with Dr. Roxanne Long, Girls Athletic Coordinator and Athletic Information Specialist at Coppell ISD

What You’ll Learn in This Webinar:

Dive into the success story of the Sports Information Interns Program at Coppell ISD in our this webinar with Girls Athletic Coordinator and Athletic Information Specialist, Roxanne Long. Explore the journey from concept to execution, as she discusses how their program has evolved over time. From valuable tips for efficient content creation techniques for their athletics app & website to harnessing the power of technology and student collaboration, this session offers valuable insights for athletic directors and administrators alike. Visit the Coppell Athletics Website

Don’t have time to watch the full video? See the summary below.

Meet Our Guest Speaker

Dr. Roxanne Long is a dynamic educator and athletic enthusiast, currently serving as the Girls Athletic Coordinator and Athletic Information Specialist at Coppell ISD. With a rich background in coaching and leadership, Dr. Long brings over 16 years of coaching experience, including 14 years as a head coach. Her coaching tenure spans various institutions, including Diamond Hill Jarvis High School, Keller Central High School, Texas Lutheran University, and Rogers State University. In her current role as Athletic Information Specialist, Dr. Long plays a pivotal role in driving the success of the Sports Information Intern Program at Coppell ISD. Leveraging her extensive coaching experience and passion for athletics, she oversees the program's evolution and ensures its seamless integration into the school's sports communication strategy.

Questions from the Webinar

I fell into the role a little bit. I started helping the athletic department here after a long history of coaching and playing basketball. I wanted to break into administration, and one of the ways was a big need for help with information flow in and out, keeping everybody informed about what’s happening with athletics.

The first thing I discovered when looking at the website is how much information is hard to ascertain. There are so many events going on, simultaneous and in different locations. It was actually a boys’ soccer manager who had a passion for a future in broadcasting and media relations that suggested, “What if I gave some notes right after the game through a Google form?” At the time, I was also teaching a couple of statistics classes for Coppell, and I asked a few of my students about their knowledge of the website, Instagram, Twitter, and information flow in general.

Before I knew it, I had two students willing to give me quick notes after the game through a Google form. They were a girls’ soccer manager and a boys’ soccer manager, and we worked out the kinks. We figured some things out, and it has taken off from there. Now, after a two-year span, we have coaches choose one student to be their SII, their sports information intern. That student needs to be with them at every home and away contest. It is typically a manager for team sports and typically an athlete for individual sports. The student then gives me notes through Google form right after the competition is over, and I have an abundance of information at my fingertips to help me develop and maintain a huge level of content for the website.

Absolutely. So when I look at that screen and talk through it a little bit more, a Google form is, as our Google folks know, a way to quickly get an Excel spreadsheet or Google sheet look at every contest the night before. On a typical Tuesday night, we have all our different contests going on, and either late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, I’ll get into the Google form and in Google Sheets, I’ll see every contest from the night before. I’ll see the results, the notes, the best performers, and then I will post a story for every single contest we have. I can post them all at once.

I find Mascot Media very user-friendly in their platform. I hit the news feed, and I get a complete article using those notes. I also have a Google folder where the SIs give me pictures. They take 3 to 4 pictures and dump those pictures in that Google Folder. So I tap into my Google Sheets off the form, I tap into my Google folder, and every contest from Tuesday night, on Wednesday morning, I can post an article within about 30 minutes for every single contest on Tuesday night because it’s all located in one place. All the results and notes being located in one place is really key to efficiency, as are all the pictures being in one place. I add all the articles, and then I also simultaneously post the results and the schedule feature of the website.

So now the schedule is up to date with all the results, and a news article has been posted for every single contest. One of my favorite features is then I hit the Twitter button and I also send that story to Twitter, to our athletic Twitter feed. Then I take the Twitter feed and send that to Instagram. So we now have our Coppell Athletics app through Mascot Media that feeds Twitter, which then feeds Instagram, which then feeds back to the website. I really believe that loop keeps everybody in the know, getting the information on their personal preference and how they absorb information.

