Director of Operations at Millwood Public Schools, A. Shannon Hayes, discusses the transition back as schools return to in-person. With advice for Athletic and Operation Directors, we discuss how he has been running contactless sporting events, live streams, and digitizing their entire event process.
Welcome back to another episode of the EventBuzz podcast. We are finally starting to see the event world transition back to in person experiences, slowly, but I think one industry everyone is particularly excited about attending again is sports. Which is what we will be talking about today.
This episode's guest currently serves as the Director of Operations for Millwood public schools, Shannon Hayes, or better known as Coach Hayes. For the past 20 years, he has been employed by Millwood Public Schools with former job titles of teacher coach, technology and athletic director. With experience in scheduling events, game management, and daily operations, I'm sure we will have a lot to talk about. With advice for other professionals in similar positions.
Hi, welcome to our podcast. We are so excited to have you and talk to you today. How are you doing this morning?
Hello Savanna, I'm doing really well. It's hump day they say you know, so.
I forgot about that.
I went whitewater rafting with you. So and then I kept up the roof and another friend of mine who bought fishing poles and so we we fished down the river and went rafting. So he caught seven I called nine so but you know, it was a fun time.
That's pretty impressive. I've actually never been raft. Did you say you went rafting or water rafting?
Yeah, it's on my list. Something I have to do, sounds fun.
It is. Just take one leg in the water. You gotta fall we throw it out, you know, you kind of pull in and you know, we we call fish. We just throw them back, you know, wasn't keeping them but it just was about just relaxing and enjoying the scenery.
That sounds amazing. Well, let's just jump right in. I have, I did a brief intro for you so the listeners know more about your background. But if you wanted to tell us a little bit more about how you got your start, or maybe if you played any sports in school or just more about you?
Well, you know, it's funny, because, you know, I've been successful here at Millwood for 20 years, I was a coach for about 17, maybe 16 to 17 years of that now, you know, I just transition into ad. And actually, I'm the Director of Operations. So I pretty much just manage the entire district and try to keep things function. But you know, as an Athletic Director, you you touch every single asset, you know. I mean, you are like I say your a principals, sometimes when you got to deal with kids, you deal with transportation food facilities, so so it wasn't that challenging of a transition for that. But I'm still have my duties as athletic director, but you know.
I played soccer when I was in school, that was kind of my love. And so a lot of the kids is like, oh, you play soccer> So you know, so that's fine. And then we bought soccer and about four years ago with that girls program. And so, they are like 'are you going to coach us now'... I'm not coaching soccer. They love my coaching. But yeah, I have just been here at Millwood, we're the only school I've ever been at. So in my 20 years, I did start out teaching, but I did the alternative certification and got into it because I just really enjoyed being around kids was in youth ministry at my church for many years and just wanted to have my career be something I really enjoy doing and make a difference.
And so that's kind of really been my motto is just you just change one life one at one time, one one kid at a time, you know, and if I go home at the end of the day, or kid comes back or even 10 years later, you go somewhere...hey Coach Hayes...I'm like, okay, that's got to be one of my kids. I mean, that that that is to me is feeling and so so like I say, just kind of being here, just working, touching all aspects. I try to help academic wise, any way I can push it, I like to make sports kind of like a point of entry or caveat to kids dangle above their heads to say, hey, you want this? You got to kind of get your grades up.
You know, our motto is it's cool to be a Falcon. And so, you know, I try to make it cool. You know, when you come to one of our events, it's it's like you're at a concert somewhat slash event. The music is up, the band is going, kids are dressed from toe to toe. I mean, we we have some great sponsors and so it's a family environment.
When I took it over, we had metal detectors and wands and and other things. I just felt like man, that's just not, you know, appealing to me or attractive. And so had to change the culture. So that was definitely something and I know that was kind of one of your the questions that you asked me about, you know, what will be something to share with a new AD is that, you know, you have to change the culture, and you got to put in a culture that fits the needs of your kids. And that may change every now and then, you know, so you just can't put in policies and procedures at the beginning, and anticipate them to be what will work for 20 years, you know, yeah, happen. So you got to kind of be available for that.
