Be accessible

by Jack Warren

Jack W 3Believe me – I know just how difficult it can be to manage your email inbox. The average non-public individual receives a ton of email on a daily basis – the vast majority being the electronic equivalent to the stacks of ads that you used to receive in the mailbox on your front porch. So if you’re a head coach at a D1 school or, heck, even a D3, NAIA, or JUCO, you’re going to receive more email than you can handle.

All that said, I’m here to tell you today to make yourself more accessible. Yes. More.

The fact is fairly clear that college baseball coaches are the most accessible of nearly every major collegiate sport – when you’re at live events. Yes, if you want to talk to __________ (plug in the name of your favorite big time coach) at the ABCA convention, chances are you can track him down in the exhibit hall and talk to him. UVa’s Brian O’Connor gave the keynote address at the ABCA in Nashville, then went to another room and did a Q&A for 45 minutes, and then stood around and talked to anyone who came up to him for another (at least) hour. That’s just a sample.

The vast majority of coaches are at least as accessible at public events as Coach O’Connor. But when it comes to email and phone contact there is a precipitous drop-off. Many coaches don’t even list a real email address and there are many more that list an email address that puts up a wall. Baseball@yourschool sends a message to the potential sender that this electronic memo will never make it through to the other end of the tube. Frankly, most coaches are putting in 70+ hours a week in season and don’t want to be bothered. That’s reasonable. But consider this – opening up your email or publicly listing your telephone number doesn’t have to be the end of your privacy as you know it.

Instead of just looking at the downside of accessibility, consider the positive benefits of making yourself available. Then figure out ways to make it manageable. Here are a few tips:

  • Consider setting up a real email address that gives the sender some hope of actually reaching you. As mentioned previously, baseball@yourschool is not good. Set up an email inbox that is separate from your personal email and have someone monitor it. This might take a half hour a day. Equip your assistant with some template answers and the authority to delete, reply, and forward. That will leave you with just a handful of emails to deal with daily. Then find one brief 15-20 minute period each day to handle these select emails.
  • Make yourself available on Twitter and publicize it. There is a reasonable expectation that you will not get to every Tweet that mentions you, but that you’ll occasionally acknowledge some of these publicly. You’d be surprised how much this will relieve email loads.
  • Don’t be afraid to give your phone number to someone with whom you’re at least moderately acquainted. Most will not abuse the privilege. You can block the abusers.
  • One caveat: Don’t let your inbox (and your text messages) dictate your schedule. Set aside a time each day that you’ve determined is a good time to respond to texts, emails, and Tweets. For one very well known college coach that I occasionally text, it’s 5:00 am each weekday morning. Stay in control of your schedule.

Baseball coaches are well known for their sharing, giving, and accessibility. This sets us apart. Don’t set up an electronic wall.

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