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.