E-mail or Personal Conversations?

April 6, 2019


By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

There should be little doubt that e-mail has played a huge role in the way that athletic administrators communicate. It is quick, efficient and much of the daily details and athletic department business are handled with this medium. However, there may also be some situations and reasons that a personal conversation would actually be better and more appropriate. When, why and how should you use each vehicle?

The following considerations should help.

  • Use e-mail to handle all items in which you want or need documentation—proof that you sent a directive or provided an answer. The time and date of your message or response provides this needed record.

  • Remember that even though e-mail can be written and sent very quickly, it is still a written form of communication. Therefore, you do want to take a few minutes and check spelling, basic grammar and produce a proper, effective response. In your position, careless, poorly worded responses do reflect upon your professionalism and reputation.

  • Always have someone proofread e-mail messages prior to sending which are in response to important or perhaps contentious situations. Since your message is an ‘official’ response and you represent the school, you need it to be carefully worded and correct.

  • Keep in mind that e-mail messages can be and are commonly forwarded. This means that great care has to be taken to avoid including confidential, personal or sensitive information. Always ask yourself if you want others to see what is included, or what reaction would it evoke?

  • Schedule a meeting or make a phone call for any topics which are delicate or have personal ramifications for the individual for whom you need to share or collect information. E-mail is simply not the medium to use for difficult messages which may directly affect others.

  • Remember that in personal conversations, questions can be raised and there are also opportunities to clarify things that may not be totally clear. With e-mail, on the other hand, there is always the risk of misunderstanding and that the intent, message or tone is unclear.

  • Have coaches use e-mail to keep you up to date with respect to any problem or incident occurred at a game. This gives you, the athletic director, advance notice so that you can be better prepared to handle questions and concerns from parents.

  • Try to meet face-to-face with a coach as soon as possible—ideally, early the next day—to get a detailed reporting of any problem and to offer advice and corrective solutions. The more complicated and emotional a situation is, the more important a personal conversation becomes. It is difficult or impossible to successfully deal with feelings and emotions in an e-mail.

  • Use e-mail to follow-up and to send supportive documents via an attachment. This can be done regardless of which medium was used as the initial method of communication—an e-mail message or phone call.

E-mail remains an efficient and essential communication tool for athletic administrators. However, it needs to be used carefully and there are situations in which a personal conversation will be more advisable and appropriate.


David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach. In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association’s Athletic Director of the Year. Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country. He welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at: [email protected]

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