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Strategic planning is an important process for every type of business or organization. While many large organizations use strategic planning, often privately held businesses view this as important basis to the vision of their company (Jet, 2009). Not strictly related to budgeting or finances, the strategic plan itself is a road map for every organization who wants to set a clear path of where to go and how to get there. The questions asked throughout the strategic planning process become the basis for the goals and objectives which are set to achieve the plan. The timeline, priorities within the time frame, long and short range goals, and pursuit of the mission and vision of the business are those which must be included and eventually answered in order to develop a business which is not only successful but will continue to prosper.
The strategic plan is the ultimate groundwork for success in business. As the strategic plan must be focused to provide a clear direction there must also be some flexibility in adapting to the ever changing environment. In athletics, changes occur constantly. At both the collegiate and secondary level, understanding the external and internal environments and the changes that continually occur is significant to their strategic planning process. In organizations and business, there are owners, managers, or supervisors whose role it is to lead and manage the strategic planning process. In athletics, the athletic director has the ultimate power to create a successful athletics program lead by a solid strategic plan. At the collegiate level, the athletic director has many key staff members and sub-departments in which she can delegate aspects of the strategic plan. At this level of athletics, each member of the athletic department has their role specified in effecting positive change and success for the entire department and campus society. Here, athletic departments will create their own strategic plan aligned with the strategic plan of the college or university itself. In high school athletics, the athletic director also has the duty to create a successful group of programs (athletics and activities such as band and choir) for the schools in her charge. However, it is often hard to find a secondary athletic department that actually has a strategic plan specifically tailored to meet the needs of the department or an athletic director who has the experience in creating or directing a strategic plan for the school district. Most secondary athletic departments only have mission statements and expectations for internal staff, coaches, and student-athletes which are loosely aligned with the district's educational strategic plan. The opportunity for these departments to make changes or have specific goals is certainly lacking. Thus the need for strategic planning at the secondary level of athletics is one that is desperately needed.
The purpose of writing this paper is to explain the need for all secondary athletic departments to develop a strategic plan. The necessity for the planning in this area of secondary education is one that is not only to meet expectations and goals, but to provide a visionary plan for the success of the department, teams, staff, student-athletes and the community. The research and information can be desirable to athletic directors and activities directors at secondary schools throughout the country.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Strategic planning is not a new concept in the world of business. It is one that has been around for years in major corporations. Built upon the idea that organizations must have an outline of the goals they want to achieve, the plan itself is a road map which answers meaningful questions along the way. Planning is a step-by-step process with definite goals and objectives and a specific time period in which those should be met (McLarney, 2001). The process itself looks into the future while identifying current trends and outside forces which could affect organizational success or failure.
Strategic planning forces organizations to look at their future in order to operate in the present. Being proactive allows an organization not to just focus on what is happening within that particular culture at the present time, but what could happen and how they can either fix or handle changes. The plan can also make the business take a look at the needs, issues, and the environment in which they are currently operating. Here, the organization has the opportunity to make changes as necessary or keep with the current "plan" in order to remain successful. An organization's overall mission (a basic tenet of an organization) holds the key to the focus of the goals and objectives of the organization. The mission and/or vision statement is one that identifies the purpose of the organization. From here, all of the goals, strategies and objectives can be developed. Planning ideally gives an organization a sense of direction and allows for continuity in staffing and leadership. Knowing where an organization is, where they are going and exactly how they are going to reach that specific point on the map is critical for the success of any business. Without this map, the business is lost. Continuity in the planning process offers all of the people stability and a seamless flow not only in the planning process but also in their everyday work environment. Finally, everyone who is involved in the business should also be a part of the entire planning process. While there is generally a "leader" who directs the process, many will be involved in developing and the success of only one aspect of the plan and their part in the overall plan is crucial.
