By Taegan Whiteley
Today I will take you, the readers, behind the scenes of the Washington State women’s soccer team and show what really goes on behind the scenes and what it truly takes to put on a game day event. To really appreciate and recognize the management skills that go on to make a home game happen, I had to immerse myself in their positions.
Thursday, October 27, the woman’s soccer team was set to kick off at 7p.m. against Oregon State. I arrived at the Lower Soccer Field at 5 p.m. and by the time I got there, I was extremely thankful that I brought a rain coat because the rain did not let up. I was met at the field by Andrew, who is a student at WSU and earning credits for his internship where he learns and partakes in game day management festivities. One of Andrew’s main jobs is sideline management – he makes sure that the coaches don’t slit each other’s throats and also that they do not step on the field. In any sport, we have seen coaches step out of line because games can be especially frustrating when it’s not going their way. So, Andrew makes sure that everything on the sidelines is going smoothly.
Doing sideline control is just one extremely small aspect that goes into game day management. Each week before a home game, the head of each department comes together and discusses important information such as official needs, promotions and what they specifically need to make their game day go smoothly. Just like teams at WSU, the heads of each department work as a team to collectively make sure that everything goes according to plan. However, sometimes that’s not always the case. A lot of problems can arise, especially when there are multiple sports playing in one weekend; miscommunication can be their biggest issue. But there are issues that can happen that aren’t as controllable as others. The very first time WSU hosted a NCAA tournament, mother nature decided to dump 4-5 inches of snow and kickoff was set at 11 a.m.. They had approximately two hours to clear the entire field, but luckily they had the support from other departments and made sure the field was ready to go by kickoff.
Next, I had the opportunity to talk to Jen Hanson, who has been the director of marketing and promotions for WSU athletics for the past six years. Most of her work is done during the summer, so by the time fall rolls around, she has a set plan for the upcoming season’s marketing and promotions plan. This soccer season was especially exciting because Hanson changed her marketing and promotions plan in order to attract more fans to games. Previously, they would have huge promotion giveaways, but more often than not, fans would pick up their free giveaway and leave. Hanson noticed this and decided to make a change. She and her promotions team decided to give the voucher system a try, and at halftime fans could then receive their giveaway. Since doing this, fan attendance has been the highest it has ever been.
I caught up with Bill Stevens, who is the athletic director of media communications who oversees all media and communication of football, tennis and soccer. Since this past week WSU played at home, Stevens started calling T.V. crews and broadcast networks on Monday. When broadcasters can’t physically be in Pullman, it is Stevens’ job to go over game notes and break each and every previous game played down. He catches broadcasters up to speed so that they can still talk with authority to a national audience. Stevens also runs the soccer website, and tries to get out as much information as he can to the media as well as pitches story ideas. When pitching story ideas, it is his main goal to tell the players’ stories and make it so that they aren’t just seen as soccer players but as student-athletes with hopes and dreams outside of athletics. Stevens is the go-to guy if you want to coordinate interviews with coaches and players since players are on such a strict schedule they don’t want to disrupt any free time that they are given. Stevens said that the benefit of his job is that “they pay me to watch sports every day and I would honestly take that any day.”
This was definitely eye-opening for me. Yes, this is only part of what really goes on to put on a game day event but I hope it gives you an insight to the crazy world of sports and sports management. The WSU game day management team works as a team to put on event that we as fans love going to, and without their hard work and dedication, game days wouldn’t be a thing that at WSU we celebrate