Remember the 1991 movie Hook? A key part of that story is Peter's relationship with his son. Peter constantly misses his son's baseball games because his ridiculous '90s cellphone is always ringing with demands from work. No one wants to be that parent.
We now have smarter, less dorky phones, but our schedules are no less demanding. Balancing work, family time and extracurricular activities can be overwhelming. Simply staying informed about everyone's schedules is half the battle.
Parents aren't the only ones who need to stay informed about school sports. Athletic directors are responsible for managing many stakeholders, from students and parents to faculty members and groundkeepers.
The good news is that as new technology has given us better phones, it's also allowed for the development of tools that make keeping your school's community of athletes, parents, fans and administrators connected much easier.
Knowing the Tools
Many people aren't fully aware of the technological options available to them. Here are the ones I recommend. Explore them to see whether they're best for your school:
The Cube is a free tool that enables people to watch high school events live online.
GameChanger lets coaches record scores online in real time so fans can view them via a website or mobile app. It has free and inexpensive packages. It reminds me of ESPN's Gamecast tool.
Digital Scout lets you follow your child's game statistics before, during and after the game—then export them to other applications such as Hudl. If you're focused on helping your child take the next step, the in-depth player and team reports can help you plan strategically.
VNN Alerts is a free app that lets the whole community—parents, athletes and fans—subscribe to the teams or seasons they want alerts about via email or text message. Coaches and athletic directors can send one message to keep everyone informed without bothering the whole school.
And to keep your family from double-booking, use Google's calendar app to sync everyone's schedules. Shared experiences are the bedrock of healthy communities, and technology has the potential to make everyone feel more connected. The trick is getting everyone to adopt something new.
Winning People Over
As parents, you have the ability to help your school embrace these tools. Change isn't easy, but you can persuade your athletic director and administration to get on board using these strategies:
- Use real-life examples. Athletic directors often have comfortable, familiar processes that have worked for years. Parents enjoy the benefits of a change, but it's the athletic director who must have tough conversations with administrators, employees, coaches and other stakeholders if something doesn't work. Therefore, parents should prepare examples of specific cases that were successful and pitch backup plans to ease concerns.
- Display an existing community. Another pain point for schools is getting community members to use the new tools they invest in. Transcribing email addresses to software (or, worse, collecting them) can delay implementation for weeks before the first score even gets to you. If there's a way you can collect information ahead of time and convince other parents to buy in, it will make the athletic director's job much easier.
- Help manage the load. Coordinating the concession stand, greeting opposing teams, and managing everyday requests for information and appearances requires administrators to rely heavily on volunteers. If you find your school resistant to new technology updates, it might be because administrators see them as just another thing to do in their already busy day. If you're able to offer to help with tasks initially, until they see how a tool saves time, it could make a big difference.
Sometimes, the idea of parental involvement conjures images of parents shouting terrible advice from the sidelines. But most of the time, parental involvement helps students enjoy sports more.
Don't be afraid to get involved. Be a positive, helpful force for your community, your athletic director and, most importantly, your child. Helping your school embrace communication technology will mean that instead of pulling you away from your child, your smartphone could actually help you stay more connected.
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