Saturday, December 19, 2009

Memories of Christmases Past

Ah, Christmas.

Oh, how I love Christmas. Even more so now that I'm a dad and a SID. One of the perks of working at a college is that I get a Christmas break. And my kids are out from school the exact time - which can be a blessing and a curse (at times LOL).

And at the suggestion of Dave Parsons, the SID at Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio) University, I will take a break from the ramblings of SID and share some of my favorite memories of Christmases past.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Random thoughts from the mind of a SID

For some reason, I just feel inspired to share with you the thoughts that run through my mind today. So, I'm going to keep this opening and add to it when the mood strikes and post it when I head home this afternoon.

So, now we will enter the mind of this SID. Be afraid, very afraid. :-)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Stuff you can't do in a real job

Well, I'm finally back at it; writing on the blog.

It's been a wild couple of months, and crossover season nearly killed me. (Don't worry, there will be a crossover season posting in the coming months.)

But since I'm taking a much needed mental break from my papers and projects (just a reminder folks, I'm taking two graduate classes and all work is due in one week from tonight), I wanted to share some of the fun side of being a SID.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sports don't build character ... They reveal it

The title of this post is a quote from the legendary John Wooden, and for my money, it is the absolute truth.

Coach Wooden was not only the "Wizard of Westwood," but he is a very intelligent man whose insight should not be overlooked nor pushed aside. One of the most amazing facts about him as a coach - at least I find this very fascinating, is that he did not study film or scout opponents. In Coach Wooden's mind, his teams did not need to worry about their opponents did or were going to do. As long as they executed his game plan, they should win. (Not sure why more coaches didn't try this philosophy. After all, Coach Wooden only won 10 NCAA National Championships.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tech Geek Update

Several posts ago, I wrote about how much of a Tech Geek I have become. (For a reminder of my geekiness, click here.) Well, I've got an update for you.

In that previous post, I spoke of my love of TweetDeck and showed the wonderful gadget with much praise for it allows you to keep up with several Twitter, Facebook and MySpace accounts.

But alas, I have found something new. A new toy that has won my heart over.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Right brain, left brain

Saturday was an interesting day to say the least.

As you have more than likely gathered from my most recent postings, I am short-handed now, and I am having to juggle multiple tasks more than ever these days.

That was never more true than this past Saturday at our home football game.

It was Union's homecoming, so that naturally means there was a ton to do by everyone and not quite enough people to fill every single role. Those of you in the business have all been there. It's madness come homecoming welcome.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just like riding a bike ...

I must admit it. I have been spoiled.

For nearly the past three years, I've had a very good assistant. Gene did a lot here, and we were able to accomplish a great number of things in our sports information office because he handled a number of responsibilities and oversaw a lot of sports programs, which allowed me to do a vast number of other things.

Over the past three years, the amount of information, releases, etc. that we were able to crank out grew and grew each year. It's been amazing to see this department grow like it has. (Although, I believe we've become our own worst enemy in that we've created a monster LOL)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yes, Virginia ... you can take some time off

OK, let's get it out there. Time to tell the truth.

Being a sports information director is a never-ending cycle, there's never enough time to get everything done.

There's ALWAYS something to do. Some little task that "just can't wait" and "must be done ASAP."

But guess what? I have found these things can wait.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Who you gonna call? Stress Busters!!!

Tis the season for stress.

It's crossover season. For those of you reading this who are not immersed in the SID world or up to date on your SID lingo, 'crossover season' is the time of year when the sports seasons overlap. For the SID, we have two such crossover seasons. Currently, we are experiencing the first of the two as the fall sports are heading down the stretch and will be soon gearing up for conference tournaments and national postseason events while the winter sports - in particular, men's and women's basketball, get ready to fire up.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

AHH, the calm before the storm

I love this feeling. There's nothing like it.

Having everything wrapped up and lined up for game day the day before, already crossed all my T's and dotted all my I's - several times, and just chillin' and relaxing before the game.

This morning has been wonderful.

Everything is in place for the games. (We've got home football, women's soccer and two volleyball matches today.) All bases are covered. My mind is at ease, and I'm ready for the curveballs that I know will be coming my way today.

Woke up this morning and took the family out for breakfast. Drink three cups of coffee at McDonald's while the kids played video games.

Came home and got ready for the game and hit the road at 10:30 a.m. Showed up at my office around 11 a.m. and was set up in the press box by 11:30 a.m.

Preparation goes a long way. And somehow I got everything lined up this week. It's been a crazy week to say the least.

But to have every thing in place is such a great feel. Nothing like having my mind at ease as I gear up for the football game.

Like I said, there is nothing like the calm before the storm.

And now, let's play some football.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The real juggling act - balancing home and work life

I had absolutely NO intentions on writing another blog post today. I mean, I posted two this week already and I've got a TON of work to do as it is.

However, after yesterday's post about some SID tips, had a couple requests about how to manage/balance home and work life.
So, I got to thinking about it, even directly responded to one email about the subject.

And now here I am blogging yet again.
Before we go any further, let me just say right now that I am no expert on this subject. I do have years of experience trying to balance and juggle things, but this is a work in progress.

Anyway, without any further ado, here are some tips on handling the balancing act between home and work.

1. First, you and your spouse/family must have an understanding of each other's point of view and feelings. Your spouse needs to understand/realize that there are times/days/weeks that you will have to work late, bring work home, etc., BUT you also need to understand/realize that you didn't marry a laptop, but rather a lovely person and you need to and MUST spend time with them.

2. Make one night during the normal work week (M-F) off limits for work. For me, that's Wednesday, but that's due to taking kids to church for AWANA and working at church, etc. But I don't fire up the laptop when I get home. Only times I do work on Wednesdays are when there are games to be reported on. (For me, that's basketball and baseball.)

