FHSAA Builds SID Program

By Staff

Athletic Management, 14.2, February/March 2002, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1402/bbfhsaasid.htm

For the most part, the staff listing for a high school athletic department is quite similar to that of a college athletic department. Both generally have coaches, athletic directors, equipment managers, and increasingly, athletic trainers in their ranks. But there's one member of college athletic departments who will rarely find a counterpart on the high school level: the sports information director (SID).

The Florida High School Activities Association (FHSAA) is trying to change that, however. Through a student SID program, the association is providing interested high school students with the information and training they need to act as SIDs for their schools.

The program has more than 200 participating schools in its second year, according to Robert Hernberger, Assistant Director of Communications for the FHSAA. It is designed to provide athletic directors and coaches with help in fulfilling many of the promotional activities that weigh down their to-do lists.

"One of our goals when we created this program was for it to be a tool for the school to help promote itself, get people out to events, and increase coverage in the local media," Hernberger says. "We also want to help the athletic directors get some of this off their shoulders and onto students who are interested in learning about the business. We hope that, in five or 10 years, athletic directors will wonder how they ever did their jobs without it."

Just as important, though, the program provides interested students with the chance to explore a possible career path involving athletics. "It's important that students are getting experience and seeing what opportunities are out there in the field," Hernberger says.

The program is succeeding on both counts at George Jenkins High School in Lakeland. The student SIDs there cover the school's athletic contests, handle routine contacts with other schools, send out information to college recruiters, and maintain the athletic department's Web site.

"It keeps a lot of phone calls off my desk," says Diane Webrick, Athletic Director, Activities Director, and Director of Student Services at George Jenkins. "The number one complaint at my high school was the lack of recruiting interest from colleges. Now, parents can see what we are sending out to the college coaches.

"But the biggest thing to me is that we are showing how technology, academics, and athletics can come together instead of being seen as separate," she continues. "People are seeing the unity of the program and it has brought accolades to the school."

To support the student SIDs, the FHSAA hosts a series of preseason workshops at no cost to the participating schools or students. FHSAA staff members explain what being a student SID entails, SIDs from local colleges talk about the profession, and local media members discuss the role SIDs can play.

Program participants receive handouts that explain how to promote an athletic program, work with the news media, and develop and implement a media operations plan. A sports-specific style guide is also included, along with a T-shirt, directory of newspaper contacts and deadlines, and information about maintaining a Web site through iHigh.com. Student SIDs also receive a pass providing them with free admission to all of their school's athletic contests, home and away, including playoffs.

Hernberger is now pushing the idea of creating a curriculum for the program. "I feel it's just as viable as any other vocational type of class offered at a school, whether it's agricultural, business, or culinary," he says. "We've already had several schools in the state do this as a class."

George Jenkins is one of those schools where the student SID program is treated as a journalism class, allowing the students to receive class credit for their efforts. Webrick says she was fortunate to have a teacher in the building who had worked with the booster club on a newsletter and was willing to handle the class.

"Getting kids to do things free of charge on their own time is difficult," Webrick says. "But by doing it within the school day, they're getting a credit for it. Instead of homework, they're required once a week to go out and cover a game. And when they do something beyond the school day, they can receive community service hours."

This year, the school has nine student SIDs in the program. "The kids involved have to have a 3.0 average or above, and a recommendation from their English teacher," Webrick says. "You don't want just anyone doing this.
"And for kids who don't have good writing skills, there are other ways they can get involved," she continues, "such as photography or data management."

Student SIDs have already made their mark at the highest levels of Florida high school sports, assisting the media at the state championship events and even joining the broadcast team for the state high school radio network during the basketball tournaments. "With the resources and talent we have in Florida, there's no reason this program can't be out on the front lines and pushing the boundaries," Hernberger says.

For more information on the FHSAA's Student SID program, check out: www.fhsaa.org/sid.

To view George Jenkins High School's athletic department Web site, go to www.florida.ihigh.com/georgejenkins.