Some strategic plans just don't work and often these organizations struggle to stay afloat or even fail. Failure comes not just because they didn't have a strategic plan, but often because the basic management theory of planning itself, knowing where to go and how to get there successfully, are never initially put down on paper. It all has to start from the top - the leader of any organization must be prepared to take the time to not only develop and initiate the planning process but also to get people involved in the process. Often, management does not or will not follow their own directives. While a predefined process is set into motion, there may never be any follow-up to accomplish any of the task set forth, creating a wasted amount of time spent on nothing to do with the plan itself. Running in circles is not a part of the strategic planning process; that offers no directionality. The plan must be a part of a collective team product. The delegation of planning to sub-departments along with no communication amongst all groups leads to the planning process of individual plans, not a collective organizational plan. Here, the manager or leader is responsible for the downfall and ultimate lack of improvement or success. On the other hand, many just don't understand the reasons for planning at all. Frequently, organizational leaders are given direction from their own bosses to create such a plan but have no idea how to purposefully or successfully attempt the process. While they ultimately engage in the planning process (because they have to), at the end of the day a plan is developed and fails or is never fully implemented at all.
Steps in the plan
The planning process has to develop a plan that is practical - one that can be not only developed, but also evaluative and flexible. The components of the plan include, but are not limited to:
Organizational vision and mission statement
Situational analysis/Environmental scan with assumptions (SWOT and TOWS)
Measurement (evaluation) and control
The first component is the pre-planning stage. Pre planning is done to establish the boundaries for plan development (Sherman, et. al., 2007). Questions are asked to determine what kind of plan is needed, how the plan will be used, and who will be involved in the planning process. In addition, organizational personality, structure, culture and leadership styles are clearly defined here. These areas will not only guide the planning process but will also support and produce a SWOT analysis that takes into account the organization's fundamental traits (No author, 2009).
The second step is to identify the organization's vision; it leads the organization into the mission statement where the values and purposes of the organization are clearly defined. The vision and mission statements are aligned directly with the goals and objectives of the plan which will guide future opportunities. The "reason for being" is probably one of the most difficult sections of the entire plan (Yow et. al., 2000). Critical questions and definitions of what it means to be successful need to identified here. Analysis of the internal and external environments is the next step in the planning process. Here, the organization can utilize SWOT analysis which looks at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats which can have an effect on the success of the organization. SWOT analysis is the key to strategy implementation and is identified as one of the most useful portions of the strategic planning process (Evans & Wright, 2009). The strengths are those items which the organization clearly knows from experience and/or data that they clearly meet every day. Core competencies must be identified and determined if they are actually being capitalized upon. If they are not, then they are identified as a weakness and a possible opportunity. Admitting weaknesses and identifying how they should can be better executed, eliminated or minimized is the key to transforming them in to opportunities. Identifying threats should be aligned with a possible opportunity. Here, how to become stronger or more successful is the ultimate result. Finally, recognizing the opportunities for change allows for future successes. Looking at trends, listening to customer feedback, and following what the competition is doing allows for identification of your organizational opportunities. After the SWOT analysis is completed, the TOWS analysis is needed to then turn the found opportunities and weaknesses into organizational strengths (Trainer, 2004). It is an effective tool to use so as to combine internal strengths with the external opportunities as well as internal weaknesses to develop a strategy. External factors are the opportunities and threats of the analysis. These are the changes in the industry, technological changes, and economic or social factors which can affect organizational success. Past performance here can be a significant indicator for the need to revise current goals and objectives throughout the remaining time frame of the strategic planning process (McLarney, 2001). Meaningful SWOT's build on strengths, resolve weaknesses, exploit opportunities, and avoid threats. SWOT's must be specific and reasoned, without just listing mistakes. In this stage, one of the most important aspects is not to lose sight of external influences and trends or ignoring possible outcomes. Establishing objectives which are clear and written give the direction of exactly where an organization wants to be in a specific amount or given timeframe. Not to be misconstrued with goals or strategies, objectives are those which lead the purpose of the organization. Launching the objectives leads directly into the formulation of the strategies. The development of organizational strategies has a direct link to the objectives which have been previously developed.
