NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The career of a Sports Information Director is known to be very hectic and chaotic, with many long days and work every weekend. Just like everyone in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the life of a SID on its head.
Working through this chaos is Samantha Masayda, who enters her third year as Albertus Magnus College's Sports Information Director. I took a moment to sit down with Masayda (virtually, of course) to discuss life during the pandemic and how she's working her way through it all.
QUESTION: The 2020 spring athletic season had just gotten underway when the NCAA and Albertus Magnus decided to cancel the remainder of athletic events to help stop the spread of COVID-19. What went through your mind when you heard that the final decision had been made to cancel the spring campaign?
MASAYDA: I remember that day perfectly! It was Friday morning, and I was working from home when I had to jump on a conference call regarding the conference's decision for the spring season. The NCAA had already canceled the spring championships, but a part of me still had hope that the spring season could still proceed at Albertus. However, that wasn't the case, and the GNAC [Great Northeast Athletic Conference] canceled the spring.
All I could think about at that moment were the spring student-athletes, especially the seniors. To have your season cut short, especially when teams have already started playing games and find its rhythm as a team, it's a punch to the gut. Immediately, I began to brainstorm in my head different ideas for social media and website content, with my main focus being the spring seniors.
QUESTION: With all these changes coming at you very quickly, how were you able to handle everything that was thrown at you, and how do you remain calm, positive, and safe?
MASAYDA: Being in athletics and serving in a leadership role has prepared me, as much as possible, for this situation. As much as we want to be organized, we also have to be flexible and expect the unexpected. This pandemic is the ultimate test of patience, flexibility and dealing with unique circumstances. We just have to do the best we can daily with the hand we are dealt, and control what we can control.
I went from setting up and breaking down sporting events, writing game previews and recaps, writing weekly player stories, and creating over 50 graphics a week, to working in isolation in my home office. Although my duties have shifted away from game coverage, my job as Sports Information Director continued, but now with more of a creative and inventive approach. Coming up with innovative ideas to replace two months of steady, in-season content helped me think more outside of the box.
QUESTION: After wrapping up an unconventional spring, you then had to transition into an unusual summer schedule. How has your summer routine changed during the pandemic?
MASAYDA: Personally, I tried to keep myself in a good mental place and keep my routine the same as much as possible in the summer. For me, I would get up each day, just like I was going into the office, get dressed, make a cup of coffee, have some breakfast, and head into work. Since my office was located in my dining room, lunch breaks would be outside on the back porch, and I would enjoy a nice game of fetch with my dog Jack. After Jack was tired of chasing a ball, and my stomach was full from lunch, it was back to work till 4:30 PM.
Yes, there were times when I found myself procrastinating on a task or not being motivated to work on a certain day, but I found myself working through it and taking more breaks throughout the day. Throughout this pandemic, I've learned that working from home can be tough because you're trying to do work in an environment that you're used to relaxing in after work.
QUESTION: In addition to all your sports information duties, you have been active on a few committees over the summer. Which committees have you joined? And, what issues have your committees been tackling?
MASAYDA: Over the summer, I was part of two committees - New Student Events Committee and a COVID-19 Subcommittee (Hosting Events).
The New Student Events Committee would meet every other week, and we would discuss Accepted Students Day, Falcon Day, and Orientation. Before the pandemic, these events would be held in-person, on-campus, but when both Albertus and the state shut down, we were forced to turn these events into virtual events.
The COVID-19 subcommittee I was on started in early June, and we would meet every week for two hours.
Our job as a committee was to help the main COVID-19 task force to create guidelines for any event on campus, whether it's a lecture, liturgy, or an athletic event.
QUESTION: With your job responsibilities changing daily. Have there been any occupational skills you have improved upon during this unconventional time?
MASAYDA: During March, April, and May, my staff and I was focused on thinking outside of the box when it came to social media and website content. In this field, all the social media and website content rely on games and stats, and without those two items, we have nothing. So during this downtime of no sports, it's up to the sports information department to find creative ways to tell a student-athletes story. For myself, I'm not one for thinking outside of the box when it comes to graphic design or story topics, but this pandemic challenged me for the better.
During the summer months, I also participated in numerous webinars hosted by CoSIDA and PrestoSports. These webinars were a great source of information because they covered an array of subjects from live streaming to graphic designs to website content to COVID-19 policies and procedures.
QUESTION: We have recently gotten the unfortunate news that the fall 2020 seasons for men's and women's soccer, women's volleyball, field hockey, women's tennis, and men's golf have been suspended. What was your initial reaction to that news?
MASAYDA: Throughout most of the summer, I kept hope alive that we would have a fall season. However, when July 1st hit, many D3 schools were making the tough decision to suspend or cancel fall competition, and my hopes began to dwindle, and the sense of worry started to set in. So instead of sitting around and waiting for the decision, I decided to be proactive and start planning for the fall regardless of games or no games. I wanted to keep my mind busy and sharp because this is going to be a challenging year, and I wanted to be ready for any challenges that come my way.
When the news broke about the fall 2020 season, the same emotions I felt in the spring came rushing back, and all I could think about is the student-athletes and the coaches. To have two seasons taken away due to this pandemic is unbelievable, but luckily hope is still alive for the fall sports because if we continue to socially distance and wear masks, sports may start up again in the spring of 2021.
QUESTION: Despite the suspension of the fall season, the athletics staff is scheduled to return to office work in August. Are you looking forward to getting back into the office? What does it mean to you to get back some normalcy in these ever-changing times?
MASAYDA: I am very much looking forward to coming back to campus and seeing my co-workers as well as the student-athletes. The first couple of weeks are going to be an adjustment for me because so much has changed due to this pandemic. Our office is going to be on a rotating schedule, so I will not see many of my co-workers in-person. There will also not be many student-athletes coming in and out of the building due to a non-traditional season. I'm going to have to get used to working back in my office without the comforts of home. Despite all of that, it will be nice to get back to some normalcy and a change in scenery!
QUESTION: Although we return to the office this fall, it seems that there will be many aspects of this career that have changed for good. What parts of the sports information field do you think have changed permanently?
MASAYDA: The majority of the sports information field is going to be affected by this ongoing pandemic, and we are going to have to learn to adjust and find ways to be more creative.
• Live Streaming - When games resume, this is going to be the main way for people to attend the games. Visitors may be limited.
• Game Day Management - How the game will be run, press row, scorer tables, locker rooms, scheduling, etc.
• Student-Athletes Stories - Sports Information Departments are going to be relying more on personal stories than game recaps and stats.
QUESTION: What are some of the safety measures that you are going to implement in the sports information office to help keep the department safe?
MASAYDA: With every passing day, I think that we learn a little more and understand what is happening. Over the summer, I chatted with SID's throughout the east coast as well as attended a few virtual seminars for Sports Information Directors regarding daily office operations, student workers, and gameday management for the upcoming fall.
For myself and my staff, we will be on a rotational schedule for the upcoming months to eliminate congestion in the office. We will be in charge of cleaning our desk as well as the office before and after our workday. All meetings will be done virtually. Masks are to be worn at all times.
During the fall, my staff and I will start preparing for athletic competitions in the spring semester. We will look into how the scorer's table will look with social distancing in place, how we will be communicating with student workers on the field/court/diamond and game day policies regarding locker rooms, officials, teams, etc.
By Josh Smith (Assistant SID)