochure and a PDF.

Will media guides return? Perhaps. Outside of a football guide, we won’t be bringing the guides back unless I get some full-time help in the office. Its too much to put on the shoulders of just one person. And as much as I love earning the honors and accolades and like the idea of that ever expanding AP history book, its time to change with our digital, short attention span theater times.

To view some of my media guide work, visit the individual pages at

Thursday, May 7, 2009

33 Years And Getting Younger

I gave myself a cool gift for my 33rd birthday. I went out and ran six miles.

Not your idea of a cool gift? Well consider this. It has been a long time since I have run that kind of distance. Can't remember the last time. With my past two injury problems, the wheels have always come off at five miles.

The sun come out around the lunch hour and I headed out on a loop that I know well, but haven't run on for at least five years. The shoulders along Stringtown Rd., west of Forest Grove, are minimal at best, but the lack of car traffic makes it ideal. Not much activity going on other than the action at the surrounding nurseries and the occasional person working in their yard.

It was nice. I moved along at what felt like a smooth pace, determined to go farther than I have in a while. I didn't really start feeling things until I got off B Street and headed towards Main St. The legs kept pumping, but it was obvious that they were working hard.

I came through at 46:03. A pace of around 7:55 per mile, which is faster than I wanted. Even though I should be running the longer runs more slowly (want to keep any injuries from flaing back up), I smiled. My fitness is improving, and it shows.

Hopefully I am not jinxing myself, but it feels good to be back. Thirty-three is not old at all, but this body has taken its share of injuries. I certainly don't want to revisit any of those by doing too much, too fast. I want to keep getting younger and getting faster. The journey has been good so far. I think its only going to get better.

I was on a great streak with my running until the end of March when the job and a chance to work the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament stunted things a bit. I am just now getting back to where things are feeling easy and I have that desire, that taste to hit the roads. It feels great. Gotta keep it going.

It was a birthday gift and a birthday challenge. How did you challenge yourself on your birthday?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Coming Soon

People who read this (all 4 or 5 of you) have noticed that I have not updated this blog since September. To be honest, my blogging has almost all been work related and been posted on the Boxer Blog, which is the blog on my Pacific University Athletics page.

Look for me to add a few entries here soon. Have some things to get off of my mind...

Monday, September 22, 2008

The End Of The World As We Know It

All you need to know is what you see in the following video of clip of our six-month old Hannah, who has learned the fine art of putting one hand and knee in front of the other...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sleepless Nights

It has become almost a ritual for me...nights of interrupted sleep leading up to the first week of sports competition at Pacific University.

Hence, here I am at 12:40 in the morning, downing a cup of "Sleepy Time Tea," hoping to get my brain to settle down enough to get a few hours sleep before heading into the office to begin two of the more hectic weeks of my year.

What makes it hectic? First there are the tasks to complete before the start of every individual sports season: compiling rosters, writing player bios, posting said rosters and bios to the Web site, writing season previews, posting said preview to Web site, writing the first notebook releases of the season, weekend game programs.

Then there is bringing my crew of Work Study students up to speed. I have a span of four days to hire and train a crew of 10-12 students who will be my backbone during all of our home events: scorekeepers, statisticans, scoreboard operators, clock operators. This will include at least a pair of evening training sessions and some one-on-one time with specific people, such as our volleyball stats crew.

The training is to prep those hard working students for a long first weekend. We host a two-day, seven-team volleyball tournament this weekend. Seven matches each day, including two matches each at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. It stretches my crew thin when everything needs to run flawlessly.

On top of that this year is a new addition: a women's soccer doubleheader on Friday and two more games on Sunday running concurrently with the volleyball tournament. I will probably have to hire outside for at least one person. It is a cruel way for a one-man sports information office to start the year.

Then there are the media guides. Three 40-page publications documenting the men's soccer, women's soccer and volleyball seasons. Thankfully I was able to get the majority of the work on these done before this week came. That leaves the player bios, season previews and team photos.