You’ll also see on the screen that we publish a monthly newsletter. That monthly newsletter I also generate through all the information that the SII kids have provided me throughout the month. So I go back and I look at the Google sheet again, here’s all the contests of the month, here’s all the best performers, here’s all the results, and I’m able to generate a newsletter. The newsletter is a bit internal to all our family and friends here at Coppell, but then I also post the newsletter on the website, which then posts to Twitter, which then posts to Instagram, so the newsletter is also wrapped into all feeds.

The customer service at Mascot Media is outstanding, so I’ve had an abundance of help. I’ve had one-on-one sessions and received assistance with the points and click. Honestly, even though I appreciated the reassurance when I first accessed the backend of the system, it was very easy to figure out exactly where to go for the feature I was looking for. Adding an article was no problem. Which sport do you want to put that article under? It’s a drop-down menu. Paste the picture here. Put the article information down here and post.

Everything was pretty user-friendly anyway, but the more I reached out to customer service, the more features I discovered. The image slider is an incredible tool because it allows for a front-side image on the website that can link back to the article on the sports-specific page.

The image slider provides a nice look for the entire athletic department. You can see softball results, track results, and tennis results flow through that image slider, but clicking on the slider then sends you to the article, and I love that feature about Mascot Media as well. It feels like each month I add a layer, and very recently, I’ve created graphics for announcements like football season tickets and physicals for middle school and high school students. I’ve been able to create a graphic to announce those really important dates that are on the horizon, and I use that graphic as an image slider.

We have so many different outlets that have now become accustomed to finding out all athletic information through this website. Our district communication level handles all communication for the district, while our campus principals and administrators handle communication for just their campus.

Additionally, we have yearbook staff and student media groups that cover different items. They are all now going to our website for content. They can find rosters, pictures of our student athletes, pictures and bios of all our coaches, stories about every single contest, and graphics for special announcements. I have watched it adapt slowly over time organically. It hasn’t been where we’ve all sat in a room together and decided on every single communication piece.

Our district and high school are in the top 20 in the state in size, so we have many different communication channels going simultaneously. It was definitely organic, but now it has proved true that all our different communication channels come to the website for athletic information and then put it on their channels as well. It has seamlessly become the source of everything, from newspapers to pamphlets, anything we can think of from back in the day—it has become that.

So currently, our SSI’s really enjoy the job. They find it fun to run around and take pictures, to see their name on the website, and to be credited with the story from the night before or receive a T-shirt. They get to be with the team everywhere the team goes or part of the team in individual sport examples. Right now, it’s fun, and it’s just not a huge responsibility. A quick Google form, and some credit, especially if they want to pursue a career in the broadcast or media world in their future. Hopefully, it will grow to be even more. What I’m thinking is graphic creation.

Currently, I create the graphics, but why can’t that be an extra layer for student help? Perhaps a handful of our SII’s become specialized in graphic creation, and those graphics get on the image slider and feed everything. Maybe a handful of our SII’s are a brain trust because over the last two years, I’ve asked for a lot of feedback from student athletes, parents, and community members. So perhaps we have a group of SII students that are assigned to graphic building, and another group assigned to a kind of a brain trust.

One project that I’m especially excited about is we have started on a little bit of an alumni series. And I have been conducting zoom interviews with Coppell alum. So maybe we have a subset of SII’s that are assigned to the alumni series and help with some of that content creation or interviews. So my vision right now, and I’ve had plenty of visions in the past that have changed and evolved based on feedback and experience, is maybe some specialized SII groups that aren’t assigned to an individual team but rather to a monthly meeting with me.

From the student perspective, not only are they having a good time, but they’re also building a portfolio. I provide one-on-one training with every student who agrees to be an SII, and they are coach-selected. This is crucial because the coach needs to be comfortable with whoever is designated as their SII since they’ll be the conduit for information flow to me. The coach-selected SII then sits with me for a brief one-on-one training session, usually taking only 10 to 15 minutes.

