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Thursday, March 11, 2021

PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW: Lenny Reich and Ann King


Lenny Reich - Staff Directory - CoSIDA  

How do you promote, publicize and cover fall, winter and spring sports ... in one two-month period? How do you staff multiple athletic events on your campus with scorers, PA announcers, and camera operators for live streams?

Welcome to the world of sports information 2021. We spoke with two legends in the profession - Lenny Reich at Mount Union and Ann King at Sage for their thoughts in this week's D3Playbook Interview.

How many sports is your institution participating in this spring?
 
R: Mount Union has 24 total varsity sports and as of today 17 of them are still in season. One of the good things the Ohio Athletic Conference has given everything a particular day so it does aid in planning – Tuesdays and Fridays are women’s volleyball, Thursdays and Sundays are men’s and women’s soccer, football is on Friday nights, Wednesdays and Saturdays are men’s and women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s tennis, Saturdays and Sundays are baseball and softball, track and field is on Saturdays, while men’s and women’s golf will be on weekends. Our men’s volleyball team is in the Midwest Collegiate Volleyball League and their schedule is Saturdays and Sundays.

K: We are participating in 16 of our current 18 sports as three of our new sports will commence their participation in 2021-2022.
 
What is the size of your staff?
 
R: Aside from myself, there are two assistant SIDS that are part-time positions that get paid hourly with room and board.

K: My staff consists of myself and a graduate assistant, Barryn Shark. I also utilize per diem help as well and thankfully having a veteran SID like Eric McDowell in our backyard has been a huge assist for us.
 
Have you been permitted to get more student-workers or go outside for part-time help?
 
R: Yes and Yes. Student-workers have been the heart and soul of our office for a long, long time and they do so much and get some great real-world experience. Some of the student workers are work-study positions and others are practicum students within our Sport Business department so they are getting academic credit to work. We also have partnerships with our Communications department as they have offered a practicum class in the past for students to work on the video board. We also have a great relationship with our student-radio station to provide us play-by-play talent for a variety of our streamed events. Our students have really stepped up for us and I can’t thank them enough for what they continue to do for our department.

K: The key is trying to find student workers and per diem help! I am blessed to be in region with several colleges and we have a tremendous network of helping one another when needed. For a number of reasons, some of our folks are unable to assist, some because they preferred to opt out due to the pandemic and that is totally understandable.

 

With all of our teams participating now as we started on March 1, it’s been a struggle. So many of us rely on student-athletes. My problem is now that fall, winter, and spring sports are all playing now, my traditional student worker pool is not available. I have been looking for non-student-athletes to fill my needs. That too has been a struggle as they are unfamiliar with what athletic communications even is and in some cases, do not even know anything about sports. Having to train new folks is a little time consuming and makes for some additional planning and staffing because this is all new to them.

 

Additionally, we are requiring all of our workers, myself included to follow mandated covid-19 protocols. We are being tested three times a week, wearing masks, social distancing and disinfecting items pre-and post-event.

 

For our non-Sage folks, they also need to come to campus 90 minutes prior to the start of the contest to be screened and tested by our athletic training staff. We are also having them do an on-line screening form 24-48 hours prior to the contest they are working. With many folks this extra-time required to set aside pre-event has limited the people that are actually able to assist because of their main 9-5 job or distance.

 

That extra time needed for my photographer to be able to shoot a contest, worked well as I was able to utilize that time to do some head shots and posed fun shots. It turned into a silver lining and I was able to cross a few things off my list. We utilized an on-line sign up as student-athletes picked their five minute time slot and we were able to follow covid protocols.

 

I have also been able to help out at a few area colleges this winter and took plenty of notes and photos so we could plan our return to play setup! We took the set up for basketball with the players and coaches on the far side from Saint Rose and the game-day staff set up from Siena. We also realized traditional meals of pizza and stuff for workers was not going to work. I adapted the snack bag idea from Siena and provide a snack bag for all workers, students, per diems and even officials with a brown bag snack pack with water, granola bars, chips, fruit snacks and some sort of sweet treat. It’s been a huge hit with everyone and helps them know we really appreciate their sacrifices to help our student-athletes compete.

 
Since few spectators are going to be permitted, most parents/fans will rely on a livestream? What challenges has this posed?
 
R: We were already streaming many events before this started but we have tried to add and enhance what we had. For starters we added five camera feeds to indoor track and field so we could have a single camera in particular event areas since no fans were allowed in. We are in the process of adding cameras and high speed internet to our off-campus baseball and softball venues to add video to the audio broadcasts we have done in the past. We have reached out on social media to let our parents and fans know what is going on and telling them what we can and cannot do at a particular time. We were fortunate that the year prior, the OAC signed a streaming agreement with Boxcast which provided all of our school’s content on app on OTT services like Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Google Chromecast. I am really impressed how my peers in our conference have pivoted to be able to offer a variety of high quality content online.

K: At RSC we are not permitting spectators at any of our home contests this spring. One challenge that we are facing right now is we made a switch in our streaming service. Because there was still a chance that our leagues’ presidents may have decided we may not be competing, we were asked to wait to make any purchases until after the February 11 call. Sadly, my equipment needed for streaming is on backorder and we are not able to even start that process. Thankfully, our coaches (for indoor sports) now have a huddle camera that was installed in our gym and we have been able to stream our first few home basketball games on YouTube. With our first outdoor contest coming this weekend, we are looking to probably use facebook live, which is not ideal, but we will make due until we are up to speed and able to use our expected streaming platform.

 

Thank goodness for the numerous SID forums and sharing idea platforms! We did purchase a set of wireless  headsets! We have four of them and they have been tremendous in us being able to call stats, talk to the scorebook and communicate amongst ourselves in a game setting that has us spread out and socially distant. I think this same technology will be a huge asset for our outdoor venues as well as we can have instant contact with the workers in the press box and at the scoring table.

 
Other comments you'd like to share?
 
R: As a member of the CoSIDA Executive Board of Directors, I can say that the board and CoSIDA staff are constantly discussing and thinking how we can help SIDs through this time offering tips and professional development to our members. Starting a Slack channel where our members can find some real-time answers and also just being there for each other. I am so proud of how many of our members have just helped people by listening, offering positive reinforcement or helping out at events. If it is one thing I have told people is that just try and solve today and then worry about tomorrow when it comes, this last year has taught us not to get caught looking to far forward. Focus on the here and now, communicate with your administrators and coaches and do the best to do what you can and that will be good enough.

K: Patience and planning and don’t put your schedule in ink! We are just two weeks into this and we have already been adjusting our schedules and work assignments numerous times. It’s certainly not what anyone ever envisioned a year ago. There are going to be things we can’t control and we are all working with limited resources and a shortage of enough hours in the day. Thank goodness for the SID’s in my conference as we are all trying to share resources. Sharing photographers, communicating what game-day looks like and what we are planning on a given day so there are no surprises.  
 
Working with your administration to help with scheduling is a plus as they help to understand what is possible and what is just not feasible too.  

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