Those items, however, are partly at the mercy of the coaches and how important they think it is to get the information they need to me in a timely fashion. For some, the idea of writing 2 sentences about what each of their athletes will contribute to the team is too daunting. Scheduling team pictures is easy...provided we can sync up everyone's class schedule and not take any time away from practice.

So, here I am in front of the computer. The plea for student workers has been submitted to the daily student e-newsletter and the plea for volunteers has been submitted to the staff e-newsletter. The cup of tea is almost empty. Hopefully my mind can stop racing and preserve some cells for Monday. I will need them.

Oh...and there's meeting with the advertiser who I need to get a decent chunk of my operating budget from. Better have the game face on.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Beijing 2008

Some of the impressions from the Games of the XXIX Olympiad that will stick with me...

• Michael Phelps is an absolute stud. Swimming is one tough thing to do (this from a runner who can last one workout in the pool). To have the strength, the resolve and the focus do pull off what he did, with all of the different disciplines, is truly amazing. I would compare it to an individual track athlete winning the 100, 200, 400 and the long jump and then helping win the two relays.

And Phelps did it with unbridled excitement. At the end of each race, each time he stood on the top of the medal podium, he was excited to be there and, quite possibly, in awe of his own feat. Eight races. Eight golds. Seven records. Wow.

• Usain Bolt is an absolute stud. World records in the 100 and 200 at the same Olympics, a feat never before equalled. (Jesse Owens did set records in the 100 and 200 in the 1935 Big 10 Championships, but he couldn't repeat that in Berlin.) Add to that the world record in the 4x100-meter relay. But would expect a record when the current 100m world record holder hands off to the former record holder (Asafa Powell). My only regret: seeing what he could have done had he not pulled up at the end of the 100. Possibly a sub-9.60? I have a feeling we will know in the future.

• The United States as a whole was quite disappointing in the Bird's Nest. Tyson Gay's no show to the 100-meter final (though I will give him the benefit of the doubt with the hamstring injury he suffered in the Olympic Trials). Bernard Lagat failing to medal in either the 1,500 or 5,000. The botched handoffs by both of the 4x100-meter relays. The absence of Reese Hoffa on the medal stand in the shot put (offset by the silver medal performance of Christian Cantwell). Lolo Jones striking the last hurdle in the 100-meter hurdles and failing to medal. The U.S. has some serious ground to make up over the next four years leading up to London.

• On the positive side for USA Track & Field: The 1-2-3 sweep in the men's 400 meters, the domination by both 4x400-meter relay teams, Bryan Clay's gold medal in the decathlon (join the likes of Dan O'Brien, Bruce Jenner, Bob Mathias and Jim Thorpe as Americans to earn the title World's Greatest Athlete), Hyleas Fountain's silver medal in the heptathlon.

• I could not be happier for Walter Dix. The former Florida State sprinter was one of the nicer and fresher personalities at the Olympic Trials and came home with broze medals in both the 100 and 200. He has the potential to be a force in world sprinting in the next four years.

• Note to Great Britain: Although you did best Jamaica in the finals of the men's 4x400-meter relay, the last thing you want to do is taunt the world's greatest sprinting power in a preliminary heat. Bad idea.

• As much as I love watching long distance running, I don't think I needed to see the men's marathon in its entirety in prime time (though I will admit that my dad and I spent a Saturday night on the couch, eating pizza, watching the Kenyans earn their first gold medal in the event).

• The Redeem Team lived up to it's name, playing like a team and showing the world that, although they are catching up, it is still the United States' game. And the callsy move for the team photo of putting all the gold medals around Coach K's neck (remember that the coaches do not receive medals).

• Every four years, I will watch sports that I would normally have no interest in whatsoever: weightlifting, air pistol shooting, badminton, water polo, gymnastics, kayaking, rowing, boxing. And it looks even better in HD.

• China won the race in gold medals, but will the sports machine they have created be as concerned about it now that the Chinese games are over?

• I am looking forward to what kind of a show London can put on. Beijing set the bar very high.

• If anyone can get me tickets for men's hockey or speed skating for Vancouver 2010, let me know!