3. Don't waste the weekend on the laptop. Block out several hours (4 or so) for nothing but couple/family time. This can be difficult, especially with football, basketball and baseball and how those sports eat up the weekend. Plus there's ALWAYS some work you can 'catch up' on. But your spouse/family needs to spend time with you and you need them too. I generally try to block out Friday night for the family. That's generally the safest and best bet. Also, I like to make breakfast for the family at least once a weekend. Usually fix some pancakes. Sunday afternoons are good for being lazy with the spouse or playing with the kids.

4. Help out around the house. I try to do this on a regular basis, but it has to be a conscious event. It's too easy to let things slide around the house when you have a ton of SID work to do. More than just mowing the lawn, help out with the day-to-day stuff - and WITHOUT being asked. (That will score major bonus points.) Fix dinner, do the dishes, straighten up around the house - especially in the living room and high traffic areas, make the bed (you'd be amazed at how big/important that is), vacuum, and if your spouse trusts you, do some laundry. If you do the laundry, do not be afraid to ask what does and doesn't go into the dryer of hers. Better to be safe than sorry and have to buy her a whole new wardrobe :-) - trust me, I learned the hard way.

5. COMMUNICATE!!! Share with your spouse what you're going through, the stress you feel, the projects/problems you're facing, dealing with. Yes, they might not understand, comprehend everything, but they never will if you don't open up and share with them. Your spouse is supposed to be your best friend and partner in life. Let them help carry some of your burden.

6. Make family events, functions a priority. This is CRUCIAL especially when you have kids. But make every effort to attend all the family functions you can. YES, there will be times when duty calls and work pulls you away. But if little Johnny has a game at 5:30 pm and you have no games on tap tonight, BE THERE! Yes, you might not feel like, but your attendance shows that you care/love your family especially when they know that your time is stretched/limited.

I've even taken weekend trips with the family during sports seasons when my teams have been on the road. I've got a laptop and I was going to do the work at home, so why not update things at a hotel and spend time with the family, right?

Also, I like taking the kids to school in the mornings. Since our two go attend different schools, my wife and I rotate each day which child we take. I don't know why, but I love dropping the kids off for school and wishing them well each morning.

7. Take time off. This is very difficult to do, especially for we SID, workaholic types. But you would be amazed at how much this well refresh you as a person and as a SID. During the summers, I take 2-3 days off a month in addition to a week or two of vacation. During the school year, I try to schedule in 1 day off a month. Yes, you will have to plan and coordinate which day is best to be out of the office and away from things, but the time away will do you wonders. TRUST ME on this, and you'll thank me later.

I even went 36 hours without being on my laptop and/or online during the football-basketball crossover season. (And a certain SID in the Midwest still owes me some Starbucks for doing so :-D ) Also, I didn't even experience the shakes or anything.

8. In addition to taking time off, leave the office early. You get done with a project at 3:30 or 4 pm and don't have a game that night, hit the road! Why start up something new when you don't really have to? (Yes, I know we SIDs have never-ending projects, but sometimes things can wait just one more day.)

9. Incorporate your family with your job. I realize not everyone can do this, but if you can, have your family come to the games/events you cover. If your kids are old enough, have them help you out. I bring Jayson to games with me all the time, and when he's out of school for some reason, he comes and hangs out in my office. (And if you're really good, you can make your spouse a spotter for you like some SIDs I know.)

10. Lastly (for now anyway), I highly recommend you going through The Love Dare book, made famous through the movie Fireproof. This book will help you reconnect with your spouse and keep you focused on what's truly important.

Yes, sports information is a great jog. Personally, I think it's the best profession in the world. But at the end of the day, it's only a game.

Treasure what truly matters.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just some tips for the SID - Part 1

From time to time, I have these topic ideas for this blog pop into my head. But on occasion, some of them just don't seem like they would develop into a good, full-blown posting. So, I'm going to take a few of them and put them into one blog post.

They're just some tips, ideas and thoughts that I feel every sports information director should know, but usually no one ever tells you.

So, here are the first batch of tips:

1. The clothes do make the man (or the woman).

Now, I'm no stylist or fashion expert. I am a married man, and my wife has taught me well. (Somewhere during our 12-plus years of marriage, I listened and things started to sink in.) That said, what you wear says a lot about you and how others perceive you.

Too many times - and I once fell into this boat, SIDs wear only a polo shirt and khakis. All the time. Even seen some in T-shirts and shorts.

Understand that some of the events SIDs cover dictate what you wear. I mean, you will not find me in a dress shirt and tie at a baseball game. Nor will you if I have to be on the field having to take photos. At football and/or basketball, yes, but not at baseball.

I have heard it said many times that people just don't take SIDs seriously or treat us professionally and/or with respect. My response, if you want to be treated as a professional, look like a professional.

How can anyone take you serious if you don't take yourself serious?

I realize SIDs are largely in the background and are not meant to be seen, but people do see us. What kind of image are we sending by how we dress? Remember, we represent the student-athletes, the coaching staff, the athletic programs and department and the institution we work for. What message are we sending out by are choice of clothes?

One of the mantras I like to adhere to is: Don't dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want. Some day, I would like to become an athletic director. (I think. The more I see it, the more I'm not so sure. LOL) So, if I want people to take me serious as a potential candidate for an athletic director position, I need to lay the groundwork now that I take my current job serious and that includes my appearance.

2. You're not competing. Fellow SIDs are your friends.

Yes, we work different schools and institutions. And yes, we all want 'our' teams to win. HOWEVER, we are not the ones competing.

We merely represent those who are doing battling on the playing field, and it's our job to report the action - good or bad. We are to be neutral, unbiased parties to the events.

So, when gearing up for an event, game or match, SIDs of the competing schools should help one another. We're all in this together, and our jobs and lives would be made much easier if we just help another out.

