Recreation Management

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Jay Tryon is the Director of Parks & Recreation for the Town of Indian Trail.  This is a fairly new department that was started in 2013.

Since its creation Jay has lead his team to open over 100 acres of parks and currently is finishing the Towns first Strategic Masterplan.

While in Indian Trail he has built a department known for providing top notch programming and facilities and leading the way with innovative amenities in the region.

Prior to this position he spent 7 ½ years with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation. Throughout his time with Mecklenburg County he held a few different roles including operations director of special event facilities and athletics supervisor coordinator.

Jay is a member of NCRPA and NRPA and is the past chair of Young Professional Network. He is also a member of the CAPRA Commission.

In 2015 he was awarded one of NRPAs Young Professional fellowships. He is a graduate of SUNY Brockport with a major in Recreation & Leisure Studies and a concentration in Recreation Management.

Jay is Raising the Bar By:

  • Trusting his team, their decision-making, and their ability to get the job done
  • Investing in professional development and educational opportunities for his staff
  • Taking a unique and engaging approach to communicating their offerings to their community
“There’s really no such thing as failure because we are constantly learning and growing as a team — and also as individuals —  to help the community.”

– Jay Tryon

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The steps Jay took to lead a new parks and recreation department from scratch
  • The philosophy behind creating a positive and trusting workplace culture
  • Advice for young professionals who are looking for a career in parks and recreation

Links to Check Out:

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In May of 2017, I started a project. The concept was simple: “Let’s raise the bar in parks and recreation”.  I wanted to explore what that actually meant, so I toyed around with how I was going to accomplish this mission.

Should I develop a news site that updates professionals about current trends?  Create a social forum that openly shared information with others in the field?  Give video tours of the parks I’m visiting and showcase all the best practices?

The sky was the limit, but so was my time and my energy.  For quite a while, I sat quietly by myself looking for clarity.  Hoping that I could talk about parks in a way that changed the world.

It was a humbling experience to realize that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do – alone. We’ve all heard it.  “It takes a team.  Connections are key.  It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…”  I say all those niceties too.  But when you are absurdly ambitious, a little naive, and naturally impatient… well, it is downright scary and a little ego-shattering to reach out and ask for help. I was afraid to ask the questions that I thought everyone knew the answer to.  I hated being put on the spot because I felt it was a make it or break it moment for my career.  When I met new people, my mind ran with a thousand different thoughts that asked, “What will they think of me?”  Anyone who is so concerned about how they are perceived cannot be presently engaging in conversation.  When I spoke on stage, my nerves disrupted my whole thought process so naturally I stumbled over my words.  My ego was exposed and I absolutely hated it.

Eventually, the tornado of ideas turned into a weekly podcast with incredible parks and recreation professionals who raise the bar. They make this project valuable.  They are the ones that give it life.

So, what I realized was this…I know nothing.  Accepting this truth has made me a lot more comfortable in these scary situations.  This truth allowed me to accept wisdom from others and share those insights in a meaningful way.  I gained very little traction with this project until I realized that it would take an army to raise the bar in parks and recreation.  So I reached out, asked for help, and found that the world wasn’t quite as scary as I thought it was.

Turns out, we have some incredibly talented, wise, compassionate, and generous people in the field of parks and rec.  They care.  They see the vision.  They realize that there is enormous potential, both for the benefit of the community and economy.

When you work for a government agency, as most of us do, you have your own tasks, your own budget, your own staff, your own parks, your own facilities.  So much to care for.  It can be hard to look up from your immediate circle and see what’s actually happening.  So here’s a new perspective.

There is a movement of people who actually care about their places far more than we might think. Some may be parks and recreation employees.  Some may be culture creators (or co-creators).  Overall we are witnessing a collective shift happening towards community building and place making.  The best part?  You’re part of it.  Communities are built through agencies like parks and recreation… and it’s probably not as complicated as you might think.

Are you…

  • connecting sidewalks?
  • promoting bike tourism?
  • engaging teens?
  • building pop-up parks?
  • encouraging active living?
  • hosting community events?

…Whatever you’re doing, it matters.  We truly do improve “quality of life.”

“Quality of life” is a nice buzzword these days, so I’ll jump on the bandwagon.  Honestly this term complex and I don’t attempt to define that today.  I think it’s multi dimensional and deeply personal.  Regardless, I think we know it when we see it.  For the Love of Cities, Peter K addresses the dynamic of city government.  He talks about how cities can and should be safe and functional.  Yes, we absolutely should be fixing potholes and paving new roads.  But cities can also be meaningful (and actually, quite fun and exciting) through small changes.  It’s the way you make people feel about the places that matter.  Let’s work on that.

