Stop Treating Coaches Like Adjunct Professors

Stop Treating Coaches Like Adjunct Professors

Part 1 of 3

All coaches are expected to recruit, mentor, develop and support student-athletes. These are all essential elements of collegiate coaching and also part of any institution’s core mission.

Tenured professors do research, publish and advise students because adjuncts are not expected to perform these core institutional functions. Coaches, especially part-timers, are often viewed as adjunct professors in that their roles are seen as limited, or non-essential to the institutional mission.

Few institutions understand, let alone embrace, the essential role athletics and coaches play in supporting and advancing their missions. Athletics departments lack integration with campus and academic life because administrators are ignorant, fearful or misinformed.

How can this be when the athletics program directly impacts 20-30% of undergraduates at most small colleges? There is no bigger wasted opportunity for these institutions than intercollegiate athletics.

Small college campuses must have an on-going conversation about the role of athletics. We need to look at three key area for this conversation:

•        The Role of Coaches- Stop Treating Coaches Like Adjunct Professors
•        The Role of Athletics- Stop Treating Athletics Like High School Sports
•        Joint Accountability- Start Holding Athletics Accountable for the Educational Experience

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself”

Why do some campuses fail to embrace athletics and the critical role it plays? Here are a few common reasons:

Fear:
– athletics will become the identity of the institution
– student-athletes will become disciplinary problems
– practice and competition take too much time away from academics

Ignorance:
– media has exploited the worst in collegiate athletics
– narrow perspective on educational experience for students
– all or nothing mentality: either academic or athletic

Excuses:
– athletics costs to much
– we need to spend money on academics
– athletics is not part of our core mission

“What we have here is a failure to communicate”

All of these reasons usually stem from a lack of understanding of how athletics fits in, which means that there is a lack of conversation about athletics at these institutions.

Part 1: The Role of Coaches

Coaches are often treated as adjunct faculty, or worse. Adjunct is defined as “a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part.” Sound familiar? It might for many athletics directors and coaches at institutions that don’t understand the roles and responsibilities of coaches today.

Establishing appropriate FTE (full time equivalent) for coaching positions is essential. Start with establishing how many hours coaches spend on the various activities throughout the year. This includes recruiting, meeting with students, parents, alumni and campus constituents. Don’t forget about fundraising or camps and clinics if coaches are performing those duties.

Compensation for coaches is often budget driven at small colleges. However, does your pay match up with the amount of time coaches actually spend on their jobs? This analysis is essential for your campus conversations.

Here are a few talking points to arm athletics directors when they have the right administrators’ ears.

  • Coaches must be viewed as critical campus staff who impact enrollment, retention alumni relations and marketing, visibility, and brand equity of the institution.
  • Practices and competition account for only a portion of a coach’s responsibilities and in some cases may be the least critical element of their jobs. However, most part-time coaching positions reflect only time spent on practice and competition.
  • Recruiting is an essential job expectation and coaches should be held accountable for meeting goals and objectives each year.
  • A student-athlete will have a relationship with their coach that is closer and stronger than any other person on campus. It begins during the recruiting process and continues past graduation.
  • Coaches, because of their relationships with student-athletes, often have more effective influence on academic success and disciplinary actions than traditional campus offices charged with these roles.
  • The “adjunct” approach, i.e., part-time status, does not acknowledge essential duties that truly support the educational mission. Still many part-time coaches are expected to recruit, mentor students and perform public and community relations activities.
  • Coaches want to be acknowledged for their contributions off of the playing fields.

Where to Start

Your campus may be further along or further behind when it comes to addressing coaching roles, responsibilities and creating appropriate FTE and compensation. Here are three things to start with:

  1. Revise job descriptions for all coaching positions. Be thorough and include all expectations.
  2. Calculate and translate FTE for all existing positions. Not what Human Resources has listed, but start from scratch and consider what a full-time positions should/would pay. What does your existing compensation translate into FTE-wise?
  3. Write a justification for full-time coaching positions. Be thorough but concise. Next, have a conversation with your direct report about this written justification.

Next up, Part 2: Stop Treating Athletics Like High School Sports


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Mark Majeski founded Majeski Athletic Consulting in 2011 after spending more than two decades working in small college athletics.

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