Lastly, please respond to requests in a timely manner. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to complete a project because you are waiting on info from someone else. If it is going to be a while before you can get the info to your fellow SID, please let them know.

A little common courtesy goes a long way.

3. Don't do your student-athletes a disservice. Fill out nomination forms out correctly.

As SIDs, we represent and promote our student-athletes. We should do everything we can possibly do to help our student-athletes receive all the recognition they deserve.

But it amazes me at how some of the simplest things are overlooked. For example, not filling out nomination forms out completely or correctly.

Having been in this business long enough, I've been 'fortunate' to be one a number of different committees. I am on CoSIDA's Academic All-America Committee, which seeks to honor the best and brightest on the field of play and in the classroom. I am also enjoy the duties of helping selection our conference and national players of the week. So, I see a lot of nomination forms. LOTS OF THEM.

And when I see one that isn't filled out correctly, it raises a lot of red flags and doubts. For example, how can a goalkeeper make eight saves when they face zero shots on goals? How is it possible for a volleyball player to record 15 kills on 13 total attacks? How can a goalkeeper face 10 shots on goal, make seven saves and record a shutout?

I am not doubting that the student-athlete had a great week on the field, but when the forms are not correct, how can I take them seriously? It raises a lot of doubt about the student-athlete's 'worthiness' of being up for the award, and it's not fair to them.

When we as SIDs do not fill out the forms completely and correctly, it does not harm them. It hurts the student-athlete. We should be doing all we can to help and promote them, not set them back.

................................................

Well, that's all I've got for now. I'll have some more tips, tricks and ideas to share later on.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Watching the slow death of an old friend

At one point or another, we've all been there. If we haven't yet, we will be someday. It's inevitable.

One day, we will have to sit idly by and watch the slow demise of an old friend.

It's never fun and it's very heart wrenching. You want to help, but there's nothing you can really do.

Now, fortunately, the friend I'm speaking of is not a person but rather an industry. Yet, this industry is a long-time friend, and it's slow progression into the nether world affects and has affected a lot of people including several good friends and acquaintances of mine.

The industry I am speaking of is the newspaper.

The newspaper holds a very near and dear place in my heart. It's where I cut my teeth in the business. I was fortunate enough work as a freelance sports reporter for a newspaper in east Tennessee during college and landed my first "real" job as a sports writer at the local daily paper near where I grew up.

I spent five years in the newspaper business before making the jump into the sports information world. By and large, there are a lot of things I don't miss about working at a newspaper, but I would not trade my time there for anything. I learned a lot during my time in the newspaper business, and much of it has helped me during my time as a sports information director. (The contacts I had collected during my time as a sports reporter/editor proved invaluable when I became a SID.)

Yet, over the past decade or so, the newspaper industry has been slowly dying. And it's no surprise what the biggest culprit is: the Internet.

I am a big fan of reading an actual newspaper. I really enjoy sipping a cup of coffee (well, I'll drink coffee anywhere, anytime) and read a newspaper. But let's face it, we live in a breaking news kind of world now. By the time you get the newspaper, everything in it is old and dated. Who cares it's only been a couple hours, lots has happened since then.

Most people now get their news from either television or the Internet. Myself, I get the bulk of my news from Twitter. I get updated headlines all the time there, and if there's something that intrigues, I click the link.

Consequently, newspapers are dying. Large market newspapers are making cuts and laying off employees left and right. Here in Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader has made numerous cuts and layoffs. The Herald-Leader has laid off over 100 people in the last year or so with 12 layoffs just made last week.

Recently, it has been mentioned that U.S. Government might step in and "bail out" the newspaper industry. And as much as the business holds a special place in my heart, I echo the sentiments of Daniel Lyons at Newsweek and ask, "WHY?!?!?!" (Read Lyons' piece here.)

Other than the fact that people are losing jobs, I see no reason as to why to save the newspaper industry. It will be throwing money into the wind. It's a money pit.

I can understand the government bailouts of the banks and the auto industries. We need our financial institutions to be stable, and we need cars.

But do we really need newspapers?

I know that sounds harsh - and this is coming from a person who came from newspapers and relies on them to an extent for his current job, but with the Internet, newspapers are beginning to go the way of the dinosaur. (For what it's worth, I do not foresee the small-town newspapers dying out. I see them always being around. However, it is the large market daily newspapers that I see phasing out and experience major downsizing and restructuring.)

In order to survive, one must learn how to adapt and move on. Newspapers - and other news organizations for that matter, have yet to figure out how to make money by delivering news via the Internet.

Like I said, I love the newspaper. I cherish the written word. But I believe it's about time to let our old friend the newspaper to die. In the past three years, I have allowed subscriptions to three magazines to end. There are two reasons why I did this - 1. I never had the time to sit down and read them, and 2. the majority of what was in the magazines I had already read about on the Internet.

And the death of the newspaper does not mean the death of the press, the Fourth Estate. The media always be alive and kicking, but news will be delivered faster via television or the Internet.

So here's to you, my old friend the newspaper. I hate to see you go, but technology has passed you by.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hi, my name is Jay and I'm a tech geek

Of all the things that being a sports information director has given to me, it is the love of gadgets. Especially technological gadgets.

Now, granted, most boys grow up playing video games and that's just an easy transition over to the hi-tech toys of today. But in all honesty, I didn't care for or fall in love with all those wonderful gadgets we have nowadays until much later in my life. (Although, there are some things I avoid and will explain later as to why.)

In an effort for full disclosure, prior to becoming a SID, I didn't much like the Internet. Had very little use for it and didn't want to do anything with it. Of course, the fact that I worked at a newspaper and my superiors were wanting us to double our efforts by not only put together a newspaper but also post everything online as well could have had something to do with that.

See, back in the day - you know like 10-12 years ago, posting stuff on the web was a huge chore. It took hours to do things that now take minutes. (By the way, 10-12 years in technology terms is like 100 years in normal terms.)