And like, like you said, soccer, I played that for, like, 15 years. So it's close to my heart, too, I definitely miss it. But I grew up with sports. So I totally get everything you're talking about. And like you said, changing the environment and adapting, it's going to change, that can be applied to like any business, like you can't just set in stone policies, you got to be flexible, it's going to change with your environment, and you know, what's going on around you.
And I wanted to ask, transitioning back, going back, because, you know, we were all out of school for a while. And I don't know what even sports we're doing for you guys, for everyone. How is it like coming back to in person.
You know, I was talking with my football coach the other day. And we were just excited about the opportunity to, to reconvene all of our summer workouts. He said man, and we just opened up a new indoor sports facility here on campus. And so we had probably close to about between middle school or high school, I say almost probably 50 kids in here.
And so it was just, it was awesome, to not have to take temperatures, make sure everybody has mask on making sure that you know, everybody is staying six feet apart.
And I mean, it was just glad to kind of have things, you know, on that perspective, back to more of a comfortable setting. So, so he's, he's been excited about it, I'm happy about it, you know, I mean, so I mean, we, we make it optional.
We, and especially if you know, if kids, or you know, parents, you know, are not vaccinated, you know, we recommend that you do continue to wear a mask. But we are a matter of fact, working with our community health department here local, to basically get all of my athletes vaccinated. So that, we can definitely be able to do have it in an environment where it doesn't, doesn't shut down, or we have to make changes in our athletic program like we did last year. I mean, it's week to week, we just didn't know we were going to play, you know, we had no clue. I mean, you would think everything was online, and then you turn around and you get a call from another team. We've been quarantined when our kids got up, you know, you know, so it just was always up in the air. So it's it's, so we're trying to put in every safeguard we can to ensure that we don't have any interruptions in our season.
Yeah, yeah, I noticed on your website that you guys had a whole PDF for COVID safety protocols. Are you still enforcing those? Or what do you guys currently doing sporting events?
We are not we're going to unless my board tells me otherwise, or the health department, you know, those are some things we are going to go back to fully allowing people come in.
And you know, just give them that opportunity to be a part of, now we also done some more renovations for our stadium. So we're a lot more, we have a bowl effect here. So basically, you can stand completely all the way around anywhere you want to. So we have bleachers in the middle, but there's area where you can stand up, put a chair or whatever, so that if you feel that you don't want to be in the crowd, you'll have plenty of space.
So what we're doing is just trying to make it conducive to everybody. So, you know, like I say, doing streaming, we'll still have that in place. But if they want to physically be here, we'll have multiple exits and entrances. And then we have a place of spaced out and we still have like we'll set up sanitation station that will those will still be in place. And once again, just kind of let people know, hey, if you haven't been vaccinated, we encourage you wear masks. If you have then you're more than welcome to to do what you want to do.
Nice. And so I know from talking to other schools, they're still there relaxing, like you guys are on their policies, but they're still doing for like registration or when people come to the event. They're kind I'm making it like a contactless approach. So are you guys doing more of like digital ticketing now? Or?
Yes, yes, that's the only way we're doing. I mean, that that is probably one of the best things that COVID did for us. You know, because in my department, I have a few ladies, that takes care of a lot of the transition of the money and different things like that. And, and it just, you know, you got to find workers, I mean, to work your ticket booths.
And, you know, and so it's like, not having to have those calls and, and not having to get people to do that, everybody, now I can go online, and we can, we can prepare things. So like, if, if we, if things start spiking back up, you know, we can then put limits on it as to how many tickets that we will sale.
But I mean, we don't have to deal with money at all period, even having in the middle of a game and you get a call, hey, we need change a lot of ones. You know, I'm even going pretty much contact list. So even my concession stands. So you know, to where basically everything will be by credit card as much as possible and try to negate dealing with the exchange of money.