The action plan (or operational plan) is the next phase of the planning process. These are based on the goals, objectives, and strategies that have been established previously in the planning process. All areas of the organization are visited here to ensure that each plan fits the needs of the overall strategic plan. In addition, the action plan describes when each portion of the strategic plan will be implemented. These plans should be carried out by those who will be overseeing its progress and should include all of the activities which will take place as well as the desired outcomes.
Evaluation and control is the final stage of the planning process. In this stage, monitoring and adjustments are made to and for the plan through a series of procedures which will help to determine performance (Yow, et. al., 2003). These components should be constantly worked, revised and researched utilizing measurable actions, the elimination of certain programs, the scope of the business, and what the business truly wants to achieve through the identification current trends and issues. The environmental factors section, both internal and external, is a significant section of the planning process and the plan itself. The process itself is circular; it is never in one direction nor should it be. While there are specific steps in the plan that should be followed, once a team reaches a certain point in the plan there could be additional work that needs to be done to a previous section of the plan.
Who's in charge?
In the past, one person in the organization (generally an executive) was in charge of developing and implementing the plan for the entire organization. The executive style approach was purely a command style approach where the "leader" told every staff member what to do and how to do it. In the end, a plan may have been developed but could never be fully recognized or carried out. The leadership style of command and only with an iron fist never lead to anything successful in the strategic planning process (Galagan, 1997). The command-style leadership for strategic planning has today, fallen by the wayside. Executives, directors and business owners know that today they cannot develop a plan without the help and buy-in of the employees who work for the organization. While the leader, owner or CEO may be "directing" the strategic planning process everyone involved in the organization's success must be involved in every step of the plan and believe in what the organization is to society. Ultimately, everyone who is involved with the organization will be involved with the process of strategic planning and their specific duties will be outlined based upon their expertise and specific knowledge in that area of the organization. The directors, executive directors, managers and supervisors should lead the way in developing the initial phases of the strategic plan while integrating all communication with committees, sub-committees, and employees to develop a plan that is not only feasible but successful. It is their job to integrate all people into the planning process from an administrative perspective and constantly examine the entire process. While the process does flow from top to bottom, each and every person involved should have a stake in the overall completion and success of the plan.
While the strategic planning process has been used throughout the business world for decades, more colleges and public school districts today are utilizing the success of strategic planning. Like big business, colleges and universities must operate in the same realm of this genre. Businesses develop a product or service that is meant to be marketable to the public in return to make a profit for the business. Here, a business must have a written action plan to follow if they wish to be successful in selling that product or service to the public. Colleges and universities function in a similar manner. Higher education plays an important role in our society through the development of exceptional educational programs as a foundation and bridge between the internal and external environment and their "product" is to develop exceptional educational experience. In order to develop a successful student and effective environment, colleges and universities have integrated the strategic planning process for themselves. In order to face emerging challenges and changes in the higher education environment, colleges and universities must keep up with changing student demographics, competition with models of higher education programming, and the decline in government funding (Conley, 1993). Strategic planning is the only way that higher education facilities can effectively stay within the competitive environment in order to create framework for direction for a competitive and desired future, reflection, foster a sense of ownership, alignment within its own environment and to set priorities (Earle, 2009). As many colleges and universities today utilize strategic planning wholly, some still plan in response to emerging challenges in order to adapt to an ever changing environment.
As an institution of higher education follows a similar model of business strategic planning, there are some differences in how adjustments are made for the educational environment. The time frame needed for many organizations plan is limited to two to three years while the plan at educational institutions is much longer. Five years or more is a typical scenario when observing strategic plans for educational institutions primarily because of the environment, the student base, the context of safeguarding the educational process, and the guiding principle of educating people. The planning itself is not conducted any differently. All of the departments, staff, students and even community members must work together in order to build and achieve a successful strategic plan for the university environment.