I didn't really get into the whole Internet thing until I got here at Union College since it's part of my job description to maintain and manage the athletic website. At first, it was a pain. The program I had to use was called Webber and I had to do everything in HTML code. For some tech whizzes, that's no big deal. But as a SID when time is of the essence, this was not very SID friendly.

You leave out or forget to put a comma or parentheses or period or quotation mark, or you put them in the wrong spot, everything is messed up. And then trying to find the mistake is a huge chore.

But after a year or two of Webber, I got an upgrade to MicroSoft FrontPage. Life was much better in that I could just lay things out like I do in putting together a media guide. Yet, there was still some time-consuming factors with FrontPage. For example, when I posted a news story, I had to change/edit about five or six different pages just for that one story.

But for the past two-plus years, we've been with SIDHelp and life has been grand. I can't tell you how much better life has been. Using the same example of posting a story, I can post a story and in a couple clicks, the story is posted and linked in all the appropriate categories/sections in a matter of mere seconds. Major updates and overhauls now take hours, maybe a day instead of days and sometimes weeks.

To be honest, posting a story on SIDHelp is really no different than posting this blog.

But that's not all.

I have fallen in love with Facebook and Twitter. Oh how I love those two sites. Love keeping up with friends and family as well as spread the word about Union athletics on Facebook. As for Twitter, it's been great for me to connect with media members and network with other SIDs. I get just about all my news - general as well as sports - via Twitter now.

And now I've found a new 'toy' - TweetDeck. OH MY GOODNESS!!! Do I ever love TweetDeck.

All TweetDeck does is allow me to keep up with both of my Twitter accounts and my Facebook account in ONE SPOT. And it alerts me every time there's an update with any one of them. Plus, I can update from TweetDeck in any one of the accounts and whatnot. (FYI, if I ever get diagnosed for A.D.D., this will be why. And I'll need more than a 12-step program to stop using this thing. LOL)

The cell phone is also my friend. My wife, at times, thinks I love it more than her, but the cell phone has become the office phone for the SID. (For those who didn't see my tweets last week, I cried when I couldn't move my contacts over to my new phone. Twas a very sad day. One that I'm still tore up about. LOL)

Along with the cell phone, I also have a Bluetooth earpiece. Got it primary for when I yack on the phone in the car, but I have found it very useful to wear when during games. No need to tie up the hands any more than you have to, right?

One thing I don't like about cell phones is texting. I HATE TEXTING, so much so I have it blocked on my phone so don't try texting me because I won't get it. This is my opinion, but I feel if you've got time to text me, you've got time to call me and tell me what you want to say.

I do like the idea of having the Internet and email on a cell phone, but I don't want it. Like I mentioned before, I'm on the phone enough as it is. Plus, I spend hours upon hours each day on my laptop. I don't want to be any more tied down to the Internet than I already am.

(If I do ever get the Internet on my phone, I WILL BE that dad on the Verizon commercial who tweets "I'm sitting on the patio".)

One "knock" about SIDs is how we generally resist change. But let's be honest, who doesn't resist change in one form or fashion? We're comfortable, we've a routine down, why do we have to mix it up?

Change is good.

Now, I'm not talking about changing things just to change it up. But real change is good. When you can improve things, why wouldn't you want to do it?

I'm in my 11th year of being a SID, and there is no way I want to go back to how I had to do things when I first started. For example, I used to have to fax everything. Box scores, press releases, EVERYTHING!!! And it would take over an hour sometimes. And I hated having to come into the office wait on a box score to be faxed.

Nowadays, it's all email for me. I can't tell you the last time I faxed something. And for those places that still insist on faxing me, I have a fax number that when called will send me the info in a PDF document to my email.

As a SID, I try to embrace change, not fight. (Well, I do now. I'll admit that I used to fight it.) The technological changes we've experienced over the last couple of decades have made life better for the most part for the SID. That sad, it has added a lot of pressure and demands on us. For example, with the Internet, if a result or story is not up within minutes following the completion of a game, people wonder what's going on.

I was fortunate enough to get to spend a weekend with Bud Ford, the head SID at University of Tennessee, during the 2006 football season. I wanted to see what life was like at the NCAA Division I level on a football weekend. To be honest, it's not much different that what I go through here in the NAIA. The only difference is that at Tennessee - and other NCAA Division I schools, it's on a much, much bigger scale. (For example, I might use one ream of paper during a football game where as Tennessee will go through two or three cases of paper.)

In spending time with Mr. Ford, he shared with me a lot about the profession and how it's changed during his time. He has been in the business over 40 years, and back then, they had to type everything and then dictate stories to newspapers over the phone. This was before the fax machine and forget about email.

I'll be honest, I'm not sure I would be a SID if I grew up back then. I need my gadgets.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Being a SID brings balance, perspective, appreciation

There's an interesting twist to being a sports information director, and it's one that some struggle with while others never get a grasp of it. Yet, it is a key component that separates the bad from the decent, the decent from the good and the good from the great.

A good SID must be able to separate him and/or herself from the game. Plain and simple.

While you work at and for a school, when it's game time, it's imperative that a SID be unbiased. The SID is not part of the action.

This is not an easy thing to do, believe me. And the longer you are at an institution, it can get even tougher.

Let me completely honest right here and now. I want Union College to win every single game, event, contest, race, match it participates in. PERIOD. Sure, I get my paycheck from Union, but I'm beginning my 11th year here and this is home to me. And who doesn't want their hometown team to win, right?

But as a SID, when the teams take the field and you your seat in the press box, you are to be impartial spectator and record the events as they truly happen, and not through the eyes of some biased party.

