Leading an athletic department is no easy task. The job requires coordinating with thousands of people including parents, coaches, administrators, medical professionals, facilities managers, and officials. It also requires managing multiple deadlines, budgets, and most importantly student-athlete health and safety.
Add it all up, and there’s little room for error in this pressure-packed environment. This is why many athletic directors are turning to student-athlete management systems to simplify their daily grind.
Let’s take a closer look at what student-athlete management systems can provide and what to look for in a platform.
First up: What is a student-athlete management system?
A student-athlete management system is a digital one-stop-shop for collecting registration forms, compiling medical and academic clearances, and communicating with key athletic stakeholders — including athletes, coaches, parents, and staff.
By using a modern student-athlete management system, athletic departments can eliminate pitfalls, improve organization, and enhance engagement for coaches, student-athletes, and parents.
What’s more, a student athlete-management system can bring much-needed digital transformation to athletic departments, enabling them to migrate away from risky, resource-intensive, and error-prone management options.
With a modern system in place, student-athlete management takes place in a central cloud repository for enhanced visibility, security, and efficiency.
What to look for in a student-athlete management system
When sourcing a student-athlete management system, it’s important to be very selective. Not every platform offers the same quality, the same caliber of features, or the same level customer support.
If you opt for a low-grade budget solution, you’re going to get low-grade results. So, it pays to do your research and scour the market for the best solution possible before trusting it to manage your department’s sensitive student data.
For the best results, talk to multiple vendors, demo products, and read vendor literature and third-party reviews. You should also consider running pilot tests with small user groups to test a solution before you move forward with it. Taking these small steps can help prevent investing in the wrong solution while increasing your chances of success.
With that in mind, here are some of the top features to look for when searching for a student-athlete management system.
1. Lightning-fast registration
When it comes to registering students for sports programs, there’s no time to waste. Coaches want rosters before the season starts, administrators want rosters on day one of practice, and the state needs rosters before the tournament.
As such, it is critical to make sure your student-athlete management system allows parents and students to sign up and move through the registration process quickly, with minimal delays.
For example, a system should save student data from season-to-season and year-to-year so that parents don’t have to re-enter it each season. That way, signing up is just a matter of collecting updated signatures and making sure physicals and emergency contact forms are current.
2. Guaranteed uptime
Nothing can slow down a registration process like unplanned system downtime. Yet this can easily happen when using budget software — especially when large numbers of students are registering at once, testing bandwidth limitations.
When talking to vendors, ask about uptime guarantees and have your IT team scan the platform’s service-level agreement (SLA). Look for details about data redundancy, disaster recovery, and maintenance schedules. Once you start using a new system, nothing should be left to chance.
The gold standard is to have a platform that’s up 24/7/365, with no delays. If a vendor can’t guarantee maximum uptime, move onto another one. Otherwise, you could be adding more than a few sleepless nights to your calendar.
3. Centralized data management
Many athletic programs rely on spreadsheets or various cloud storage platforms for data management. As a result, student data tends to live in multiple areas — like local drives and random Google Drive and Dropbox repositories — both of which are risky.
Avoid this problem with a student-athlete management system that stores all data in a single, centralized repository. The vendor should also provide visibility into where data is stored and how it is processed. Be sure to steer clear of vendors that do not readily provide this information.
4. Ease of communication
Communication is a top challenge for athletic departments. Students and parents are busy with various tasks throughout the day and are liable to skip over important communications on occasion, leading to missed deadlines.
A student-athlete management platform should make it easy to communicate with stakeholders. The platform should come with a component that enables ADs and administrators to send reminders to coaches, parents, and students. It should also send automatic alerts for missing information or compliance issues.
This is critical for the COVID-19 era, as athletic departments need to seamlessly distribute notifications and alerts. For example, imagine a student tests positive for COVID-19. In this situation, an athletic department needs to act fast to spread information and provide instructions and updates to keep the rest of the team — and the larger student body for that matter — safe.
5. Paper-free mobile management
The world is increasingly moving away from paper. Just about every process today can take place over a smartphone. If you want to command someone’s attention, you have to be actively targeting their mobile device with communication and alerts.
Look for a student-athlete management system that comes with full mobile access. End users should be able to quickly and easily fill out forms on their phone and respond to communications via a smartphone or tablet.
This is also important for reducing the spread of germs. Ditching paper can reduce the amount of person-to-person transmission, resulting in a situation that’s safer for everyone involved.
6. Quick access to eligibility
Eligibility is a big deal in school athletics. Sending an ineligible student into a practice or game could result in penalties, disqualifications, or injuries — especially if the activity persists unnoticed for several weeks or months.
As such, coaches need to be able to quickly check for eligibility to determine if their daily roster is acceptable. A student-athlete management system should centralize information so that everyone is on the same page, in real-time.
For example, a student may become ineligible for athletic participation in the morning due to medical or academic restrictions. An athletic department could update that information in a centralized app and distribute that notification to all parties — making it that much easier to comply with eligibility requirements.
7. Strong platform security
Don’t assume that all apps offer the same level of security. Despite the clear and present need for strong cybersecurity, it’s usually not a high priority for vendors who tend to be more concerned about profiting than protection.
Make sure that the vendor you choose offers a platform with cutting-edge security policies and procedures, to protect student data. Otherwise, your athletic department could be a sitting duck for a data breach or security violation.
8. Deep integration capabilities
Athletic departments are increasingly going through digital transformation, and many are using a variety of apps and services (e.g., a student information system).
Make sure that the student-athlete management service you select can easily extend and integrate with other apps. If the platform doesn’t easily connect to other solutions, it may not be the best fit for your needs.
9. COVID-19 documentation
The outbreak of COVID-19 was a watershed moment in school athletics. Student health and safety procedures are now under a microscope, as health departments and authorities try to keep kids safe and prevent spread.
As a result, a COVID-19 outbreak in a locker room can make local or even national headlines — meaning the way you approach the situation will be highly scrutinized. There is no room for miscommunication or violations.
Look for a platform that offers the latest in COVID-19 monitoring and alerts, so that your district remains on the cutting-edge of safety and illness prevention.
10. Form and policy compliance
Athletic departments today are dealing with a variety of safety and legal obstacles. Some of the top issues today include concussion management, hazing, and sexual harassment, to name just a few. The forms and documents surrounding these issues can change, and you need a means to keep pace.
It’s critical to find a platform that enables you to achieve 100% form compliance, thereby ensuring that you have all your bases covered during registration. – and – throughout the year. Don’t take any chances and risk missing important compliance protocols.
Let FinalForms take you across the finish line.
FinalForms offers the most comprehensive student-athlete management system in the industry, with a robust set of features guaranteed to give your program a competitive edge — improving the coach and athlete experience while reducing risk, ensuring compliance, and increasing safety.
FinalForms offers a secure, user-friendly platform that serves as a nexus for directors, coaches, players, parents, and staff. The solution streamlines registration while also providing advanced communication tools for participants, eliminating having to use third-party messaging platforms.
What’s more, the platform offers a new COVID-19 monitoring tool, giving teams an acceptable framework to help limit the virus’ spread.
Ready to say goodbye to missed deadlines, angry parents, and frustrated coaches and players? Demo FinalForms today.