Like colleges and universities, public and private school systems throughout the United States have looked at the business and higher education strategic planning processes in order to create their own. Viewing not only the success of planning at colleges and universities, schools districts have identified the need to consider planning as a means to their own future success. In secondary schools across the country today, more are utilizing the effectiveness of strategic planning. In a response to the environment and to determine the needs and trends allows districts to have measurable benchmarks (Conley, 1993). While strategic planning has been popular throughout businesses, school districts now have shown that they too need more structure in managing change and creating a successful future. Today districts are even more aware of potential and immediate changes that can occur because of the declining economic environment. In this environmental change a plan must be in place to be able to not only deal with the increase in numbers of students and demographic changes, but also teacher shortages and budget cuts.
As districts begin to draw from models used in the business world, there are more changes that occur that necessitate the use of strategic planning models (Chiarelott et. al., 1991). Many agree that understanding and analyzing strengths and opportunities helps to contribute to the future direction of the school district (Evans, 2007). While many others are unconvinced that strategic planning actually helps in the academic world some are jumping aboard the planning train. Education is not a means to an end; while we do want students to learn and graduate from high school we are not selling a specific product or service nor is the end about making billions of dollars. Districts exist give children an education so that they are prepared for the future, ultimately not to make money. Traditional strategic planning is difficult for school districts to grasp because they don't feel that the outline fits the needs of the educational system nor the students themselves. However, some are planning using the basics that big businesses use and make it more flexible to fit their needs. Many take a comprehensive approach by using parent surveys, student assessments and community based needs to understand and improve upon what they currently are doing as a district. Developing a strategy is a key to the management process, drawing together the values and goals of the district to build the framework for the success of the district as a whole as well as for the individual departments (Bell, 2002).
Strategic planning in secondary athletic departments
High school athletics is becoming more and more important to not only a school districts bottom line, but also to the rest of the school's educational programming. In cities around the country, high school athletics is a source of community pride and in some instances, a thriving industry (Yoder, 2007). As schools grow in size and complexity, there is also a growth in competitive sports offered to students; demanding that the job of the athletic director becomes more structured and complex (Stier & Schneider, 2000). Often the success or failure of an entire district's athletic programming lies squarely on the shoulders of the athletic director who must take risks on a daily basis. The instance of strategic planning will help not only the department, but also the district administration, student-athletes, health and physical education programs (HPE), parents, schools and community constituents have a better understanding of what, when, and how the department plans to positively affect the current conditions for athletics.
While athletic teams and sports programming are among the most important aspects of an athletic department, HPE programming and curriculum is another area that is of a huge importance to the success of the department. Included in an athletic department's strategic plan is the alignment of the HPE plan to guide programming and ensure that students are getting a quality HPE program (Lumpkin, 1997). For the athletic director, one of her top priorities should be to identify any past strategic plans for both athletics and HPE to identify anything that may need to be adjusted to fit the needs of the current department. The need to address areas which have not been successful in the past, identification of external environmental changes and trends upon the department, HPE programs, secondary athletics, and any limitations (internal and external) that will effect competition are all major factors in correcting in order to achieve athletic excellence. If there is no plan in place, planning should be immediate to set the ball in motion for the development of a strategic plan. The athletic director must utilize every resource in her power as well as the cooperation of every constituent and employee involved with athletics throughout the district in order to build a solid plan for the department and all programs while also integrating the essential component of the total educational experience. The development of a logical scope and sequence of events for planning within an athletic department is vital to the success of the entire department (Hoch, 2003).
Activities in planning for secondary athletics
Each section of a secondary athletic department strategic plan has its own importance and should be tailored to fit the needs of the athletic department and its programming. The sections of a strategic plan are generally followed as such (Yow, et. al., 2000):
Objectives and goals
Analysis and assumptions
Evaluation and control
The first section includes the mission, the vision and why the department exists. The purpose sets boundaries for the remainder of the plan and for everyone who will be involved throughout the department. Generally the mission, vision and purpose statements of the athletic department will mirror those found within the districts own statements. The athletic department will align its own mission, vision and purpose to correspond with those of the district in order to compliment and support the vision of the district. Most often, the directionality of these statements lends itself to the total development of the student-athlete so as to achieve a balanced life, achieved academic success, and personal growth as measured through contributions made to the community through athletic endeavors.