Can't tell you how much it burns me up when I get a story from a school and they blame the officials for a loss. Or how the host school will write this long release, but yet not mention anything about your student-athletes' performances. ("What? Was my team not there? Do you just compete against yourself?")

The role of the SID is to record the game as it happens - whether by keeping stats and/or writing the release, without injecting your personal opinion. Just stick to the facts, and in stats, be fair and consistent for both teams. For example, what's an assist for your team in basketball should be the same as an assist for the opponent.

I must give my wife Genople a lot of credit for helping find this balance. You see, while I am a Grade-A, certifiable sports nut/geek, she is not. Not in the least. Honestly, if by some horrific set of tragic events were to wipe out all sports from the universe, she would be fine with that.

From time to time, I would come home and complain at how none of the breaks went Union's way and how they should've and could've won the game.

My wife's response: "That's OK. It's only a game."

And I've come home ecstatic at how awesome Union played, how this was THE greatest game EVER and blah, blah, blah.

My wife's response: "That's nice. Glad to hear they did well."

That's nice?!?! It's ONLY a game?!?! That's blasphemy to the sports fan.

But that's the thing. As a SID, I can't be a fan. I am to check my fan hood at the press box door. (And truthfully, it is only a game. It's not a life or death situation.)

As much as I don't like to admit, my wife is right. It is only a game. And this perspective has opened up a new appreciation for sports and has enhanced my sports viewing pressure. (Which is something my wife probably didn't anticipate or intend.)

I can now watch a game between virtually any two teams and enjoy it - even between teams that prior to me spending so many years as a SID would've cared less about. I love sports and I appreciate a good game.

Yes, I do generally pull for a team when watching a game. That's just part of it and makes the game more enjoyable. But do I get distraught or upset if the team I'm pulling for loses. No. There's no sense it. It's not life and death stuff. It's just a game.

When I watch a game - that I'm not working, I try to appreciate and find greatest in the action. I look for good, solid effort, and I appreciate greatness when I see.

For example, I am a long-time Cubs fan. Been waiting for the Cubbies to return to the World Series for as long as I can remember. Yet, one of the players I will tune in and watch nearly every time his team is playing is Albert Pujols of the Cardinals - the Cubs' biggest rival. Pujols is just an amazing hitter and great first baseman. (And I'd trade the Cubbies' lone two World Series titles for Pujols.)

Also, I've never been much of a Yankees fan. But Derek Jeter is one of my favorite players. He just plays the right way, full effort all the time no matter what. I still love that play he made against Boston in 2004 when he went diving head first into the stands for a foul ball. That's a ballplayer, and that's what I want to watch on the field regardless of what uniforms the teams are wearing.

A game is to be enjoyed. So ... enjoy it. Enjoy the play on the field, the experience in the stands, the company you're with.

After all, it's only a game.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

There's nothing like a day in the press box

If you saw me and/or could sense and feel the emotions pulsating through me right at the moment, then you might think that I would be one of the thousands of young man who will be strapping on the pads and getting ready to bang helmets for a couple of hours this afternoon.

I love college football.

I love football gameday.

I am so geeked up at the moment that I can't contain myself. And the funny thing is, I'll have to keep my emotions in check during the day, especially during the game. (See, like there's no crying in baseball, there's no CHEERING in the press box. More on that later.)

To give you a better idea of how pumped I am right at the moment, let me tell you that I was up just before 6 a.m. on a Saturday so I could make sure I have everything in place and ready to go for the game today. Oh, the game doesn't kickoff until 1:30 p.m.

It's SEVEN hours away, and I'm all a go for some pigskin.

For disclosure time, I am first and foremost a baseball fan. I love spending my days and nights at the diamond either as a fan or as a SID working the game. But despite how much I love baseball, there is nothing like working a football game.

I love the week of hype that just builds and builds and builds with each passing hour leading up to kickoff. The glorious thing about football over baseball is that each game, each week is like a season until itself. It's doesn't matter what the records are for the team's competing on any given Saturday. In college football, every game is like the Super Bowl. If you win you're game that day, you ARE No. 1. Well, at least for that week.

But for that week following a win, you are the best. Period. Who cares who else won that week or who might have a better record. You won your last game, and that's all that matters.

Here's a classic example of what I mean. Overall, the 2005 season was nothing spectacular for the Union College Bulldogs. The team finished the year 4-6 overall and was 1-6 at one point. Yet, in the minds of a lot of Bulldog fans (this one included), that was an awesome season because Union beat University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) in the next to last game of the season 35-34 and essentially squashed the Patriots hopes of making the playoffs. Entering the contest, Union was 2-6 overall and 1-2 in conference play and Cumberlands was something like 8-1 or 8-0, 3-0 in conference play and ranked No. 5 in the nation. But Union not only won the Battle of the Brass Lantern (the traveling trophy for the Union-Cumberlands series), but the Bulldogs crushed Cumberlands playoff hopes.

Another example of this came in the final game of the 2007 campaign. Union was 3-7 taking on No. 17 Georgetown (Ky.) College, which came into the game 6-3 overall, 3-1 in conference play and on the bubble of being in or out of the playoffs. A win and the Tigers are in. Now, I do you know where this story is going - the Bulldogs win. But what you might not know is how big of a deal this win was. See, Georgetown owned Union in football. I bet when the Tigers saw Union on the schedule, they automatically crossed it off as a win. The Bulldogs had not defeated Georgetown since 1938, losing 23 consecutive games to the Tigers. (From 1942-83, Union didn't sponsor football.)

Yet, on that glorious day, Union was the best team. And the Bulldogs rode off into the sunset, feeling like that won it all.

That's the beauty of college football.

