In 2006, Google transformed the document, spreadsheet and presentation industry by introducing web-based productivity tools that were free, collaborative and, most importantly, user-friendly. The transition of Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides from test-trial suites to everyday platforms quickly put the search engine powerhouse in a new lead position, dominating all desktop- based competitors. It was only a matter of time before the Google programs, specifically Google Sheets, would work their way from the business sector to school districts and ultimately have the potential to influence the operations of interscholastic athletics.
Understanding the Basics – A Google search defines “Google Spreadsheets” as a program much like that of Microsoft Excel. However, Google Sheets, unlike Microsoft Excel, is an online system that literally allows all users, through “invitations,” to create, format and simultaneously build tables of data. This is a program that is based in a real-time environment where collaborators can actually see live changes occurring. They would find that the true definition of cloud-based programs is virtually limitless, because each individual has his or her own purpose and goal for how the program will be applied. As such, Google Sheets really is not anything like Microsoft Excel or paper-based scheduling.
System of Color Coding – Color coding can be an effective organizational tool, especially in the chaotic world of athletic administration. Individuals moving from archaic “paper and pen” methods will find that using a system of colors allows for the “filing” of significant events. State-sanctioned sports typically have various beginning dates, so wouldn’t it be useful to have all practice, scrimmage and game dates identified?
Athletic administrators are also faced with complicated scheduling conflicts such as holidays, SAT and other important testing dates and staff obligations. Using colors to “black out” these dates puts the tech savvy athletic administrator a step ahead during the scheduling process. Color coding can drive the athletic schedule by separating and identifying important school events, senior nights, presentations of sportsmanship awards and contests.
Working with Residuals – Why is the scheduling process so difficult? At the end of each year, athletic administrators normally archive their calendars, or shut down their computer programs, and start the process again from scratch. Working with Google Sheets allows users to carry over a great deal of information from the previous year. Granted, 100 percent of the information is not going to remain the same – league tournaments will be set on new dates, holidays shift, school calendars will make different accommodations, but it is a start. The athletic administrator is able to retain work with a skeleton model.
Increase Communication and Connectivity – The most significant advantage of shifting to a collaborative environment is that people get to see more of the work that goes into the overall scheduling process. Undoubtedly, there is a lot that cannot be seen through the sharing of an online document, like the countless hours of email and phone call negotiating, scheduling meetings and the resulting politics, etc., but it shares more information than any other method currently on the market. It allows more users to potentially see why a game may not be moved to a certain date, or why another bus may not be available during a specific time. The document itself provides answers to unasked questions.
Invite all coaches, volunteers, school building administrators, athletic trainers, nurses, facilities workers, transportation personnel and all other relevant staff to view the complex document and provide feedback. Demonstrate the resource’s capacity by integrating opponent confirmations, transportation times, and crowd control, school security or ticket taker verification. Use it as a way to validate the attendance of referees or officials, police, ambulances, cheer or dance teams, school medical personel, or even National Anthem singers. The options are limitless.
Formulas Galore – As with any computer program, there are beginner levels and some that are advanced. Do not be scared to test the limit and start implementing formulas that automatically count total numbers of scrimmages or games, per sport, per level. Discover ways to involuntarily balance the amount of home games versus away games. Allow the program to generate the calendar, rather than writing each date manually.
It is time to break away from the prehistoric method of scheduling. Pencils and paper have a place in the world of education and athletics, but with the technology that exists today, it is certainly not for scheduling.
Dr. Daniel Uszaki is the director of athletics at Northern Burlington County Regional School District (NJ) and vice president of the South Jersey Coaches Association.