Objectives and goals
Objectives and goals are not merely taken lightly or written in broad strokes. They must be specific enough to be achievable and meet the needs of those who will benefit. They focus on future events which the department hopes to achieve as well as ensure that the mission of the department is recognized. Goals are written first where specific items are listed and the objectives are written as meaningful ways in which to achieve those goals. For example, a goal with its objectives in a secondary athletic department might look something like this:
Goal 1 - Learn teamwork
Objectives for success -
Respect for the spirit of hard work
Objectives lend to the short-term plans and the targeted achievements within a given times frame. These should be measurable and serve as steps toward the achievement of the goal itself. In order to write goals and objectives, they literally should be written "SMARTer". Each letter of the word in the acronym represents an area which each goal or objective must quantify. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound are those which create the acronym for reaching goals and objectives. Specific objectives tell who will be targeted and what will be accomplished for each goal or objective created. Measurable goals indicate how much change can be expected and must be specific enough hat they can be measured. Goals and objectives must be achievable. Realistically, they must be accomplished through newly created programming, existing programs and resources, and department or district constraints. Realistically, the scope of the specific problem for each goal or objective must be identified and offered with reasonable and programmatic steps. Time is of the utmost importance through all stages, but specifically here. There has to be a timeline which indicates when each goal and objective will be met otherwise they are worthless.
Analysis and assumptions - External environment analysis
Monitoring the environment both internally and externally, conducting a SWOT analysis and identifying opportunities are a part of the second section. One of the most important areas of section two is the SWOT analysis. It identifies the department's strengths and weaknesses and any opportunities and threats that could interfere with the athletic department's mission. SWOTS help to identify the departmental identity and clearly the direction in which the department is heading or will head in the near future. Strengths and weaknesses are those items which are internal to the athletic department. While a strength of an athletic department is boasting the oldest football stadium in the state, it also can be viewed as a weakness in facility aging; leading to high maintenance costs and a possible new facility altogether costing millions of dollars. The strengths and weaknesses are developed in the early phases of the strategic planning process where data is collected and examined in order to establish competencies for the department. Opportunities and threats are those which are external to the athletic department. Most threats in the world of athletics comes directly from team competition, government regulations, or conference guidelines. In determining departmental opportunities, judgment most certainly has to be taken into consideration. Opportunities in athletics include increasing revenue through booster and community funding or the numbers of and varied types programs (sports) which are offered to the students of the district thus bringing in a larger number of participants to each sporting season. On the other hand, threats to an athletic department come mostly in the forms of governmental or conference changes. One of the biggest possible threats that is continually debated throughout athletic circles today is Title IX. While some athletic directors and coaches see it as a threat to cutting sports, many others believe its mission is to increase the numbers of participants as well as the numbers of sports which can be offered.
Externally each area that can affect the department must be examined. Such areas as social changes in the local community, the economic environment, suppliers for equipment, and competing districts in the same athletic conference must be identified in order to remain competitive within the area in which the district resides and competes. Opportunities should be taken advantage of and threats should be shielded from the identified external sources.
External environmental sources could be identified as those which can have a major impact on the athletic department which functions in today's society. These sources include changes in technology, societal and legal issues, demographics and culture, economic changes, and competition in and outside of the department. Today, technology changes by the minute. Dealing with ever-changing technology could be a daunting task, but one that can be done. The premise here is the technology should be an integral part of the department daily strategy. Using technology to the department's advantage could prove to gain a competitive advantage. Economically, however some of the newest trends in technology may not be feasible for the department. The current trends are to stay up to the minute with the ever changing trends in technology, so too are the trends to find eco-conscious, earth friendly or "green" designs in facility construction. Such things as eco-friendly sites and using natural materials are constantly evolving. Athletic departments who recognize the changes can be a part of the eco-conscious design process as well as save thousands of dollars as well as become a greater part of the environment through its construction. Staying on track with the societal, demographic and cultural changes within the department requires time and energy to focus on who is entering and leaving not only the department but also all sports teams within the district. Other trends include emerging sports, facility rentals to community programs as a revenue source, and purchasing trends for longevity of equipment. One of the most popular trends in athletics of late are those in flooring (turf, rubberized basketball courts, etc.) and multi-sport fields which more athletic departments are now embracing (Berkowitz, 2009). Worrisome trends for athletic directors are the increasing lengths of seasons and primary measure of success is found in a championship season.