Now back to the sports information side of things. Here's a rundown of my typical gameday for a home contest:

  • Up by 7 or 8 am to hope on the laptop to double, triple, quadruple check to make sure everything is in place.
  • Exercise briefly, then fix family breakfast. (Love fixing pancakes on the weekend. I view as my family tradition. It's the one thing I can cook and not screw up. LOL)
  • After cleaning up, it's out of the door by 10:30 and to the office at 11 am.
  • Load up all our gear for the press box. Between my assistant (Gene Renfro) and I, we have two big loads of stuff to take. My car is loaded down, so much I have barely room for my son who insists on coming LOL. My assistant loads up a John Deere Gator. And this doesn't include all the food (Subway - got to eat fresh) another wonderful helper (Heather Cole) picks up for us.
  • In the press box by 11:30 am.
  • Get everything unpacked, loaded and booted up. Sometimes this is simple and easy, and other times technology loves to be cranky.
  • Then by 12 pm, all is in place and it's just time to make sure ONE FINAL TIME that all I's are dotted and all T's are crossed.
  • 1:30 pm - KICKOFF!!! For the next three and a half hours, I'm in stats HEAVEN!!! I am sure you realize there are lots of stats to keep up with in football. But you'd probably be amazed, possibly shocked that how it all gets gathered and all the info I need to know to input. For example, on a simple run play, this is what I hear and then input using the appriorate code, "Run 26, Tackle 55 and 32 at the Union 29." That seems easy, but wait until there's a fumble or an interception or even a blocked kick.
  • Some time between 4-4:30 pm, when the game's over, it's time to print off the stat packets. Since we're on the small scale side of things, we do about 12 packets which go to the coaches, radio crews and media at the game and myself (so I can write the release). I got to see how the 'big boys' handle gameday at the University of Tennessee once, and the reams of paper they go through for one game would last me 4-5 football seasons. NO LIE!!! Of course, NCAA Division I schools have HORDES of media to cater to. The NAIA, not so much - but that doesn't mean the games are any less exciting, believe me.
  • While the stats are printing, I begin writing the release. I write a short blurb and post it on the web so fans can see the result and get a little glimpse of what happened. The full release is usually done by 5:30 pm so that I can make sure the TV stations can have ALL THE INFO before the 6 pm and 11 pm newscasts.
  • Then, it's time to update the record book and stats on the website. Always found it best to do it right after the game because with all that goes on during a normal week, I will forget about it.
  • Around 7 pm, I'm all packed up and heading out of the press box. I take the bulk of the stuff back to the office, and then I head home.
  • Get home about 7:30-8 pm, and then I try to veg and wind down from the day's events. I don't do any more work, but of course, my mind is racing and I'm still keyed up from everything. It generally takes me a few hours decompress.

And the football week begins again on Sunday as I begin working on the game notes for the next game. (Yes, it is a vicious cycle, but it's my vicious cycle. LOL)

During the game, there is no cheering in the press box. Why you might ask? Because we are working. Imagine if you will, you are at your job trying to concentrate at the task at hand either at a desk, on a forklift, in front of a classroom of students or wherever your occupation takes you and right as you try to filter and disseminate all the info flowing your way, someone lets out a big ol' "YES!!! That's what I'm talking about!!! Way to go team!!! Did you see that?!?! Did you see that?!?! That was THE play of the year!!! BAR NONE!!!" You'd get flustered and agitated at the 'offender', therefore, there is no cheering the press box.

(As a side note, due to having worked in the sports media field for now 15-plus years, it's sometimes hard for me to go to a game as a fan and cheer. No lie. I enjoy and appreciate a great play like the next fan, but it's just not in my nature any more to whoop and holler about it. One of the small curses of the profession. LOL)

By and large, I love football gameday not because of the wins and losses (though I do love it when Union wins, makes my job much more enjoyable and easier), but it's the overall experience. It is a blast! And very few people know and/or understand what I (and other SIDs) do at a game. You'd be amazed at all the things we do to help put on a game.

But for me, the ultimate compliment is when I tell someone all that I do at a game and their response is, "I had no idea all that has to happen at a game" or "I never thought about everything that goes on behind the scenes." That's what I want to hear. I want people to enjoy the game and enjoy what's on the field. When I hear comments like that, then that means I've done my job.

Well, as you can tell, I'm excited about gameday. Probably gave you more information than you ever could want, but no one ever accused me of being a man of few words.

So, there's a peak into my world. Hope I didn't bore you. Hope you were able to make it to the end. But most of all, hope you enjoy you some college football.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Keeping sane during much insanity

I'm not going to lie or even try to sugarcoat it. This is a very hectic time of year.

It's maddening. Nuts. Crazy. Insane.

The student-athletes are back on campus. In fact, the football, volleyball, men's and women's soccer teams have been back for over two weeks now. The fall sports season gets underway in full swing in seven days (August 28) and kicks into high gear for me on September 5 when football plays its first game.

There is so much to do that I'm sure I'm going to let something slip through the cracks. But I keep juggling a long, trying to keep everything going and making sure all the bases are covered.

It truly is a mad, mad, mad world for me right now.

Fortunately, I have found a few ways to try to keep sane during such times as these. First, there's writing this blog, but I guess you knew that. Sure, this might seem tedious and even pulling me away from my work, but jotting down my thoughts, feelings and frustrations is very therapeutic. I can hammer out my feelings, freeing my mind of any angst and stress to allow me to refocus and attack the never-ending SID to-do list.

Another great stress reliever for me is music. I have become a HUGE fan of www.pandora.com. For those of you who might not have heard of this website, it's basically an online radio station that you can dictate what types of music you want to hear. And since I have such a wide range of tastes in music, pandora.com is a must. (Currently, the pandora.com channels I've been listening to range from the Black Eyed Peas to King's X to the Kings of Leon.

On days like today when I'm working on player bios for media guides and the website, I'll play music to help me through the tedious repetition of putting together the bios. Putting the bios together are simple and easy, but it's tedious, mind-numbing like anything else you do over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Right now, I'm working on the football bios. We only have 94 players in uniform with 15 more red-shirted players. That's just 109 bios. For football only.

