Sport Clubs

The Last Line of Defense: The Experience of Club Officers and Implications for Risk Management Practices

July 16, 2011

Benjamin B. Stubbs
Assistant Director, Programs
University of Tennessee

It is a beautiful evening on the river. The water is smooth under the rowing shell, the air is crisp, and the white clouds in the sky are starting to turn pink and orange. But Wallace isn’t admiring the sunset. Instead, he cranes his neck to see into the coach’s boat, trying to count the number of personal floatation devices. The other club members listen to the coxswain, focus on their form, and maybe think about how fun it is to row at night. Wallace, a junior in engineering and the Crew Club president, is thinking about safety.

When it comes to the risk associated with sport club activity, student officers are the last line of defense. Recreation managers devise policies that limit the risks inherent in club activity. And yet, club practices, travel, and social activities are often beyond the scrutiny of sport club administrators. Many risk management decisions and responsibilities are left to the student leaders. However, risk management is only one of the many responsibilities of sport club officers. Officers organize practices and events, communicate with members, staff, and other teams, complete paperwork, manage inventories, and more. Each of these responsibilities is influenced by their specific roles as club leaders, and by their attitudes about their club.

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Virginia Tech’s Sport Club Participant Code of Conduct Agreement

July 16, 2011

Alan Glick
Assistant Director of Recreational Sports
Virginia Tech

Although there are approximately 70 sport-related sport clubs at Virginia Tech, only 29 of these clubs are members of the Department of Recreational Sports’ “Extramural Sports Club Federation”, and are legally considered to be a part or extension of our department, and are provided a range of benefits, including legal protections by the university. The other sport clubs on campus are “Registered Student Organizations” through the Department of Student Activities, and receive annual funding and advice through that office.

For many reasons, it is important that our 29 sport clubs understand the nature of the relationship between themselves and the Department of Recreational Sports and with the university as a whole. Because these clubs are legally a part of a university department, they are allowed to use all of the official university athletic symbols and logos which are also used by the university’s varsity athletic programs. One of the requirements we place on our sport clubs is that they actively compete on an intercollegiate level. All 29 of our sport clubs host games, round-robins and tournaments, and all of them routinely travel up and down the East Coast, into the Mid-West, and compete in national and championship tournaments throughout the country. It is extremely important that our clubs understand the responsibilities that come with the opportunities they have to travel and compete and to represent Virginia Tech in athletic competition.

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Sport Clubs Travel — Keep it Simple

July 16, 2011

Greg Henderson
Assistant Director, Sport Clubs and Aquatics
The College of William and Mary

When I first started working with the William & Mary Sport Club program in August of 2000, there were policies in place for registering events and travel. There was at that time, however, no real incentive for clubs to fill out the paperwork and follow the policies. After meeting with each club and learning that several of them had not registered their events, it became clear that we didn’t always know who was competing – let alone traveling – on any given weekend. With this in mind, the Director of Rec Sports and I started to re-vamp our travel system with two distinct goals in mind: 1) revise existing policies where necessary to make them clear, fair, and easy-to-follow; 2) provide an incentive for the clubs to follow the policies.

We started our policy revision process by meeting individually with every club to receive feedback on our policies. We also worked closely with both our IT department and Risk Management office to ensure ease of delivery and college policy compliance. By way of this feedback, our travel policies have been developed intentionally over time in order to facilitate club organization and manage risk. They have also been successful based upon further feedback and assessment. At the heart of our policies are two core principles: 1) Make it simple; 2) Provide an incentive.

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The Journey in Creating Participant Expectations

July 04, 2011

Judith Sperling
Assistant Director – Risk Management, Training & Development
UCLA Recreation

The ‘Participant Expectations’ was a project of UCLA Recreation’s Risk Management Team. Team members were often confronted by participants who could not be reasonably coached in complying with facility use and safety policies. Some participants did not have a relationship with the campus where they knew about or shared our community values and commitment to safety. We realized that we had not been successful in conveying what being a part of UCLA Recreation meant. Use of facilities and participating in programs was a privilege worth having and we needed to communicate our campus’ vision of a cooperative and tolerant community.
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Sport Club Travel

May 13, 2011

What do other schools do? What should we do?

Chuck Vogt
Director, Intramural and Club Sports
Bellarmine University

Ask any Campus Recreation professional this question: “What is the most dangerous part of club sports competition?” The answer will typically be: “The travel to and from the game site.” Many students participate in Sport Clubs throughout the country and this number seems to be increasing every year. Some schools also pay the coaches for their time, some pay from University funds while others leave it up to the clubs. This is also a pressing issue as clubs gain popularity and size. Good volunteers are harder and harder to come by.
Recently, I conducted some informal research by posing a few questions to the NIRSA Club Sports listserv. Several schools responded, and the feedback was very illuminating.
The questions asked were simple and straightforward:

  1. Do you require a coach/advisor to travel with your student groups/club sports when they leave campus?
  2. Do you allow students to travel independently of their coach advisor? If yes, what type of documentation do you keep?
  3. Are all of your advisors/coaches university personnel or individuals from outside the university?
  4. Are they paid? If yes, how much?

The following highlights the responses of some and small schools. Responses identified with specific schools are reported with permission, otherwise only the State of the school location is reported. Contact the author directly if you would like to see the results in their entirety.
Sport Clubs Travel Survey

The idea behind the informal research was not only to focus on travel, but also the administration of that travel. How do certain professionals handle certain situations? What are the best practices? While the responses to the questions can provide some guidance, at the end of the day, these are questions which can only be answered by you and appropriate university personnel.

Providing Athletic Training Services for Sport Clubs

May 12, 2011

A Future Trend?

Nicole Piscitelli
Assistant Director
Informal Recreation and Student Development
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Over the years, Sport Club Programs have developed into sophisticated student organizations. Campus Recreation departments invest thousands of dollars each year while Sport Clubs recruit talented players, pay coaches, and travel all over the country to compete. Administrators continually support and guide the club organizations by implementing policies, hosting educational sessions, and providing services to meet the needs of the sport club participants.

A major issue and possible trend that Campus Recreation Departments are facing is whether or not to provide some level of athletic training service for sport club participants. Athletic trainers provide a depth and breadth of knowledge beyond that of a student with first aid and CPR certifications, or even that of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Athletic trainers are highly educated and skilled individuals providing services that range from injury prevention to rehabilitation. The ability to provide athletic training services is an excellent addition to a sport club program; however, securing funding and resources can be an obstacle.

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