Analysis and assumptions - Internal environment analysis
An internal analysis will maximize strengths and minimize any weaknesses. It will also focus on those properties which may identify strengths and weaknesses such as coaching staffs, budgets per sport, and contracts with sponsors, operational efficiency, and organizational structure. As well as the SWOT analysis, there is also a subsection involving strategic analysis. Here, the athletic director and any assistants (or the strategic team) can assess the department's capabilities, opportunities for growth as well as vulnerabilities. The strategic analysis also recognizes any biases or assumptions which help in being proactive, rather than reactive, to changes.
Developing the strategy itself involves drafting the overall plan with constant editing. The plan must be flexible enough at the outset to allow for changes to the plan's model. The strategic team must initiate a well-defined course of action for shaping the future of the department (Chiarelott et. al., 1991). Strategic planning is a complex process that requires looking ahead while also keeping in mind the past and the present strategies that both work and need to be removed from the department. Development of the strategy itself is time consuming and necessitates facing barriers every step of the way. Research, communication, anticipation of future events, side effects of planning, and recognition of complex thinking is necessary to complete the process. In athletics, one of the most important areas of strategic development is budgeting. Expenditures for equipping sports teams, paying for coaches, and departmental overall budget can be outrageously high and costly in some areas. Three types of budgeting in athletics are important to recognize and include within the strategic planning process: capital budgets, project capital budgets, and operations budgeting. The capital budgets for an athletic department directly correlate with the gross revenues of the district. An allocated amount is usually set per year by a school for the athletic department and it is the job of the athletic director to maintain and/or increase that budget for the next school year. Project capital budgeting involves any type of rebuilding or remodeling that may have to be done to any one of the athletic facilities throughout the school district. Here, capital reserves could be used or an assessment by community members could fund any given project. For most, a bond issue is generally sent to the community members as a vote to increase a specific tax so as to pay for facilities within a district; trickling down into the athletic department at some point in time. Operations budgeting is the most time-consuming portion of budgeting within an athletic department. The budget determines where, how and when each penny of the athletic department's budget will be spent throughout a school year. Each of these budgeting items (such as coaching stipends) should be carefully reviewed noting area trends and staff profiles.
Operational planning is the short term aspect of strategic planning. Within it, plans are made and critical questions are asked to achieve certain objectives in a specific time period; answering with what exactly the department plans to do to realize the goals and objectives. The operational planning process draws directly from the goals and objectives from the beginning stages of the strategic plan. It asks four major questions that must be answered within the subsection of the planning process:
Where are we now?
Where are we going?
How do we get to where we need/want to be?
How do we measure our progress?
Operational planning is an ongoing process which sets the actions for a specific time period and answers critical questions that the department needs to answer in order to move forward. It is specific and detailed in order to fit the objectives of the master strategy (plan) and must include an assessment of the strategic initiatives.
Evaluation and control
Finally, evaluation and control is a critical and ongoing process which monitors performance before, during, and after the strategic planning process. As the strategic plan is initiated, the strategy must be consistently monitored and adjusted to fit the needs of the constituents as well as the department. Evaluation and control consists of:
Defining factors that (may) effect the department; performance measurement (continuous)
Defining values for the factors; monitoring of external environment (continuous and periodic)
Execution of measurements for above stated factors (continuous)
Compare results to a pre-defined standard (continuous, periodic and event driven)
Make necessary changes (continuous, periodic and event driven)
During this process, data is gathered from both the internal and external environments of the athletic department. The data collected is then disseminated and analyzed to determine the department's overall performance and identify opportunities and/or threats. Throughout the evaluation and control timeframe, the department can not only identify potential opportunities but also identifies the best practices to fit the department in an ever changing environment. In athletics, the challenge is maintaining a inclusive athletics program which is competitive and successful during times when revenues are low, the economy is less than average, or as costs continue to increase throughout not only the department but the entire district. Creating a plan which can and should be reviewed and edited on an annual basis, allows for secondary athletic departments to meet not only the needs of the district but also meeting all challenges head on.