For me, music allows me to mentally unwind, shake off whatever frustrations I incur during the course of the day.

And there are several other stress and frustration relievers. I like golf, but getting on the course to play nine or even 18 holes just is not always possible. But the driving range is ALWAYS a nice tension release.

It's important for me to have this stress relievers in place because I do not want to take my angst home with me. It would not be fair to my bride or my kids for me to bring this stress into our home. They are not the cause of my stress or frustration, so they don't deserve me taking out my angst on them.

For that reason, I really enjoy the 20-25 minute drive home. During that time, my car becomes a decompression center and I jam and rock out the stress. And on days that doesn't work, a side trip to the driving range is in order.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The dawning of the new media age

I've been waiting to write about this, but with the blog I just read on NCAA Double-A Zone, I just had to comment.

(And just a FYI, social networking sites will be a regular topic of discussion on my blog.)

This week, social networking sites continued to penetrate collegiate athletic programs. The latest "victim": The University of Georgia football team.

Here's the story from the NCAA Double-A Zone:

Two freshmen football players at the University of Georgia updated their Facebook accounts with news of injuries from that day's practice--injuries that coach Mark Richt decided to leave out of his reports to the media. The next day, reports of the injuries were circling through online message boards.

Injury reports, especially once game competition starts, are deliberately reported so as to limit the advantage an opponent may have concerning game strategy. Social networking has thrown a loop into the equation that coaches are forced to confront.

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Richt has a blog on his Web site MarkRicht.com and a Twitter account. Perhaps embracing the new technology rather than rejecting it will be more effective in controlling the transfer of
information.

We all had to see this day coming. I'm sure the freshmen football players didn't intentionally set out to "spill the beans" of the UGA injuries. Rather, like the multitude of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace users, they just wanted to share what had happened to and/or around them during their day.

And with how many and more media outlets are getting in tune with the social networking scene, it should come as no surprise that when "nuggets" of information such as injuries on a major college football program are posted by student-athletes on Facebook that the media will somehow find it and report it. After all, when the U.S. Airways plane crashed into the Hudson River, the news was first broke on Twitter.

For better or for worse, social networking sites are here, and I believe they are here to stay. The key for those in the media relations, sports information, coaching, corporate and other such professions is learning how to embrace the new "media outlet" without allowing it to control you and your message.

I certainly do not have all the answers, but step No. 1 is getting everyone in your organization on the same page and having them follow the same set of rules and guidelines. For businesses and corporations, this can be a relatively easy process. But when it involves student-athletes - whether collegiate or high school, the situation becomes not as simple.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How I spent my summer vacation

It's funny to think about all the misconceptions about the sports information profession - or any job in the sports media realm.

When I was a sports reporter/editor at a newspaper, I cracked up every time when someone said to me, "Man, it must be great getting paid to watch sports." Like that was the only thing I did. To be honest, going to and/or watching a game was not even half of my job. Probably less than 10 percent of my time was spent at a game with the rest of my time being ate up by either writing, editing, laying out the section, developing film (yes, I had to that back in the day) and driving to and from the office, games and/or interviews.

Along the same lines of that myth is the one that SIDs have little to do during the summer. "There aren't any games going on, right???" is the argument.

While there aren't any games going on during the summer months, there is more than enough work to keep a SID busy. B-E-L-I-E-V-E M-E!!!

Summertime is used to tie up loose ends from the previous sports year (update record books, finalize stats, etc., etc.) and to gear up for the upcoming sports year (update player and coaching bios, compile the new schedules and rosters, ramp up work on the new media guides, etc., etc.). In addition to that, there are other little projects that tweaking and adding some new bells and whistles to the website.

I also tend my 'pet' projects. I have a lot of things I want to do but time does not generally allow me to work on them during the sports year (which by the way runs from mid-August through the end of May for me). And there is no way I can ever get to them all during one summer, so I aim to tackle one, sometimes two during the summer. For example, this year I compiled a Top 10 list for all the season individual records for our baseball program.

The only difference about life for a SID during the summer months is that working late is a rarity. Oh, and one does not feel as rushed to get things done summer - like you do during the sports year. Life is much more relaxed.

NOT SURE WHY, BUT THIS BUGS ME ...

I guess it's a hazard of my job, but grammatical errors bug me. Not just in stories and release, but even in social-media settings like Twitter, Facebook and the like. It kills me to see 'your' used in place of 'you're'. And you've got to love the confusion that the words 'there', 'their' and 'they're' brings.

Now, I realize that in social media one needs to be a little relaxed on spelling at times and abbreviations are used for words due to space constraints (only 140 characters allowed on Twitters and that includes spaces) and because people are in hurry and can't type tons in a short about time (I know I'd much rather type 'LOL' or 'LMBO' than say 'that was so funny, I can't stop laughing at that').

Still, the grammatical errors drive me nuts. I know I hate my typos and all, and I even edit myself when chatting online - provided I catch myself for hitting "Enter".

I guess this is in part of my love for the written word. I love to read, so much so that even after spending much of my day writing and looking at other people's writings, I enjoy picking up a good book (especially a baseball historical book, a biography or a good suspenseful, fiction thriller).

All I know is when I see a grammatical gaffe it brings out my inner professor and my desire for red ink.

Oh, and before anyone gets the notion that I believe I'm perfect in regards of being grammatically correct, let me assure that I detest finding mistakes in my work. When it comes to writing, I'm a perfectionist and my worst critic. (I have proofed this blog 10 times already and will likely proof it 10 more times before posting. LOL) But then again, who isn't their worst critic?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The most wonderful time of the year ...

Well, not exactly ... but it's pretty close.

