Lee Laskowski is always on. His passion for playing sports at Mizzou spilled over into his professional life early on, and since then he’s been working hard to give the kids, parents, and community of Clayton, Missouri a common thread through athletics, “every game, every day.”
Being an athletic director was something that I thought about in high school, something that I would really enjoy doing but never thought it would become a reality. So I became a financial advisor at AXA/Equitable. During that time, I started coaching baseball at Clayton. Three years of that and I knew that financial advising wasn’t for me – I left the company and became a certified teacher at Langston Middle School in St. Louis. Towards the end of my first year at Langston I got a call from out of the blue from Rich Grawer, my old AD at Clayton, to catch up. Now, it’s my 8th year there as the Assistant Athletic Director.
My usual day consists of facility scheduling/management, regular day-day operations and supervision. We’re pretty unique in that we share our facilities with the City of Clayton and Fontbonne University, not to mention our Jr. Programs. Where most schools have priority scheduling because they own their facilities, we have a shared usage agreement that we have to operate within. In fact, until earlier this year, our high school didn’t even own a gym. We were using the city of Clayton’s facilities, and you can imagine what kind of logistical creativity is needed to coordinate with so many entities. With that said, the shared usage agreement is pretty great as it gives us access to facilities we might not have been able to manage previously. I make sure things run smoothly.
I really gained an appreciation for coaching and athletic administration when I was playing baseball at Mizzou. As an athlete at the D-I level you really get to experience what it takes to run a sport, program and school under one collective identity. It was amazing to see how fellow athletes, classmates, professors, alumni and community members – a group so large – were all brought together by one common thread, athletics. I witnessed first-hand the hard work and professionalism of my coach Tim Jamesion and AD Mike Alden. It was my first taste of understanding what it takes off the field and behind the scenes to have a great athletic program.
We have an open door policy at Clayton and encourage everyone to stop by and say hello. Having an open line of communication like this has really enhanced our relationships. As you can imagine though, at times it can be hard to stay on top of. Whenever something needs to be done I try to take care of it on the spot, and that’s why I try to stay extremely organized at all times. It’s worked for me to set goals for daily, weekly and monthly operations. Breaking the job up into groups makes it so much easier to keep up with daily requests and fire drills.
My goal’s always been to make sure I read every email, listen to every voicemail and make sure I follow through when I say I am going to do something. It’s inevitable that mistakes will happen, but you have to be able to own them when they occur. You also need to make sure they are honest mistakes, and not something that could have been remedied with more effort. If you can be honest to yourself and those around you everything else becomes pretty easy.
Every game, every day, has become a motto of mine. We all know that it’s impossible to see everything, but I figure that if I can make it to as many games as possible, the easier communication becomes. During certain sports it’s tempting to have the opportunity to get paperwork done but I prefer to just be able to watch and enjoy the game with our students and parents. They’re all opportunities to get to know coaches, students, parents and other AD’s on a personal level. If you can build those relationships, the more effectively you can communicate. Being there is the first step.
I can officially say the fax machine is a dinosaur. When I first started here, there were so many paper documents and faxes that we had to send, and now, information can be submitted via online forms or scanned in and sent as attachments through email. For the most part I try and organize everything digitally, because I find myself needing notes/files/information that you wouldn’t think I would use that much. Having them just a click away really helps.
It feels like all high schools are starting to follow suit of college programs. It’s just not enough to be ok. High schools and athletic directors have to constantly evolve and the biggest trend is through great content and social media. We are in the selfie and hash-tag era, and people want to be connected to what is going on. If you don’t accomplish that, your programs are going to suffer. I’ve always wanted kids, parents and the community of Clayton to have a common thread through athletics like I experienced at Mizzou. It is not just an expectation, it is what Clayton deserves.
We’ve transitioned so much information from paper to the web. It’s meant way less phone calls and way less paper wasted. I’m trying to build a a one stop shop online for our coaches, students, parents and the community to get their information. As I’ve moved forward, I’m finding that the time I used to spend on the phone is helping me enhance what we are doing. Going to games, taking photos, sending alerts, and posting articles, is helping us reach more people and improving Clayton’s image. Colleges figured it out over 15 years ago and now high schools are finally following suit.
We have been able transition so much information from paper to the web. This not only allows us to cut down on paper but on phone calls as well because coaches, students, parents and the community all have a one stop shop to get their information. The biggest positive is that we are reaching more people, and with the time saved we find ways to enhance what we are doing. Back to the every game/every day motto, if you are at games, you need to make the most of it. Taking photos, sending alerts, posting articles are things in which you can to do enhance your athletics program.
I usually will leave the office after the last home game is complete. For a football game that might be as late at 11pm and if we don’t have a game it might be as early as the end of school. This job is cyclical by nature and we go through times that are extremely busy that might include a 16 hour day and others that are just a normal schedule. It is all about finding a balance and the more organized you are, the easier it becomes. This spills over into my personal life, too. My wife usually gets off work earlier than I do, and during basketball season all the late nights can be challenging. Like a team, though, we’ve figured it out together. She was a gymnast at Mizzou, so she loves sports as much as I do. If it’s a particularly late night, she’ll come and work the clock during the games, and then we’ll go home together and eat! If your work/life balance feels a little off, try bringing a little of your life into work!
All in all, I feel like the key is building relationships and making the most out of every day. If you can embrace how unique this job is, the more you will be able to enjoy it. I love connecting with kids – now that I have been here long enough I’ve got alumni that stop by or just come to games and support Clayton. Helping kids grow and mature is truly the most gratifying part of the job. When I see a kid graduate and/or get his first job I feel a true sense of pride.