Minimizing Risk Through Classification

February 05, 2013

Lexi Chaput
Assistant Director, Informal Sports & Student Personnel
Campus Recreational Sports
Indiana University

As another school year settles in and club sports get back in the swing of things, many universities and professionals are concerned with the level of safety and supervision that is being provided for the students participating. Although there is no way to ensure 100% safety at all times, there are some tools you can create and use to be sure the major risks involved in the various activities are thought through and minimized.

Classifying risk can assist a department and university in determining what type of risk they willing to assume, the level of risk they are already assuming and what measures should be taken to minimize the risk.

If you are not already assessing the risk of your club sports using one or more matrices, this is a great opportunity to start creating documents that can be used to put a quantitative value to an activity, classify it in a category, and have an easier way to determine the requirements that club must meet to safely be a part of the department and university.

It is a good idea to involve university administrators, legal or risk management offices or university insurance providers at the start of this process. They may already have a framework that you can use, or they may have input that should be included immediately so changes do not have to be made at the conclusion of the process.

The first step in the process is to create categories that will be used in the classification process. Examples of categories could be used to classify based on nature of activity are practice location, physical contact involved in the activity, and environment in which the activity takes place.

The next step is to create levels within those categories. Using the previous mentioned categories, examples of levels within them would include:
– Practice location – on campus; off campus
– Physical contact involved in the sport – non-contact; minimal contact; inherent contact; full contact
– Environment in which the activity takes place – indoor; outdoor; in water; in the air

Creating a scoring rubric with these categories and levels will allow you to put a quantitative score to an activity, which will make it easier to classify the club into a tier. Once the point values and tiers have been established, risk management requirements for each tier can be determined and the system can be implemented.

It sounds simple, but is obviously not a perfect system. If you create your classification system and begin classifying already existing clubs, you may find that clubs are not falling where you feel they should. This could mean that point values need to be adjusted or categories and/or levels need to be added. As a club sport professional, common sense and experience are essential tools to the process of creating your classification system.

If there are activities that your university will not consider, find out why and create a tier based on those qualities that make the activity a non-option. If the university will not allow a car racing club because of the use of motorized vehicles, then in theory motocross will be another activity that should be included in the tier of prohibited clubs for the same reason.

This type of system can also be used to further classify clubs based on their current level of activity and involvement. A travel rubric that includes categories like frequency of travel (never; 1-10 times per year; 11-20 times per year; over 20 times per year) and average length of trip (less than 1 hour; 1-3 hours; 3-6 hours; over 6 hours) can help to determine the number of drivers the club needs to be approved by the university or what mode of transportation the club will be required to use which means expectations and deadlines can be set early in the year and last minute scrambling can be avoided. Fundraising and community service rubrics could be used as a factor in determining scheduling priority to encourage clubs to be active off the field.

Classification systems can be a great tool for departments and clubs alike. Getting clubs involved in the process of creating a classification system will result in more buy in – and acceptance can be established early in the process hence reducing the learning curve. Working together on the process can educate students on the importance of risk management and will create an objective and consistent process for the department.

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