Sport Club Travel (Without Advisors)

April 06, 2011

Alan Glick
Assistant Director of Recreational Sports
Virginia Tech

Many college and university Recreational Sports departments do not have the staffing resources or the desire to require a staff member or Advisor to travel with their Sport Clubs. At such institutions, it then becomes imperative for the Sport Club staff to do everything in their power to ensure the safety of their students as they prepare to get behind the wheel to travel hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles to compete in their sports.

There are a number of pro-active steps that Sport Club staff can take to help students deal with the responsibilities and inherent risks associated with traveling on their own:

1. Essential resources and programs should be made available to Sport Club members:
a) A Sport Club handbook detailing the institution’s travel policies and guidelines and expectations regarding student conduct and behavior while traveling.
b) An annual Sport Club officer workshop to discuss related travel issues
c) Implementing a driver-training program to familiarize students with safety-related issues associated with operating passenger cars and especially vans.

2. Procedures and steps to follow:
a) Reviewing emergency procedures in the event of an accident. Provide club officers with staff and other important telephone numbers they might need while on the road.
b) Reviewing motor pool or vehicle rental agency guidelines for dealing with accidents, vehicle breakdowns or other road emergencies.
c) Requiring all potential drivers to complete and sign a “Student Driver Agreement” form that reinforces your institution’s expectations for student behavior and responsibilities when traveling and competing.
d) Requiring clubs to complete a “Pre-Competition” form that includes detailed information such as the club’s travel itinerary, hotel/housing arrangements and cell phone numbers for club officers.
e) Restricting clubs from driving during the potentially dangerous overnight hours of approximately 1 AM to 6 AM. Requiring clubs to stop at hotels to get a good night’s sleep instead of being on the road when the risk of accidents due to a number of factors is relatively high.
f) Requiring clubs to change drivers every 2-3 hours to prevent or minimize the risk of driver fatigue. If possible, require clubs to have their older, more experienced drivers to do most if not all of the driving on longer trips.
g) Reminding students about the consequences, both legal and otherwise, of being in the possession of alcohol and illegal drugs while traveling and representing the institution.

Once a Sport Club leaves campus to travel to compete at another location, there is really no way for us to know definitively if our students will follow or even remember all of our advice and guidelines. As we work to prepare students for this important responsibility, the overriding message we need to emphasize with them is that we deeply care about their welfare and their safety. If students understand our motivation for establishing guidelines and expectations for their behavior and actions while traveling, they will be more likely to take our message seriously and will conduct themselves accordingly. They will also be better prepared to respond appropriately to unforeseen situations they may encounter while on the road.

Being involved in a Sport Club should be an enjoyable and valuable experience for our students. Preparing them to travel safely should be a high priority for a Sport Club staff.

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