One thing that always interests students is how they can parlay this experience into their future. It’s about building a portfolio. When they are bylined on the website and their work is shared on Twitter and Instagram, they naturally have a portfolio they can use. It becomes something they can put on their resume and a reference with me that they can use for future internships or job opportunities. This, I believe, legitimizes their experience as a true internship when they have a portfolio attached.

Each district and campus has its own unique characteristics, and here at Coppell, we certainly have our own set of unique challenges and opportunities. When I looked into what other districts and campuses were doing, I found that our media groups were already established, and each had its unique needs. Identifying the right person to handle the technical aspects behind the website was crucial in creating an effective program.

My biggest advice would be to start small and pilot something. At the initial stages, I piloted the program through two sports: boys and girls soccer. Each coach hand-selected two students to be the original SII’s, and they were the only ones for the entire year. This tiny pilot helped us identify flaws, what worked, what didn’t, and gather feedback from the students on how to improve. We then piloted an individual sport, track, to refine the process further. Once we had these pilot programs running, the program took off and continued to improve.

We now have returning SII’s who have become more efficient and better at their role over time. For example, we run an Athlete of the Week program for the district, and I choose the athlete based on performances recorded through the Google form. SII’s know that their contributions have directly impacted this recognition. As they stick around for multiple years, both SII’s and coaches become more comfortable with the process and understand the broader objectives of our program.

The approval process had multiple layers and unique aspects to consider. Every campus and school district has its own unique features, and here in Coppell, we already have two award-winning student groups: a broadcast student media group and a newsprint student media group. These groups cover the entire district and campuses, but they are not specifically focused on athletics.

When developing the Sports Information Intern Program, it was crucial to ensure that it remained athletic-specific without overshadowing these existing student media groups. We wanted to coordinate and integrate the program seamlessly without creating unnecessary overlap.

Through careful consideration, we found a nice balance where the program provides me, as an athletic administrator, with the information I need without becoming an additional student media group.

I used to run it myself directly, and before my tenure, every head coach had access to the backend of the website and posted their own articles. However, this approach had varying levels of success depending on factors like the time of year, how well the game went, and the responsibilities of assistant coaches and managers. Three years ago, when we had that system in place, we faced challenges with equal representation for every sport and consistent coverage across all sports.

Coaches sometimes found themselves distracted by the technical aspects of managing the website, which led to frustration. Additionally, many coaches were already managing sports-specific websites, Instagrams, and Twitters, so adding responsibility for the athletic website created a disconnect. Transitioning to the Sports Information Intern Program has brought happiness among coaches and ensured more consistency and comprehensive coverage across all sports in our department.

I wholeheartedly believe in the system we’ve created here. The efficiency is so much better in one person’s hands because after a couple of years of practice, I can fly through being efficient and getting everything posted in the right way. Anything that is Athletic Department-wide, our coaches can’t necessarily do that efficiently because they only handle their season. Also, it doesn’t allow for them to have access to the athletic Twitter and some of that loop. The Twitter and Instagram look wouldn’t be possible and wasn’t possible when coaches were doing it.

I get information and pictures from various sources. So, the SII does take a few pictures on their phone, stick the picture in the folder. The pictures are outstanding. Haven’t had any trouble with the quality of pictures at all from that method. But I don’t always use the SII’s pictures. I have all kinds of professional picture sources as well, and that has become an adaption over time. And this, I guess, is another plug for it being in one person’s hands works really good because each sport is very unique in how they do things.

We have several sports that have a professional photographer that they have hired for their entire season for all kinds of reasons for their own sports-specific things that they do. I have access to the professional photographer’s picture folder. So for a handful of our sports, it is all professional photography, and then I get to be connected to the professional photographer, and I use that folder. And some of our individual sports or as some of our other sports, they have a picture, they house a picture folder from all kinds of athlete. And so that it’s not just an SII picture.

I take pictures sometimes at games. We also have a professional photographer that takes a lot of photos for fun that allows me access to his folder, so that one person liaison to all these different sources has been very helpful.