Strategies for Building an Effective Student Manager Program

Manager programs are beefing up everywhere, but as more roles are handed out and teams grow - what are some methods you can use to ease some of those growing pains? Our newest contributor, Ryan Gorman, dives deep into some of his best suggestions in today's post!



What’s up, Simple Sabermetrics Crew! I am pumped to join my fellow SS bloggers and share some of the valuable information that I have learned from my experiences within the game of baseball.


Before I get started, I want to quickly introduce myself before we dive into today’s blog. Like the majority of the SS crew, I too started my career as a student manager after finishing my high school playing career. As my playing career came to an end and my sights set on attending the University of Iowa, I was asked by my uncle (who was my high school baseball coach at the time) if I had any interest in joining the Iowa Baseball Team as a student manager. After a number of emails and an interview with the Director of Baseball Operations at Iowa, I was able to secure a spot with the @UIBASEManagers. Since then, I have thoroughly enjoyed building my knowledge of the game from the ground up like the rest of you reading this post. My experience at Iowa allowed me to grow and learn from some of the best baseball minds in the game and has molded me into the person I am today.


Experience in the field is valuable in any industry. This includes learning the day to day tasks to acquiring knowledge that is necessary to earn promotions and new opportunities down the road. Additionally, it is important to note how an individual utilizes their experience will allow them to leverage future job opportunities as they build their career capital.


In today’s blog, I want to share the knowledge and organizational ‘tools’ that I acquired in my time as a student manager. This post will serve as a general guide for coaches and managers that are in charge of coordinating their student manager program. We will cover communication tactics, educational tools managers can utilize, opportunities while being a student manager, and wrap it up with my advice on what it takes to run a successful student manager program.


Communication


It comes to no surprise that the first topic of this blog revolves around communication. Businesses and organizations across the globe spend mass amounts of money to ensure their company operates with the most efficient style of communication on the market. Luckily for us, there are tons of free communication resources out there that get the job done.


The first generation of the manager program at Iowa utilized GroupMe as our main source of communicating with one another. GroupMe is a great style of communication but definitely has its drawbacks and as a program, we realized we needed a major change to continue to improve. An idea sparked by my fellow blogger Sam Bornstein, we started using a new form of communication - Slack.



Slack is a multi-dimensional medium that has the ability to swiftly communicate through one domain with multiple channels (pictured above). Diving a little deeper, this is a portion of the Slack interface from a laptop’s perspective. As pictured, you have the ability to create multiple channels as well as direct message any individual that is a part of your domain. My favorite perk of Slack is the ability to create private channels within your domain. Unlike a public channel the whole group can see, a private channel is only visible to the individuals added by the Slack administrator. This is especially beneficial when creating new project groups within the program.


Additionally, Slack is far superior when it comes to sending bigger documents in an efficient way due to the fact there is no cap limit to the size of the document you are trying to send. This is particularly helpful when trying to send large coding documents, stretched out PowerPoints, and especially video. I would highly recommend Slack and it is something that I believe has changed the Iowa Baseball Manager program for the better.


General Education


Student managers are in a unique situation as we start to apply for jobs in the real world. Whether we are applying for a job in the baseball industry or elsewhere, our skillset is so widely different from a normal student on campus and even the student athletes we work with on a daily basis. As for the baseball industry, we are unable to rely on playing experience as something we can put on our résumé. We are the ones responsible for learning and being knowledgeable about a variety of topics as it relates to player development and general team operations. This begs the question – how does one acquire the knowledge that is necessary to succeed in the baseball industry? In my time at Iowa, we held minicamps during the Fall semester which served as our way of educating all managers on staff.

Minicamps varied from topics such as ‘The Basics of R’ to learning about careers in the baseball industry (See picture below for a variety of our minicamp topics). They not only create an opportunity for the audience to learn, but for the content creators as well. I strongly believe in the benefits of minicamps and encourage all manager programs to find a way to incorporate them into their program if able.


In our program, it was the Head Manager’s responsibility to plan and organize our minicamps on a weekly basis. Typically, the managers with the most experience and knowledge were the ones that stepped up and created the content for each minicamp. And don’t worry, we gave all managers on staff the opportunity to take the lead on a minicamp if they had the desire to do so. In addition to having managers create their own minicamps, we also reached out to our coaching staff and individuals that had a connection to Iowa to see if they were interested in joining us as a guest speaker. These were always a big hit and nearly doubled the attendance of the minicamp.


In addition to minicamps, we also provided the opportunity for all managers to join our group-purchase subscriptions. This is a cost-effective way to share valuable information from credible sources that revolve around all aspects of the game. Subscriptions ranged from D1 Baseball to Driveline Plus that allowed managers the opportunity to learn and develop at their own pace. It is important to note that all managers were allowed the choice to be a part of the subscriptions and was not something we required when it came time to make the purchase.


Information Organization (Tools of The Trade)


The manager program at Iowa has been around for quite some time and from that, has come an ever-increasing database of internal resources. From recycled code to recorded minicamps, we have generated tons of information over the past couple years. Feel free to check out the Iowa Baseball Manager Blog here to read up on what the program has all accomplished. With all of this information, there becomes a need to store it in an effective way. The main resources we utilized include: Microsoft 365, Dropbox, & Trello.


Microsoft 365

· To my knowledge, most college students have access to Microsoft Office through their university or college, which makes it an incredible tool for almost any use case. At Iowa, we mainly utilized Office for our scouting reports throughout the season. With an astounding 15+ managers working on scouting reports, this made it easily accessible to edit throughout the week. If your school does not provide Microsoft for you, alternative solutions such as Google Drive will surely get the job done!


Dropbox

· As many of you probably know, Dropbox is a file management service that has many capabilities as it relates to file storage. For us, this included recycled code, recorded minicamps, PowerPoints, & much more. If your team currently utilizes Dropbox, I encourage your manager program to take full advantage of it.


Trello

· Trello is a free project management software that we mainly utilized within our analytics department to delegate and track projects and their timelines. Trello’s structure is similar to a digital whiteboard. You are able to make lists with different categories that assist with general project management. There are a number of functionalities within Trello that provide structure for anyone looking to become more organized within their program.


What It Takes


In summary, there are so many different ways to run an effective student manager program. In this post, hopefully some of the tips I provided will help make your program just a little bit better. My best advice – trial and error. There is no better way to learn something than to try it for yourself. Manager programs across the nation are constantly trying to improve and with that comes change. Change is inevitable. From new technology and new processes, we all are adapting to the new normal every single day. Although we see this change, one thing still remains the same; the amount of work it takes behind the scenes. The ones leading the pack are responsible for creating opportunities for the ones that will follow in their footsteps. In my four years of being student manager, the ones who were willing to put in countless hours of work to improve themselves and the ones around them were the ones that were making the changes to help the team get to its end goal.




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