Can I say something that’s completely true but probably a controversial statement in our field?  It is no longer acceptable for governments to be mediocre.  Collecting a paycheck and hiding in your office doesn’t cut it.  Complaining about the taxpayers who have a concern is unproductive. Criticizing your employed millennials because they want to make an impact is self-defeating.

Please don’t doubt this: Private businesses are seeing the opportunity in parks and recreation far more than parks and recreation professionals.  For anyone scared of partnering… I get it.  I cringe when I see McDonalds logo on a playground sign,  BUT we must ask ourself.  Why are we afraid to reach out and build partnerships that build our community?  Is our collective government ego so big that we can’t accept help from those that want to give money?  Do we have an outdated policy – have you asked why it was put in place?  Why are why we afraid that our citizens will shame us for collaborating with business owners?

Just like I became frozen in my doubts and insecurities when I started this project, our organizations are frozen in their policies, regulations and fears.  They hear a new idea and think that it will never happen.  That their patrons just “don’t get it.”  “It’s always been that way.”

It gets old to hear and your citizens are tired of engaging with you.  They will stop if you keep doing this.  Open your ears.  Open your hearts.  Start getting personal.  Start getting real.  There is no doubt that your citizens will fall out of love with you.   Your next generation of leaders will leave.  And you’ll wonder why the heck parks and recreation is undervalued and doesn’t get funding.

It’s past-time to raise the bar in parks and recreation, and we all need to be a part of this movement.  It’s starts with us.  Let’s do it!

All parks and recreation professionals know that JULY is a crazy busy month.  Why we must schedule and plan an entire month of programming during the hottest month is certainly top of mind.  But ALAS, we shall push forward and make the best of it.  Here are some of the items that we used in my parks and recreation department that you could use either as souvenirs, used in a Facebook giveaway, or just to make your events that much more fun.  If you have stickers, you can brand these items with your logo too!   Please know that I receive a small commission if you buy any items using links on this page.  Any earnings help to cover the costs of maintaining this website – thanks for your support!

Don’t forget about the t-shirts!  These would be great for giveaways and/or staff!

 

1. Mini-Electric Fans

Obviously it only makes sense for the fans to fit nicely on your phone 🙂

 

2. Mini Sharks…

That Squirt Water!


 

3. Host the best water fight

with noodle style water guns


4. Folding Fans

Emoji-Style


5. Slap Bracelets

I’m pretty sure these never go out of style

 

6. Colorful Parachord Bracelet

Another classic

 

7. Neon Sunglasses

 

8. Throw a Neon Pool Party

 

9. Positive Message Wristband

Inspire your community!

10. Bouncy Balls

Buy ’em in bulk

11. Bubbles

On bubbles…

12. Slinkies

You can’t have a party without them

13. Punching Balloons


 

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Angela is a Recreation Services Manager with the City of Henderson in Nevada.  And during her 20+ year career, she has worked for recreation facilities in California, Hawaii, Japan, and Nevada.  She is a nationally recognized motivationally speaker and has presented at various conferences across the country for the past 10 years.  Her areas of focus include promoting positive leadership, strengthening workplace culture and relationships, and inspiring today’s “new age” workforce. 

Angela supervises over 250 employees, many of whom are of the millennial generation; through her passion she shares positive insights that help recreational professionals not only survive the millennial invasion, but also learn to embrace it.

Angela is a leader, mentor, wife and a mom.  She and her husband Isaac have 5 beautiful children and she enjoys sharing openly and honestly about the trials and tribulations of motherhood and being a strong female leader.  Angela believes that the key to building strong relationships is “working for it”, which is something she strives to do each and every day.  Being exceptional at something requires dedication, commitment, passion and HARD WORK!

“We’re gonna help you be somebody.” – Angela Summers

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  1. New ideas and tactics for interviews and onboarding – specific advice for both interviewers and potential employees
  2. How to set a strong foundation for staff culture from day 0
  3. Why Imposing our own expectations and using scare tactics on others is not a good way to maintain relationships

Angela is raising the bar by:

  1. Inspiring her staff and organization to be PROUD of the work they do to improve their community
  2. Focusing on building relationships with customers and treating them as people first
  3. Embracing the strengths of the next generation of leaders, and instilling the values – such as loyalty – that may not come naturally

 

“Try to see the human side to the mistakes an employee makes.” – Angela Summers

 

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Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in again!  This week I had the opportunity to talk with Melissa Battite (CPRP!), who is the Director at Lexington Recreation and Community Programs in Lexington, Massachusetts.  Melissa and I actually met at the NRPA conference in Las Vegas in 2015. We were paired through a networking/mentorship event, and we had a great conversation! When I started this podcast, I knew I would want to circle back and talk to Melissa and ask where she is today.

