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Making Game Day Go Smoothly

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

Whether you compete on a field or a court, in a pool or on a track, there are a host of things you have to do in order to prepare for the contest. Depending upon your sport and setting, this process could be very simple. But in some cases, it can be very detailed and involved.

Yes, you may also have a grounds crew, custodians, and assistants to provide help. But it is still your responsibility to make sure all goes smoothly.

To get started, make a list of absolutely everything that you have to do to be ready to play a game. Some of these items you will do yourself and others you could ask for help. For example:

  • Fill the cooler with ice and water
  • Check with the athletic trainer to make sure ice and supplies are ready to treat injuries
  • Get payment vouchers for the officials to sign
  • Connect the control panel for the scoreboard
  • Check the pressure of the game balls
  • Put the team benches or chairs along the sideline
  • Gather clipboards, charts, and other materials that you normally use during a game
  • Talk to the team and review the game plan
  • Have assignments (these tasks should be written and posted) for athletes to take equipment out to the field, court, or gym. And freshmen cannot be given all of the tasks, as this does represent hazing.

This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list, but just to get you started. Once you have your full list in hand, put the items in the order in which they have to be completed. Next, determine how much time it takes to complete each item. Jot the time needed beside each task and determine the total amount required to finish the entire list. After allotting time to talk to the team before the game, you now know when to start your pre-game preparations. This document is your pre-game checklist, which can be updated when needed.

In addition to utilizing your pre-game checklist, there are several other things that you should routinely do on game day.

  1. Regularly check your e-mail during the day. Even if you coach an indoor sport such as basketball and wrestling, games can and are postponed due to the weather. You want to know this as soon as possible so you can communicate these changes to your players and parents. In addition, other problems can crop up, such as a team bus delayed due to a mechanical problem.
  2. Pack a bag with extra clothes and, if needed, rain gear. When the weather suddenly changes, you’ll be prepared. Unlike players, who are actively moving during a game, extra clothes can be a godsend for coaches who are less physically active and are out in the elements.
  3. Monitor the locker room. By the way, this is also absolutely necessary on days when you don’t have a game. Supervision is imperative in order to prevent hazing, vandalism, and injuries caused by horseplay.
  4. Keep an eye on your athletes, assistant coaches, and managers that they load all of the necessary equipment for away contests. Having a checklist with all of the items needed is a great tool to ensure that nothing is left behind.
  5. Call or e-mail your box score to the local media after the game. If you have a manager or assistant tackle this task, have the number or address, scorebook, and stats at hand for their use. This has to be done for a loss as well as for a win—all results have to be reported.

Planning and preparation prevents a lot of headaches on game day and you can then focus on the actual contest.


David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach.  In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the Nastional Association for Sport and Physical Education.  He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association's Athletic Director of the Year.  Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country.

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