Communicating the strategic plan is the final phase in completion of the strategic planning process. Although not literally outlined as such, the plan has to be shared with everyone who will be affected by it. Communicating the strategic plan is essential in relaying not only the plan itself but also how it will implemented, who is involved and how each person who receives it can be a part of it. Every school board member and district staff member should receive a hard copy of the plan, as well as all stakeholders. Distribution of the plan to all employees of the district should also be considered. By doing this, every member of the teaching staff to the students will know the context and meaning of the athletic department's plan, as well as having a better appreciation for the plan itself.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Strategic plans have and many times do fail. Not for lack of effort, but because there was an underestimation as to the amount of time, money and effort that was required in actually creating a plan. A department may have the best laid plans and ideas in the world but if they are never written down or implemented, they are useless. Successful planning involves creating vision/mission/purpose which is simple and clear. A great plan is well thought out, precisely written, edited for content, continually challenges assumptions, and is created from all sources of input. Commitment is key in developing a successful strategic plan as well. Those who initiate a plan must not only be invested in it but also accountable for every piece that goes into its format. The plan must become an entity unto itself; a part of the culture of the organization as well as relentlessly updated to reflect the needs of the environment in which it is created. Creating a viable means for communicating the final product of the strategic plan is ultimately how an organization introduces its plan to the world. Planning is an ongoing process that needs to be constantly adjusted. However, the initial phases have to include writing down exactly how, why, and when things will be achieved within a specific amount of time. Time is crucial in the process and must not be attempted in merely a week or even a month.
Strategic planning is risky business for any type of organization yet today more and more school districts are attempting to create their own version of business strategic plans. The need is great so as to give the district a clear sense of direction not only for itself as a larger educational unit but also for its sub-departments, such as the athletic department. Many secondary schools let alone athletic departments have or intend to create strategic plans. It is often seen as a waste of time, unnecessary use of resources, and not needed to be a successful department. On the contrary, most of these same districts and athletic departments don't have strategic plans in place simply because they don't know how to do them. All of the hard work and dedication does however pay off with the end result. Better decisions can be made, an increased competitive advantage over other districts, clearer focus, accountability, and more time to enjoy the benefits of successful sports programs. The key position in leading the strategic planning team in a secondary athletic department is that of the athletic director. However, the athletic director cannot do it alone; key staff members and constituents must be a part of the committee for success and change. Deliberate decisions must be made in order to break through barriers, real or anticipated throughout the process (Paris, 2003). Though times may be tough, the planning will allow the department to be proactive and create opportunities for a successful department.
Athletic departments will find that strategic planning is a dynamic process of continuously looking at the current state of the organization and figuring out a way to move on (Kentucky High School Athletic Association, 1992). The establishment of a sound athletic program and department not only allows for the district to be successful but also for the enhancement of character education, sportsmanship, and ethical and socially responsible behaviors that student-athletes carry with them throughout the rest of their adult lives. Athletes are primarily students and their academic outcomes and engagement should be representative of their peers (Tobin, 2005). The purpose of students being in a school environment is to obtain an education and move forward into life. Student-athletes who participate in extracurricular activities such as sports should also be acutely aware that they must have a balance with the educational mission and values of the school district. In many states, secondary athletic departments are a critical part of the high school and school district because of the interscholastic sports programs. Interscholastic sports programming at this level is essential in developing students' academic, physical, emotional and physical development. Here, strategic planning is the tool that will guide not only the department but all schools involved in developing these student-athletes and the program to success. Throughout the process, the department can not only realize goals and objectives but also understand and develop new initiatives, enhance current functioning, and enrich athletics for the entire district.