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You can learn more about Melissa on her LinkedIn Profile.

Melissa didn’t know she was pursuing a career in parks and recreation when she spent her summers as a “Playground Supervisor.” During her first year of college, Melissa took an “Introduction to Recreation” class that sparked her interest in the parks and recreation field.  Later in college, she took a tourism class, and finally decided to pursue Parks and Rec as a career after talking with her counselor, Ellen O’Sullivan, Ph.D.  After graduation, Ellen referred her to a 1-year term position in Brookline (near Boston, MA), where she ended up staying for over 20 years.

Google Map Data, 2017

Fun fact for you!  Brookline, MA, has an interesting history; it is home to the first indoor swimming pool in America (built in 1883!) and the oldest playground in America (built in 1871!).

Over the course of 23 years, Melissa worked her way up from Front Line Recreation Leader, Recreation Supervisor I, Recreation Supervisor II, and finally as a Assistant Recreation Director.  During her time at Brookline, she saw a need for a Therapeutic Recreation Program, so she worked to create one.   Listen to her tips for starting your own recreation therapy program in the podcast.

Just a few years ago, a Director position came open in Lexington, MA.  She wasn’t sure she wanted to leave the town of Brookline.

“I was very comfortable, I was very challenged, I loved who I worked with… but I thought, if I don’t take this opportunity to just try, I’ll never know.” – Melissa Battite

She recently moved to Lexington, MA, where she is now a Director of Recreation & Community Programs. As a director, her roles range from administration, to staff development, to goal setting and so much more. She also makes it a priority to visit local parks and facilities to maintain relationships and show her presence in the community.

Melissa raises the bar by:

  • Considering transportation and affordability as critical factors when defining inclusion
  • Maintaining an active presence in the community and in her organization by visiting parks and facilities
  • Learning (and sharing!) from online resources through active membership of NRPA networks
  • Believing that raising the bar for yourself is actually the key to raising the bar in your organization

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Tips for starting a Therapeutic Recreation Program
  • How parks and recreation agencies can partner with mental health organizations, school districts, and local services to achieve incredible goals
  • How justifying the need for parks and recreation is actually an opportunity not a burden.

Resources/Links Mentioned:

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“This is one of the things I love about this industry.  Everyday is different.  We have the built in flexibility to continue to reinvent ourselves no matter what position we are in.” – Melissa Battite

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In this episode, I had the great opportunity to interview Anthony Iracki, MS, CPRP, for an exciting conversation about professional development in the field of parks and recreation. As a young professional, Anthony has some truly incredible insights that are applicable for both current and future leaders. You’ll love this one.  Please share it.

“You are a caretaker of the community, but you need to take care of yourself first.”  – Anthony Iracki

 

Learn more about Anthony: 

The words “During working hours, we make a living. During leisure hours, we make a life” ring true for Anthony Iracki, a supervisor for the Village of Brown Deer Parks and Recreation Department. Anthony has worked in the field of parks and recreation since the age of 16, and he is passionate about enhancing the quality of life for everyone in his community. His focuses include innovative program development, business partnerships, conservation through education, and social equity in programming. Anthony’s ultimate goal is to ensure that every resident in his community has the opportunity to truly experience life.

 

“If you want to raise the bar, and you want change, you can’t be afraid of everything that comes with it.” – Anthony Iracki

 

Anthony is Raising the Bar:

  • By reminding professionals that putting your mental and physical health first is actually the key to serving others best
  • By encouraging us to use the word “no” as motivation to keep pushing towards  long term goals
  • By prioritizing FUN back into our job – because that’s what parks and recreation is all about!
  • By thinking of collaboration as a positive endeavor rather than a threat

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How current leaders in the field can help prepare the next generation
  • The steps that students and young professionals can take to work their way up in the field – hint: it’s all about connection.
  • What the future of parks and recreation look like when Millennials are in leadership positions
  • Tactical approaches for being a leader without the title
  • Why “Culture Creators” can have serious positive impact on your community
  • And so much more… seriously, you gotta listen to this one!

