3 Temptations Successful Athletic Directors Avoid

From 10,000 feet, the job of an athletic director might appear to have a singular focus:

Directing a sports program.

However, when you step into the day-to-day reality, it’s easy to see that ADs are continually dealing with the push-and-pull from MANY different directions. Just consider these:

  • Pressure from parents
  • Budget concerns
  • Coordinating the practice and game schedules of many different teams
  • Finding and keeping top-notch coaches
  • Taking appropriate actions for injured athletes
  • Coming up with a vision for growing the program
  • Maintaining the support from school leaders and community decision-makers

With these daily challenges, it’s no surprise that many ADs fall victim to some common temptations.

Being aware is the 1st step toward avoiding them. Ask yourself these questions to see where YOU land and take measures to bring balance back to your approach. 

Temptation #1—Losing Sight of Who You Serve

With all the stakeholders involved in youth sports, it’s no surprise that this temptation exists:

  • Parents want a voice in their child’s experience
  • Coaches need solid leadership and accountability
  • Fans demand parameters
  • Officials want to be appreciated and respected
  • The school or community needs to stay engaged

It’s a juggling act for every athletic director to handle all these entities successfully. 

But at the end of the day, the young athletes are the “why” behind the sports organization. They are the ones with the highest priority, and everyone else is there to support.

Keep this fact in the forefront, by regularly asking these questions:

  1. Am I filtering decisions through the lens of, “How does this impact the kids?”
  2. Do I make an effort to stay personally connected to the actual athletes? Or am I consumed by tasks?
  3. Do I ASK the athletes for their input when it comes to changes?
Temptation #2—Focusing Only On Skills, Equipment, and Strategies 

Now that you’ve refocused your efforts on “who” you serve it’s time to re-examine your highest purpose—which is to develop the whole person, not just the athlete.

Developing skills, procuring equipment, and defining strategies is undoubtedly part of the job, but the maturing of human beings and the character-building that takes place in the process has a lasting and worthwhile impact.

Ask yourself these questions as you look at your program:

  1. Are your athletes learning about themselves, thanks to the sports platform?
  2. Can you point to many athletes that have matured during the time they’ve spent on your teams?
  3. Do your coaches, athletes, fans, and parents understand that character-building experiences direct your decisions for the sports program?
Temptation #3—Being Consumed By Results, Stats, and Trophies

Tony Dungy said, “It’s the journey that matters. Learning is more important than the test.” 

As the first African-American head NFL coach to win the Superbowl, he’s probably battled the temptation to concentrate on today’s outcomes—but ultimately he learned that the value is found in the journey.

Although results and stats—and even trophies—can help you to measure and fine-tune your methods, it’s important not to become consumed by them.

As the AD you are primarily in control of the direction of your program. Be sure to ask these kinds of questions routinely:
  1. What type of character defines our program?
  2. What are the core values we strive to represent?
  3. Who are we becoming, beyond our win/loss record?
Moving Forward 

Honest answers to the right questions can help you to avoid these common temptations.

Did any of these resonate with you? Maybe you have a success story that another AD needs to hear. Pay it forward by sharing what you learned in the comments.

Sport Family Coach at

Founder of Growing Champions for Life, David helps sports parents and coaches incorporate positivity and persistence into their communication with the young athletes who count on their encouragement and guidance. An eight-time national water skiing champion, five-time national record holder in water ski jumping, former World Championship U.S. Water Ski Team coach, and proud professional sports parent, he understands first-hand the challenges and rewards of competition. His extensive experience as a corporate leadership coach for Nextel, Sprint, Allstate, Balfour Beatty, The Villages and other companies provides David with unique insight into the skills needed to excel in sports, business and life. He brings an athlete's discipline, a coach's inspiration, and a parent's practical experience to his mission to grow not just champion young athletes, but holistically well-rounded individuals equipped for lifelong excellence.

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