By Madelyn Tepe, contributing writer
Photos by McKendree Sports Information
The Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) decided to move the majority of fall sports this year to the spring semester due to safety concerns for athletes, coaches, and officials relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cross country, bass fishing, golf, and swimming and diving were the only sports able to compete before Thanksgiving this fall semester. This schedule change has forced new adaptations for behind-the-scenes actions that Sports Information provides for McKendree athletics.
Sports Information is responsible for general publicity, website maintenance, game day program production, social media maintenance (including pre-and post-game graphics, special award/honor graphics, countdowns, etc.), in-game statistic keeping, and the archiving/maintaining of historical records of McKendree sports teams. They are also in charge of the live stream for home contests, set-up of home athletic events, and a few game-day operations. There are currently four graduate assistants, two student workers, and a new Sports Information Director, Mike Morgan.
These seven people are managing all of the tasks needed for game-day operations and social media coverage to run smoothly and efficiently for all 36 sports at McKendree University. Usually, these sports are spread throughout the year; however, COVID-19 has forced the majority of sports to occur around the same time. This has created a busy schedule for Sports Information this spring semester.
Second-year Graduate Assistant Rachel Rusnak explains how she has adapted to the new change in the schedule while still managing her time to focus on classes. McKendree recently had a busy weekend for sports from February 12th through the 14th. This weekend included a bowling tournament, indoor track meet, four volleyball games, two lacrosse games, four water polo games, two basketball games, and swimming and diving’s conference championship. Six games were home competitions. This hectic weekend was the first of many that Sports Information will have to prepare for, as well as the cover. Rusnak explained her preparation and schedule for this weekend and how she was ready to tackle all of the tasks for the sporting events she was assigned to.
“I am here in my office hours during my normal time, but that is preparing what I all need,” Rusnak said. “To write a script, post social media posts, preparing my recap stories for after the games, and also at the beginning of the week I was writing the preview stories, making the graphics, reaching out to other schools for their rosters and pronunciation guides for their athletes, and also going through photos for what I can and cannot use what I still have available and also checking the stats of the players to see if they score a certain amount of points in a game to see if that is going to be a new record for the team or themselves. So, it’s a lot of research at the beginning of the week and preparing scripts for everything workers need on game-day, so that has been a little hectic and I have been preparing for this week for a very long time. I know it is going to affect my hours and how much time I am going to be in the office. I was here at seven this morning and I probably won’t leave until eight or nine tonight.”
Rusnak further explained that this “is the type of schedule we are living in now because of COVID and we cannot help it, but we need to prepare enough, so I am utilizing my time when it is needed.”
Even though the spring semester has created a busier schedule, Sports Information was able to utilize their extra time in the fall to further prepare themselves for the hectic spring semester they knew was coming. Nick Vuylsteke is a first-year Graduate Assistant for Sports Information.
“Since we had an abundance of time, I took it upon myself to maybe learn some new skills,” Vuylsteke said. “The biggest skill I learned was photoshop. I had very little photoshop experience before coming into this job. I took a lot of tutorials on YouTube and I just made a bunch of graphics to test it out. Now they are starting to form into our social media pages.”
Due to the passing of Sports Information Director Scott Cummings, there had been a vacancy for this position. Recently, Mike Morgan was hired onto the McKendree athletic staff at the beginning of February. Even though he has been at McKendree for a short time, he has already made a big impact on the Sports Information program.
Vuylsteke stated that Mike Morgan “has been here for less than a week and he has already made an impact on our social media page.” He further explained a recent video post covering bass fishing. “It’s the most engaged post that I have probably seen since I’ve been here and he just kind of whipped that up really quick.”
Rusnak added that Mike Morgan was a “big relief lifted off my shoulder” and will be able to “direct us where to go.”
Vuylsteke made it clear that Mike Morgan’s creativeness is doing big things for the Sports Information program, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if something ended up becoming viral.