 

“Leadership is Situational.  Leadership can come from anyone. You just have to not be afraid to fail; to know when to push and know when to step back.” – Anthony Iracki

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Love where you Live by Peter Kageyama

The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungee

NRPA Aquatics Network

Association of Aquatic Professionals

State Associations

Scholarships for NRPA

Young Fellowship Scholarship, Diversity Scholarship

American Academy for parks and recreation administration – Externship

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If you enjoyed this episode, please share it!

Follow Anthony Iracki on LinkedIn

 

Thanks for attending the webinar about social media analytics!  If this is your first time here, welcome!

Here is the handout: Analytics-Worksheet

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Resources for social media analytics:

Google Analytics

Free Guide to Google Analytics

The Cheat Sheet – Analytics and Insights for Instagram and Instagram Stories

The Cheat Sheet: YouTube Analytics And Insights

 Sprout Social Blog on Social Media Analytics

How To Use Social Media Analytics To Create The Best Content

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Jayna Lang’s first job was as a lifeguard at her local pool; she turned that summer job into a lifelong career through parks and recreation. She worked her way up to the Recreation Program Supervisor role, learning valuable lessons along the way.  In this conversation, we talk about onboarding new employees, training them efficiently, and making sure to establish a values-first organization (this starts in the interview!).  When asked what she looks for when hiring new employees, she says unequivocally, “enthusiasm and a passion for serving the community.”  Then, we dive into what it takes to form a successful relationship with partners in local communities.

 

Jayna is Raising the Bar…

  • By treating her employees as people first – and instilling organizational values from the start
  • By consistently looking into the future to answer, “What’s next?”
  • By using partnerships and collaboration to do more with less

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Jayna worked her way up in the parks and recreation field, starting first as a lifeguard
  • The systems and processes that Jayna uses to efficiently hire and onboard new employees
  • Key communication tips that Jayna uses to keep in touch with her team

 

Links & Resources Mentioned:

City of Lakewood Parks and Recreation Master Plan: lakewood.org/imagine

Colorado Parks and Recreation Association 

Workbrite is a new tool that Jayna mentioned for onboarding employees

 

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Hello everybody and welcome to the Becky Talks Parks Podcast.

It’s so exciting to see this project come to life. For too long, I have thought… where is the conversation for parks and recreation professionals?

The current mediums for communication leave much to be desired. I want to share authentic conversations with professionals in our field, diving into both the highlights and the struggles of working as a park and rec pro.

Truly, this conversation is for my younger self. The one who sat in college, wondering what she was going to do with her life. Who cared deeply about being outdoors. Who loved working with other people and understanding their point of view.

She just didn’t know what she wanted to do as a career. And then, when she found out that parks and recreation was actually a major – and a career that improved the community – she lit up!

She knew it was right for her. But she couldn’t find real conversations from others in the field about what it was like, or which one of the paths she should take within parks and recreation.

She wanted to know what it was like to be in charge of aquatic programs, recreation centers, open space, environmental programs, camps. She wanted to know what it was like, and what it took to be a director of parks and rec. She didn’t want a glossed over conversation saying that everything was easy. No, she wanted the truth.

And when she actually pursued career choices that led her to manage rec centers, fitness programs, and parks, she wanted real advice from others about best practices in hiring, on-boarding, and training staff; planning for upcoming trends in the field; and using digital tools and technology to make parks and rec more efficient and effective.

So that’s what this podcast is about. It’s for the current and future park and recreation professionals who love what they do. It’s about conversations with all levels of recreation professionals, from lifeguards, to environmental educators, to recreation supervisors, to directors. It’s for anyone who has an idea to raise the bar in the field.

I believe that we all have ideas that are valuable. It’s simply a matter of hearing those ideas at the right time, in the right settings, to the right people. This podcast will help share those ideas.

If you, or someone you know, is a recreation professional who is passionate about their job and the impact they are having on their community, please reach out to me at becky@beckytalksparks.com.

A new podcast will be released every Tuesday afternoon. So please stay tuned and check back often. Episodes and more info can be found at my blog at beckytalksparks.com.

If you are looking forward to this podcast, be sure to subscribe, leave a review, and share it with your coworkers and friends.

It’s time to take pride in the awesome field of parks and recreation! It’s time to raise the bar!

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Scheduling Software for Parks and Recreation Professionals

It’s January, so in the world of parks and recreation, we are already late to be thinking about 2018 summer operations.  Nevertheless, here I am to present some a few tips about scheduling software for parks and recreation professionals.

How do you currently schedule your employees?

Let me know in the comments!

