How the AD Association Can Support Education-Based Athletics

The purpose of the InSideOut Initiative is to transform the current win-at-all-costs sports culture where the value is often defined by the scoreboard, into one that defines and promotes sports as a human growth experience. While this clear purpose may seem a bit daunting given our sports culture, it’s good to be reminded that the InSideOut process really starts with a simple premise: “To be a better AD (or coach, parent, spouse, partner, etc.), you have to be a better you.”

I share this because it’s easy, in the current youth sports culture, to throw up our hands in defeat and let human growth go by the wayside and place value only on those student-athletes who perform well and whose families have the financial means to maintain a leg-up on the “competition.” So, it is with the spirit of starting small that I’d like to share how AD’s in Minnesota are partnering with their state activities directors’ association (Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, or MNIAAA) to spread the philosophies and best practices of the InSideOut Initiative from a relatively small number of AD’s to the many across Minnesota. Are you involved in your state association? Do you have a connection with someone who is involved? Perhaps this is a gateway for InSideOut to have a greater reach with InSideOut in your state.

One of the primary ways that the MNIAAA supports the InSideOut Initiative is through our annual spring conference. This is the primary piece of professional development that we offer our ADs on an annual basis. Our three-day conference is modeled after the National Athletic Directors’ conference, where we have a mix of keynote speakers, breakout mini-sessions, awards and a vendor hall. We leverage big-name speakers (e.g. Joe Ehrmann, Greg Dale, Lynn Kachmarik, etc.), state association staff, and our own ADs throughout the conference to promote the InsideOut Initiative, or more broadly, character development through education-based athletics.

The MNIAAA has, over the past several years, used keynote speakers to create a buzz of excitement in order to attract its AD’s to the annual conference. Typically, we capture about 80% of our membership each year. Keynote speakers tend to command pretty large speaking fees, but we’ve found they are often willing to negotiate with “school” groups to help reduce costs. We’ve also partnered with our football coaches association, whose conference overlaps the AD conference by a day, to jointly sponsor a keynote, making it more affordable for both groups to enjoy a world-class presenter. Perhaps you have a similar situation within your state or maybe a neighboring state has corresponding conference dates as you.

The Minnesota State High School League is a progressive, influential and active state association and we are fortunate to partner with it on an annual basis. We’ve given them space, including general sessions, to advance the philosophies and best practices of the InSideOut Initiative. This past year, our InSideOut cohort was able to meet, plan and authentically connect during the conference.

As is the case in your state, we have myriad outstanding ADs in Minnesota. We are able to leverage their knowledge and implementation of InSideOut strategies by having them present at mini-sessions during the conference. We do not pay ADs to prepare or present mini-sessions, but we always have an abundance of top-flight ADs willing to share best practices in their respective communities.

Finally, the MNIAAA is working with the Minnesota State High School League to develop a 2-3 year bonafide professional development model for new(er) ADs as they embark on this incredible journey of supporting education-based athletics and activities. A significant part of this model will likely include taking our MN Head Coaches Course, which is rooted in Ehrmann’s InSideOut Coaching book, and developing a cohort for establishing authentic relationships with their peers in this outstanding profession.

Leveraging Minnesota’s AD association to promote and advance the InSideOut Initiative has been impactful in Minnesota. ADs have increased their knowledge and understanding of InSideOut philosophies and principles, they’ve generated and replicated hundreds of ideas on strategies for implementation and execution of them, helping each of us grow along the way. How might you be able to leverage your AD association to assist your InSideOut journey?