I love this time of the year. Summer is winding down (which is sad for the kiddos since that means school is starting up - happy time for momma and me :-D), and the student-athletes are back on campus. The fall sports season is nearly upon us.

Anticipation is in the air.

Hope for a successful new season abounds.

Everything is new again.

This past Thursday, the football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball teams began invading the Union campus. Let me just say, it's nice to have some life back on campus. Yes, there are summer classes and some groups the float in and out during June and July, but for the most part, the campus is pretty quiet. Not that I don't mind that. The spring sports season is pretty grueling, so the downtime is welcomed.

But after two and a half months of working in relative solitude, it is so exciting to have student-athletes back on campus. Our athletic trainers might not agree with me, but I love walking by the training room and seeing the hustle and bustle of the athletes trying to get taped up, patched up and whatever they need to do to get back on the field.

What is most exciting are all the hopes and dreams a new season brings.

  • Can the Bulldog football team duplicate last year's amazing season and return to the NAIA Football Championship Series?
  • Will the Lady Bulldog soccer team return to its former glory and capture its first conference championship since 2003?
  • Will the Bulldog soccer team battle its back to the top of the league?
  • Can the Lady Bulldog volleyball squad take it to the next level by winning the conference and advancing to the national tournament?
  • How will the Bulldog cycling team compete in the new conference? Will it remain a contender for the national title?
  • And can the Union cross-country runners go the distance? (pun intended)

All of Union's coaches have done a great job in a recruiting and building up each team. There are high hopes in the land of "Orange & Black," and I can't wait until it's game time.

Like I said, "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

Monday, August 3, 2009

My, how times have changed

I am about to end my 10th full year as the sports information director at Union. And it's been amazing time.

Looking back, what's been most amazing is how the profession, how I do my job has changed. A lot of this is due to advancements in technology.

(As a quick side note, let me just say that advancements in technology have been both a blessing and a curse. While it's been wonderful to do things that used to take hours, sometimes days, in a matter of a few minutes, technology has also added to the workload of a SID. Since technology has freed me up on some tasks, it bought on new tasks. It's created a vicious cycle. But I digress.)

When I began here, Union's athletic website was basic, simple. It had the schedule, rosters and coaches' bios. Not much else. Part of that was due to the crude program that our school used at the time. In the years since, as the program's have improved so has Union's athletic website. With each improvement, there is generally an added feature to the website. The first "bells and whistles" to the website was have releases and statistics. Today, we've got live game video and audio, live stats and blogging. And we're always looking to add more.

Where the biggest change - at least for me - has occurred is in utilizing emailing and doing away with the fax machine.

When I first started here, it would take me hours to send out stats and the release to the media. Following the completion of a game, I would head into the office and start faxing the stats to each, individual media outlet while I write the release - which will be faxed as soon as I get it done.

Before we had kids, my wife would help be in this task. She would fax the stats while I wrote the release. Even with her assistance, it would still take two hours. And after spending 5-6 hours working the game(s), that makes for a very long day.

Nowadays, it will just take me 30-45 minutes to send out the release and stats after a game thanks to email. Whereas I would just fax 15-20 media outlets before, now I can send the release to as many outlets that I can get email addresses for.

That's just a sample of how much technology has benefited the SID.

The Internet has been a great friend to the SID. In days gone by, I just to have to sit by the fax machine waiting on stats when our teams were on the road. Now, I can sit at home and wait on an email, or in some cases, watch the live stats.

And I've only been in the business for just 10 years. Just think about all the advances over the last 20, 30, 40 years.

I enjoy talking with fellow SIDs, especially those who have been in the profession for a long time. I never want to stop learning from others, and it's amazing how the profession has evolved over the years. You see how much it's changed during my short time in the biz. Just think of all the advances since World War II.

Kind of staggering when you think about it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Welcome to my blog

Greetings, sports fans!!! And welcome to my blog.

For those who don't know me, I am the Sports Information Director at Union College in Barbourville, Ky. But that's just my occupation - although, I must say it's the best job in the world and on most days doesn't even feel like work. I am also a family man. This August will mark 12 years of marriage to the most amazing woman ever. My wife, Genople, and I have two wonderful - and active, kids. Jayson is 9, and Haylee is 5. Sometimes, though, I feel like I have three kids with the way our dog Cosmo behaves and likes to 'pick on me'. Genople would say that she has four kids, a statement I won't deny or refute. :-D

I'm sure you are wondering why I have called this blog "The Master Juggler". I'll admit that I struggled with trying to come up with a title that 'fits' what I do and what I will blog about. First and foremost, this is a very tongue-in-cheek title. And secondly, I can not juggle.

"The Master Juggler" fits because that what I feel like I am constantly doing. Though I will never claim to be a great adventurer, a jet setter or live life in the limelight, there is rarely a dull moment. Here is a sampling as to why: I oversee the publicity of 23 athletic programs at Union (although I do have a great assistant in Gene Renfro who handles a large number of the teams), the kids are at the age of being more and more involved in extracurricular activities, and there's my activities (helping out at church), my wife's job and all the other stuff I/we try to cram in (like Cubs baseball).

One of the great things about my job is that it's not a 9-to-5 profession. One of the bad things about my job is that it's not a 9-to-5 profession. I am blessed to work in a field and work at a college that allows me great flexibility to deal with life's challenges. That said, it does make it hard to step away from the job - even for a minute.

Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not. Do I know what I'm doing? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The purpose and goal of this blog is not solve life's mysteries or dictate how things should be done. Rather, this blog will chronicle my journey. We'll laugh (even at myself), we'll cry, we'll share frustrations and hopefully we'll learn and grow during the process.

I hope to update often, but make no promises - and you will come to understand this as we journey along the road in the sports information world. I welcome your comments as well. Feedback is always a positive thing - how else are we going to learn, right?

In closing, please remember that life's a journey so let's enjoy the ride.