Saturday, 10 October 2009

Mike Aylward Column

From The Middle of Nowhere

(Mike Aylward was the Sports Information Director at Lakehead University for eight years. This is his opinion column on things CIS…)

Sports Information Directors; The Happy Few…

“From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother…”

From Shakespeare’s Henry V

Hopefully most Canadian University Sports Information Directors don’t have to shed blood during their non-stop work schedule (though it’s happened, believe me, I know it’s happened); but it’s guaranteed these hardworking people shed a lot of sweat and tears and work ungodly unimaginable hours; and they usually do it with little in the way of thanks and sometimes, unfortunately, without the necessary support they need from their athletic departments and athletic directors.

CIS Sports Info Directors are a true band of brothers (and sisters), for their small community is unlike no other in the country. Their job is little understood by anybody who has not served in this position, (which is almost everybody; including many of the Athletic Directors who write the SID job descriptions).

To be an SID is an obsession, a calling, a sickness, it is 24/7, 365 days a year, and there is nowhere to hide.

What does it take to be an SID? Some kind of journalism or communications degree or background, a love for university sports, the ability to do about 200 things at once while planning a month ahead, a definite masochistic bent, a huge amount of patience, the skills of a salesperson, psychologist, teacher, and circus performer, the impossible goal of perfection, and the desire to be the best…

What does an SID do? Well, let’s see…write game previews, series previews, game reports, media releases of all types, preparing rosters, managing websites, posting articles to websites, sending releases and articles to the media, sometimes writing personal unrelated releases for the Athletics Directors (Do you have a choice?), training and managing stats staff (sometimes doing them), training and managing A/V staff (sometimes doing equipment setup), training and managing broadcast staff (sometimes going on-air), pushing local media to cover your teams, arrange photographers, run media conferences, pushing national media to cover your teams, begging for equipment donations when you don’t get any budget from your AD for it, persuading your department to join the 21st Century, preparing programs, yearbooks, game inserts, game rosters, keeping up with new mandatory requirements from conferences and CIS, writing 10 releases in a day while setting up broadcast equipment at one event and going on-air while checking in by phone/computer to see if your other live event and/or broadcast is going well…etc. etc. etc. etc.

And remember; there are still some schools where the SID is also the Marketing Person!!!! Yes, I know…hard to believe in the 21st Century.

What do SIDs sacrifice? Social life, hobbies, hair loss for men, grey hair for both sexes, sometimes health challenges due to lack of a healthy lifestyle due to lack of time (ironic considering the chosen field no?), those with families lose a lot of quality time with their partners and kids because they are usually always working, etc. etc. etc. etc.

What challenges does an SID face? Lack of sleep, lack of time, lack of volunteers, lack of budget, lack of equipment, lack of staff, lack of energy, lack of respect, lack of input, abundance of complaints from fans if anything goes wrong, abundance of complaints from coaches who feel their team isn’t getting the coverage it deserves, abundance of emails (thousands), abundance of complaints from University staff for no apparent reason and usually for something that has nothing to do with Sports Info, abundance of phone calls, low pay, old beat up equipment breaking down, p/t staff not showing up, volunteers not showing up, internet crashing during game time, lighting hits the arena and knocks out the power, broadcast equipment is stolen…etc. etc. etc. etc.

I would like to take this opportunity to challenge any Athletic Directors in the CIS who may not be paying your SID enough or giving her or him the equipment or support she or he needs, to step up, to man or woman up, and start delivering. If the CIS and its member schools wants to really upgrade their product; Sports Information is one of the most crucial components and until all CIS schools have modern, well equipped, and well supported Sports Info Departments; the CIS will still be a minor player in the Canadian Sports and Media Consciousness.

To those schools that still do so, if you want your SID to truly be able to do her or his job; that person must only be an SID and not a combo SID/Marketing person. That ship sailed in the 1990s. It’s time to join the 21st Century!

Also, on the note of lack of genuine SID appreciation (not the countless “Good Jobs” in lieu of the equipment/staff/budget you need for pulling another miracle Red Green duct tape fix out of your butt for the thousandth time this season); have you ever noticed that in the CIS and the various conferences there are awards for athletes (should be), coaches (also should be), but also tons of awards for builders, journalists, alumni, blah blah blah blah.

Noticeably absent is the lack of an award for the hardest working people in the CIS, the SIDs?

I am sure many SIDs would appreciate hitting the links and prime nosh at a posh resort during an annual conference or CIS AGM….just saying...

The CIS, conferences, and schools could start this new award this year by voting all the SIDs in the CIS co-winners for 2010 and sending them all on an all expenses paid two-week vacation to Vegas and give them lots of chips...that would be a good start...and a well deserved one...

To close; maybe the next time you run into a Canadian University Sports Information Director; you could let that individual know you appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears shed by the Happy Few, this band of brothers (and sisters)…

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