For some of you, I’ll be honest – online employee scheduling might not be necessary. I’m a fan of the phrase, “don’t fix what isn’t broken,” even when it comes to innovation. If you have a small team, or only one location, you may not need a mobile app or an automatic scheduler. In these cases, a handwritten schedule would probably serve you just fine. But for those of you that are Mobile Employee Schedulingmanaging multiple locations or part-time employees with various schedules, you’ll want a schedule that you can pull up on your phone, one that has all your contact information in one place, and one that will help you find the best schedule for everyone.

To give you some background, I managed one of three recreation centers in our department. We had about 15 standard part-time employees, and another 10 cashiers.  We shared employees in between the three recreation centers.

Once a quarter, I would get together with my two other coordinators and make a schedule.  We would use the old schedules as a template, write with pencil over the old ones, and then type them into excel.

The whole process took us multiple meetings…multiple hours a day… and we ended up making many changes after we sent them out. It was a tedious and time consuming process. We often could not meet our proposed schedule deadline and ended up letting down our staff.

Our employees deserved better. They needed to know their schedule so that they could plan out their lives. Having a good work life balance is essential, and our job as managers is to make that happen.

As staff voiced their frustrations, and my fellow coworkers spent more and more time on our excel schedules, we knew we needed to do something.

We made the switch to have ALL of our employee contact information in ONE place that we could access anywhere, even on the go. We had ALL of the schedules for ALL of the centers in ONE app on our phone. We could see exactly who should working at which center and who should be on later today. We could find out who swapped shifts and approve them if we wanted. Best of all, our staff could see it all too.

How To Prepare Your Team for a Switch:

Quick tips before getting committing:

  • In order to make the trial period successful, I recommend putting all of your employee information into an excel spreadsheet with each row being first name, last name, address, email, etc.  This will allow you to import your contacts into the software easily.
  • Get your whole team on board.  Allow them to be a part of the decision making process.  Tell your employees to expect a change and WHY you are making the change.
  • Once you’ve done your research, and have decided on the software you’ll be using, have a specific training that walks your employees through the process of the new tool.  Talk about expectations, policies, and concerns they may have.

 

An Overview of WhenToWork:

Link to WhenToWork – My purpose in sharing this affiliate link is so that more parks and recreation professionals have tools to take their organization and team to the next level.  I receive a small amount if you decide to commit to WhenToWork.  Any amount that I make on this site goes back into the site for hosting fees so that I can continue working on this site.

Overview
WhenToWork offers a complex set of tools that will help you better manage recreation operations.  They have an excellent set of video tutorials to get you and your employees started on the program, but be prepared to invest time in understanding the interface.   Their FAQ should help you through most of your questions (note that they do not have a contact phone number, like WheniWork to talk to a real person).

If you have all of your employees in an excel spreadsheet, then importing them is easy.  Their mobile app is awesome.  The pricing is based on how many employees you are managing.

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Subscription Pricing for WhenToWork
Subscription Pricing for WhenToWork

 

This type of pricing works well for most organizations.  If you have multiple departments that are considering the switch (like aquatics and front desk) I would recommend actually getting separate accounts.  One problem that we ran into was that you must start a schedule on the same date.  Let’s say that your aquatics department starts a new schedule every month, but your front desk staff starts every quarter, you’ll run into some issues.  Keep that in mind when you start to count up your employees.  Keep them separate if you want to keep it simple.

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Overview of WhentoWork
Overview of WhentoWork

 

When you first login, this is the view you will have as a manager.  You can customize the “What’s New” section in the top right section, but that’s about it.  The design/user interface isn’t very modern, but it works!  There are many ways for how to view your schedules, so you’ll have to find what works best for you.  The employees section was my favorite – to have everyone’s information in one place.  The Urgent Text Alert also helped for those last-minute situations where we needed someone quickly but didn’t want to text everyone individually.

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Reporting Capabilities of WhenToWork
Reporting Capabilities of WhentoWork

 

Part of your job as a recreation professional is justifying your operational costs.  The ability to estimate payroll, analyze shifts for conflicts, see a summary of time-off, etc is invaluable.  This kind of information would take hours to calculate from an excel sheet.  When the ACA rules came into play, we found out just how important it was to have detailed records of the hours our employees worked.

I love the features of reporting through WhentoWork.  They also have a growing list of compatible software that may help you, such as payroll software (Kronos, PayCom, Tylers Munis, Paychoice, etc) and other tools.

 

 

Alternatives

There are other programs that I found for employee scheduling.  Have you tried any of these out?  Would you like to see a review of these programs?  Let me know in the comments!

WhenIWork

Shiftboard

Humanity

Deputy

Google Calendar (video info here)

Homebase