You know, so. So yeah, we call them protocols, but I think they're to me that better business practices, that will kind of help to kind of make things so you don't have to worry about counting money, you have to worry about somebody jumping in the parking lot and taking them a deposit of money. You don't have to go get startup money. I mean, you have to keep chains. I mean, it's just, there's so many of those things that you just don't have to deal with anymore. And then all you really do is just pull it up and you scan it. And so, I mean, it's so easy to put the app on your phone, and then people walk up with their phone and you scan them and you check me and you can know how many people's there. And then like I say it keeps a list of people that you can communicate with, and be able to send out information of upcoming events and things that may be going on. So I think it's a great, great component.
And what about people that are a little bit more traditional? Have you run into problems with that, or you know, when they come to the event, and they're like, I didn't know, you could pay online, I have cash.
We dealt with that problem the first game. Well, one was a cash but what a lot of was about the you know, because each coach in the state, if they're a member of our association gets a pass to get into all the games, state. And so and we honor those passes. So what we try to do is, you know, like, and we've had some issues with even like college coaches who wants to come in to recruit, so I always tell my coaches, you have to let them know, hey, this can't just show up. I mean, they gotta let us know they're coming, we'll put their name on a list.
Because I had last year I had to be accounted for every single person that was on this in this facility or either on the outdoors. So we we wanted to know, if you were coming in, we will put your ticket aside. But you just couldn't show up, and just pop in because it like I say and I explained to him, I said, look, it's about being able to deal with tracing. I mean, we want to be able to inform everybody, let's say we had a breakout, and something occurred. We want to be able to know who all was there and contact those people and let them know, hey, we had a situation just wanted to let you know, it's easier than trying to guess and not having that information.
So everything is pretty much has to be online. We we have one or two and then if we have available spaces, we will you know if grandma comes in here and she barely got a flip phone, and she come and see her grandbaby play, we're gonna take her little $7, $8 or whatever. And then we'll put we'll put a ticket in you know, when they will we have that capability as well as when they're checking in to be able to insert a ticketing. And you know, and check her in. So yeah, we, we still have that that capability.
But for anybody if they walk up and they want to be in the game, and we still have availability, we have a QR code, and they would just scan a QR code pop up on their phone, bam, they get in their ready to go. So it's um, we know a lot of positives about it last year. And so even the governor, his team was kind of impressed because his daughter played in a tournament we had here last year in basketball, and they were very impressed with our setup.
Because they were like, well, this the governor - well I don't care if it's the President of the United States you still got to put a ticket in.
But yeah, so it was a, it was a good thing, it was just really, really simple. And we just just, you know, bought into it. I mean, and I'm telling you, it had not been for Purplepass, I think that would have been one of the things that we may not have had fall sports last year, because I had to present before my board a plan, you know, like the PDF that you saw online, shut down all my middle school programs, I had to shut down all my JV program simply have nothing but varsity. I had to show I could only have a traveling squad had brought in more transportation so we could spread more kids out and everybody.
And when I share with them, I said, this is another thing that we can do with Purplepass, no contact and all that. So I mean, it was one of those huge things. And then, and then people started calling me from different, you know, different schools asking me about it, you know, because it's like, man, my parents really like that. Or they will call me and say, hey, give me a list of your, your, your administration team, so I can put them on our admin list. And then that way, they just come scan and they walk on it and not have to worry about anything.
He's like, man, that is really cool. So yeah. Because you know, a lot of times you have to wear a badge or something, or people may know you, they don't know, yes, well, we're not even going to get into that. So just send me your list, people will get them set up. So they feel like they will VIP you know.
That's funny. It's so it's so interesting talking to people in your position or in schools, specifically, because I really just don't think about everything that goes into it. Like you said, more buses to spread them out. Just like little details like that. You don't think about everything you guys had to do during this time just to make simple things work. During COVID, like I just mad respect to all of you guys, you made it work and you you got through it. And but just talking to everyone blows my mind, every little detail, they have to, you know, make sure it's working.
It more exhausting. Because when people get get COVID, then you have less staff. So you still have bigger responsibilities. But you don't have the staff if someone gets COVID. I mean, you know, it's like, there was like, I think, a week or so I was without my entire staff.
I was doing all by myself. I mean, I even had to run the district, my Superintendent got COVID. So it was myself and my payroll clerk to come in to make sure that that our employees would get paid, making sure that we could continue what was going on?
