Our 2019 Report Card came out last week, and near the top of the list with an “A” was Arundel High School, led by athletic director Ryan Woods. He recently sat down with us to talk about his school, what makes them successful, and how they’re using VNN to improve their communities.
Tell us about yourself.
This is my first year as the AD at Arundel High School. I previously spent 14 years teaching English and working as the Assistant AD, the Academic Advisor, coaching football and track, and several other athletic-based jobs at my alma mater. I work hard to highlight the student-athletes at my current school, bringing a new social media program to the school. Each season we work hard to improve the student-athlete experience while at Arundel.
What made you want to be an athletic director?
I had been coaching football and track, as well as working supervision in the off-season. Our AD came to me and asked me to apply for the newly vacated Assistant AD position. This was something that I was excited about because I feel like I am organized and could bring some order to my athletic program that I thought was missing at the time. When I got the position, I realized how much work goes into the behind the scenes aspects of an Athletic program. I was teaching English at the time and I realized that I would be willing to work as hard as possible to get an AD job because I wanted to fully surround myself with athletics. It was what got me into college and I wanted to help others see that same dream.
How has VNN improved your day to day work?
VNN makes it extremely easy to get our messages to our community. We have several thousand followers on our website and each of our social media outlets. Without VNN, I would spend the majority of my day trying to reach our fans and supporters in order to get the message out about our athletic contests. If we have a rescheduled event, VNN makes my life much easier to reach the community because I can post the details and have it connect to our social media outlets, our main school website, and our booster club. It reaches three times as many people as our old ways of communication. Now we have partnered with BoxOut Sports and my social media program has gone from 3 hours a day, down to about 30 minutes. I was making my own graphics each season and photoshopping our athletes into the frames. Now, I can have game previews, schedule releases, messages, and score recaps complete within 5-10 minutes from a desktop or a little longer from a cell phone on a field. I actually have bigger issues gaining service in some areas than I do with the building of the social media product every day! I was even able to pass that responsibility off onto my part-time student-intern. He comes in, checks out a schedule out, doublechecks with me, and posts articles previewing every event. I can spend my time making sure that officials and buses are assigned.
Arundel High School received one of our top grades from our 2019 Report cards, why do you think that was?
Our community interacts with our page every day. We have several team photographers that upload photos for us after each contest. This allows our student-athletes to see themselves and be represented. Representation is a huge piece. Future athletes need to see themselves represented on our page as well. We are a very diverse school so seeing an athlete that looks like them is important for our future Wildcat Nation. We have thousands of photos uploaded each week. We will even have a new photographer rule next year, “To gain access to the sidelines you’ll need to upload your photos!” Our student-athletes are able to download these photos and use them in their own personal social media promotions.
Another piece that makes us different from the rest is our link to our social media. We use different outlets but we try to send the same messages to each. Like I said before, we use BoxOut Sports graphics and it makes our life easier. I partner with our professional photographer to gain access to photos and use them in marketing our programs every day. We have headshots and bios for all of our athletes and this once again makes a difference. College coaches can find information much easier if you upload information about these athletes. Our athletic administration updates schedules and rosters at the beginning of the season and asks our coaching staff to make sure to report our scores within 12 hours of the end of the contest. This keeps the community up-to-date with how our teams are doing.
We also run promotions on our page. We promote our student-athletes and sometimes run a poll. In the fall, we rolled out a new promotion called the “12th Wildcat” where we had a student-athlete on our pressbox to raise the flag for our crowd. We ran a poll in which there were 6 seniors and the community was able to vote by going to that specific article. We love to promote our student-athletes here. We have an enormous amount of pride in our athletic program and we try to show that on a regular basis.
A few of your teams use RallyAroundUs for their team’s fundraising, how has that experience been for them?
RallyAroundUs has been a game-changer for some of our teams. We started with our girls basketball team and were able to raise $1,000 in the first week that the fundraiser started, without even promoting it. The girls made a video using a cell phone and were able to upload it straight to the website. The fundraiser won’t expire either, the link will stay active all year long. We’ve used other companies in the past but RallyAroundUs allows us to keep more of the money raised that other companies and since it is linked to our website, we are bringing more people to our website and in turn promoting our programs more!
What would you say to an AD who isn’t currently using VNN, or is on the fence about VNN?
VNN has been so easy to work with. They do the majority of the heavy lifting and allow me to focus on the athletic administration part of my job. We bring a new audience to our school through our website and they can keep up with things from different areas of the world. We have a large military family population so it is important for us to get the message out there about our programs, especially if a family member is overseas. I’ve used different websites in the past but I’ve never been able to send a text to a rep and have my website problems solved within 10 minutes. The VNN reps do an amazing job of helping their customers out when they need them. I had a question about my booster club running a fundraiser and now we have the ability to run that through our website instead of using a third party company such as EventBrite who will take a huge chunk out of our registrations. I can’t speak more highly of VNN because they work not for me, but for my community. My job is to make sure that our student-athletes have the best experience that they can have in high school and enjoy their time at Arundel. #WeAreArundel #ForeverArundel
Special thanks to Ryan Woods for taking the time to answer some questions. Look for more of these “How I work” articles in the future.