So it was just basically her and I running the entire district for about two weeks ourselves. So I mean, that that puts a lot more. It puts a lot more on you. So you know, and you know, you don't think about that, because you think well, yeah, you were in COVID. Yeah, you had other things you had to do. But then when you're when you don't have your resources and your people that makes it even more of a challenge.
Well, I think that's a great transition into my next question. Because putting aside COVID, like, let's pretend you're not you weren't dealing with that, or now you're not dealing with that. You know, for people in your position. You're constantly wearing multiple hats, like you said, you're you're doing meetings, you're scheduling, you're controlling the district.
Do you have tips for like management advice or advice for making the most out of your time in this position for other people that are right there with you?
To me, I know a lot, a lot of my older, more seasoned athletic directors are sometimes a little bit hesitant to technology. But technology is what keeps me organized. You have to keep a planner. One of the things like saying, well, my on my calendar, I have a Google Calendar, and I have it open to my staff, and to my coaches, so that they are aware of what's going on in my life.
And knowing that a lot of times if there's things that that you know, I can't always have them stopped by hey, what's still you know, check in a pop in I mean, you got to be more organized with your time because you look up and you'd had a conversation with one of your coaches and y'all been reminiscing for the last hour. And now guess what, you still got an hour of work you got to take care of. So you got to be able to they there was this time management class I took when I was doing my master's and it talked about the red, I think the greens and the yellows.
And it just talked about certain things that were priority, certain things that were not so much and then things that you really need to just kind of not waste a lot of your time at.
And so, no, it's not that you don't want to hear and have conversation relationships, but it's like, you have to kind of put time limits on things you got to be able to kind of know who you can talk to when you can you got to be able to To empower your people, to let them be able to trust and to do things, because you can't be the go to person, for every single thing that goes on, you have to entrust people to do that. And so that's been my challenge for over the years. Because before I got a staff, it was me doing everything, by myself.
And so I mean, I was going through forms, and all this stuff. And so they started coming out with electronic form, where you can be able to do everything online and monitor it better and, and get kids cleared and go through information and be flagged when certain things happened. That was huge. And, and, and having a good team around you have individuals that that that you can either equip or you know, has the skills to do things. So putting those things in place can can definitely make your organization run a lot better. And and try to help keep a balance between your home life and and your work. Because, you know, I, I can probably tell you on one hand, the last time I've actually done something on Friday night that was not dealing with sports or teams.
Because Friday and Tuesday nights, usually on my primary nights where you know, I've got basketball, football game, something going on, and sometimes almost every day of the week, but you know, so. So you you want to be able to kind of have some people that you can kind of empower, because it to me, I look at Athletic Directors, like the preachers. Everybody wants to preacher and every little event that happens at the church. And I don't believe that, that the preacher is going to elevate it or make everything happen the way it needs to just like an AD.
I mean, you know, people will be like, when I see it the game I said, well, no, I wasn't I didn't assign myself that a game, I assign my assistant to that game, you know, I mean, so. Why you weren't there? Why I have to be the single event that goes on, there's just no way I can do you know, yeah, so you just got to kind of duplicate yourself, organize yourself really well to where you can kind of be effective in the game and, and being empowered those who could be affected for you in the areas that you really don't need to kind of be so engaged into.
Yeah, that's interesting. I was talking to another promoter kind of about this, about how, you know, planners, or people that are in charge of events can take on multiple hats. When really, you have people all around you, you can take on volunteer staff that you can kind of give them different jobs to help you out.
But it's so I don't know why people really don't like to put trust in others. Or it's just, it's hard to put trust in others to do those different jobs when you just think I can do it all myself, or I can do better or I can just get it done. But really, we really need to just be accepting of others and and inclusive and just know that we have a whole team of people helping us. Do not be afraid to give out those roles. So it's less on you.
Yeah, yeah, I had I had one of my coaches I impaired and we put a sound system in are pretty much in our entire district and all our gyms and everywhere. And so I went and handed him this packet of all these different quotes and stuff. I said, man, I need to take care of this. He's like, okay, alright, so he started coming back to me almost every day and I said, Nick, I don't need to come back to me every day. Just get it done. You know? I mean, yeah. Okay. I guess he is. Yeah, I gotta let go. You know?
He did a really good job. He did a really good job. So yeah. So that, that that just kind of, you know, and then he was so funny. He was talking to my football coach. He's like, man, I can't believe all this that I have to do. I can't believe he was doing all this himself. He said, Well, welcome to leadership. You know what, welcome to the you know, I mean, and that's the thing, I think I always want my coaches. I know one day, they're not going to always be with me, you know, and always on my hey, if you got any any or job interviews, or any, you know, anybody in quarantine, watching. But they looked at me and first praise, I can tell you that I'm like, yeah, I'm like, yeah, have you come opportunities? I mean, of course, successful view you should be getting.
And if you're not, apparently we're not doing something right. So you know, so I want to give them every tool I know and hope that one day they can, you know, continue to grow in their in their profession.
Yeah. And I think that's the quality of a great leader, you know, someone that's not holding their team back. They, they want to see them grow, and they are being realistic about the future that they're not gonna always be there. They want to see them do the best they can while they're with them. So I like that.
I did want to jump back while I remember before I forget, because I know you mentioned that you were doing the live streams for the football games, and I know that's been really popular now. That we're doing more in person events, people are doing hybrids, they're still streaming it. What do you think about the streams? Do you think it's a good idea?
Oh, I think it's an excellent idea. And so I this year, I'm going to target a lot of my alumni that that, you know, across the country, to basically be able to still be a part of because we're trying to have a sports Alumni Association, or they will be able to donate money every year, so that we can be able to continue to grow our program. So I think by allowing them to have free access to being able to watch their, their former high school, I think is a is an awesome accomplishment, or just something that that kind of makes things more of a professional level.
I mean, it just, you know, being on TV used to be man, you're on TV. I mean, you know, now, it's like, people don't have that many opportunities, or you don't see it a lot. Now, it's YouTube. But I mean, you know, live streaming and having that capability of them to be able to watch and be a part of it and participate. I think like it does, it builds your support with your community and your and your alumni. And as well as just build your brand that you're more than just in person that you can become more than just a local type of, of industry organization. But you can be a global type of organization.
My son is currently deployed in, in overseas. And so, you know, sometimes he got to watch his sister's graduation. He got to watch the he was changing my track on my track kids. And so we got to watch state, because even though the times different, I mean, he's like nine hours ahead of us. But because of that, it still keeps people connected.
So I always want people to feel that they have opportunities. You know, even my nephew, who he passed away two years ago to cancer. But he was able to watch my son who's deployed now watch his graduation from his from his hospital bed. And so that those are just things that to me, are important.
Signing Day, you know, we had a parent that actually got COVID and couldn't come to the signing day. And we streamed it so that she could be able to watch it. She's crying, but she was she was you know, she was there. And so it was awesome to kind of have that opportunity to still allow you to be a part of it.
I think it just like puts you guys up on another level too, compared to other people that don't stream. It's just way it's so professional to be like, yeah, you can watch our stream, you know, yeah, we're live streaming it. Here's the link. I just think it's, it's cool. And you guys use YouTube to do that?
Well, we were now we transition to a company called squirrel. Squirrel does now for us. And they have their own own network and channels. Because like ours is like millwood.tv you know. And and what it does, is it the way it's set up, it's like because when your YouTube or your Facebook, do you ever noticed that it starts to fade or loses because you've got everybody so you stream it so you're stretching out your broadband and you're not getting a good strong connection?
Versus their network, its own its own privately. So right now, I think they had like 72 schools that are in the state of Oklahoma. And so it's like, I can go to a towel walk all I need is a bar he said, you know, you don't need to agree bars. He said just one bar. He says I guarantee you'll have just as good of a quality if you had 17 bars is the difference in it. And so I'm liking that better. Because yeah, we would have some some some issues every now and then with it, but and then we were with the NFHS and we're no longer going to be a part of that organization. So we had to transition to find something that we will respect and that we were proud to want to support.
Okay, I will definitely link that in the show notes so people can learn more information about that. They're interested because I've never heard of that. Every time I ask people this question. It's always like, a different software. There's so many. It's crazy. I'm like, oh, that's something else.
I will ask you my last question because I know that your time is valuable. So I don't want to keep you on too long. Um, and my last question is just something I'm just curious about and maybe something I can bring that to my team so we, we ourselves can learn and grow and kind of help out more schools is if there's any features when it comes to take it in. or event management platforms that you've maybe been like, aw, this would be this would be nice to have or, you know, something that could benefit schools that you haven't seen much of when it comes.
A one stop shop type of ticketing service. So, you know, we're basically, like, right now we do a lot of apparel. And so what we now do is that we incorporated into our ticket sales. So when someone goes to the site, and they click on it, and they start to purchase a ticket, before they, before they close out, they scroll down, and they see all of our apparel as well.
So they can pick apparel, as well if they wanted to.
So it kind of makes it even when they come to the game, they can get their apparel along with their tickets. So we it kind of like having that, that incorporated. Something else that we're bringing online with our contactless would be more purchasing stuff is that we're getting with a company where we can give Milwaukee Bucks and so if parents want to be able to not give kids cash they are gonna be allowed them to have a car where they can load money on it or whatever, and the kid can come to the game and, and buy something from the concession stand or if there's something that they see in the in the school store, they want to buy or dress out day. You know, they can be able to use those Millwood Bucks on that credit card, or that little card, we give them like a gift card, and they swipe it. And then when it's empty, they can reload it for more. You know, and that way, have that available to where because I mean, we're in more of a world where kids are using more of their phones, and everything is becoming more electronic in terms of, you know, purchasing because.
You know, my wife and I, we have this ritual where we go to our local flea market, Saturday mornings, and it's really time for just to kind of walk around, get some more exercise here and there. But, you know, we take like, $100, you know, and so this past Saturday, we exceeded that $100. But we didn't have the money. So we went to a couple of vendors and was like, you gotta cash app, you know? And the guy said, Yeah, we got cash. Yeah. All right. So we were able to spend over $100, because, you know, cash app because of those other type of, of entity.
So I like to say, I think, you know, making it to where it's more well, in other words, it's a business ideal. If you want people spend more money, you got to make things more easy for him to get to. So so that, that that's kind of like when you look at a ticket sale, you know, what else can I get in that ticket sale, which will not only drive them to want to go look at a ticket, but what else do we you know, last time I went to the game, they had this for sale, let me pull that up and see if they still got that for sale.
You know, and I can purchase that and sometimes just purchase items and not even have to purchase tickets. You know, I mean, just having that engaged into like an app where they can pull up that app, and be able to check the local games and different things and click on it and have that information. I mean, I think that's kind of the way of going is just going more to a electronic type of payment style, you know, in everything you do and make multiple, like Walmart, you know. Walmart used to be one now super centers. Now you can get groceries, you can get literally everything, everything you want at one location.
I mean, after you get frustrated, you get in the parking lot and left at least find a place to check out. But before that, you know, you got everything you need.
That's a good point. So be more like Walmart. I like that. Thank you so much. This is great, great talking to you. I learned a lot. And I think it's going to help out a lot of our listeners as well. So yeah, if there's anything else you want to say, but if that's it, that's it.
I just think that's pretty much the future of how technology is more being engaged into it. And, you know, I think that, you know, having a lot of times we're reluctant to want to do things as it is because it's more of a responsibility on us.
So we won't be so quick to click on a vendor and inquire about the information because we figure that's one more thing when I play. Like to say if you have people around, you just empower those individuals and that they will be able to help you to where you're not a part of it, because every bit helps our kids and that and that's kind of what I looked at. I was looking to you know, I want my children I want these kids to have a good experience when they're in high school.
I want them to be able to come back and be able to man I remember when Coach Hayes them did this for us. I mean, they treat us like this, it did this for us, you know I mean so those are there are like I say making a difference one one kid at a time, you know, and so in every aspect of their lives, so we want them to be socially, mentally, spiritually, physically able to represent their community. And that's pretty much what we try to do.