Sport Clubs Travel — Keep it Simple
July 16, 2011
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.
Make it Simple
If a policy is easy-to-follow, sport club officers are more apt to comply. We worked to make our policy simple in three basic ways:
- Delivery — Is the way in which information is transferred convenient for the students?
- Process — Is the process easy to follow?
- Deadlines — Are deadlines clear?
Simply put, everything having to do with our travel authorization process is online. All forms are submitted to us online and are instantly downloaded to an Excel spreadsheet when the student hits “submit”. Thus, on the administrative end we can easily manipulate the information in order to stay organized. An additional benefit is that data can be stored indefinitely on excel spreadsheets, making it much easier to assess club activity and compare data from previous years with the current year. We are also able to merge the data from the Excel database into formatted documents, giving us uniform reports on all club activity for a given weekend. We print these reports out and take them home with us each weekend for easy access and reference. Our IT department assisted with our forms, but Google Docs has a similar function and can be customized to suit your department’s needs.
We incorporate an “ABC” process for completing necessary paperwork prior to and immediately following a sport club event. The process is similar for both home and away events.
A = Activity Registration: The Activity Registration form lets us know they plan on traveling to an event. Upon receiving the Activity Registration, we indicate to them that travel to their event is confirmed pending receipt of their trip plan.
B = Trip Plan: The trip plan indicates the travel and lodging itinerary, listing of authorized drivers, and a listing of all club members traveling. Prior to completing the trip plan, the individual completing the plan is clearly instructed in large highlighted print and plain language to make sure the event is registered, their roster is updated, and all drivers are authorized.
C = Concluding Event Report: Each club submits a synopsis of their event, including results, highlights, and any injuries that may have occurred. We sometimes post these write-ups on our website, and the information helps us understand not only how clubs are performing, but how they feel about the activities they are doing. The reports give us an excellent summary of club activity throughout the year to share with prospective students, parents, and other administrators at our institution.
D = Driver Authorization: The Driver Authorization form provides a method of screening potentially unsafe drivers. Potential drivers must indicate they have a driver’s license, are covered under an automobile insurance policy, and describe any moving violations or accidents they have had. The information is self-disclosed by each driver, and they must notify us if their driving status changes from the time they first submit their Driver Authorization form. Upon submitting the Driver Authorization, the individual is directed to print off a copy of the Recreational Sports Emergency Protocols in order to carry them in their personal vehicles in case of an incident or accident during travel.
If we discover or become aware of a pattern of poor or reckless driving based upon moving violations and/or accidents, then we follow-up with the potential driver to gather more information. Depending upon the nature of moving violations and/or accidents, it is at our discretion to allow or not allow an individual to be authorized to drive to an official club event.
3) Deadlines (“Wednesdays by 7”)
We used to have many different deadlines for various event registration and travel forms. Based on feedback from club officers, we streamlined the deadlines to make all forms for weekend events due on Wednesdays by 7:00pm. If a club is planning weekend travel (Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday), then their Activity Registration (A) and Trip Plan (B) forms are due by 7:00pm on the Wednesday immediately prior to the weekend. On the back end of the trip, Event Reports (C) are due by 7:00pm on the Wednesday immediately following weekend travel. Because all of our forms are online and instantly go into a database, managing travel is essentially done in “real time.” The instant database allows us time to process and authorize travel within two days.
The “Wednesdays by 7” deadline has the added benefit of giving clubs time during the week to plan for their trips. Due to the nature of sport clubs, activities are sometimes not even scheduled or confirmed until several days before the event is to occur. Further, due to both academic and social demands, individual club members often do not know if they can travel until the week before. In the week leading up to the event, club members can discuss travel arrangements at practice and decide who is competing, when they are leaving, who is driving, etc. “Wednesdays by 7” gives clubs time to plan and provide what we hope is the most accurate information available before they depart for a trip.
Provide an Incentive:
We give our clubs an incentive to comply primarily through a point system tied to budget and practice space. Simply put, clubs earn positive points for doing good things (attending meetings, participating in leadership programs, having nice websites, and policy compliance). Clubs lose points for doing bad things (the opposite of everything above). Within our point system, clubs may earn up to 4 points for each event: 2 points for submitting the event registration and trip plan on time, and 1 or 2 points for their event report (depending upon how detailed the event report is). The overall point total at the end of the academic year helps to determine a club’s budget allocation and practice space for the following year.
In addition, clubs who wish to receive funding assistance for travel (vehicle rental, reimbursement for gas & tolls, lodging, or entry fees) are required to complete the ABC’s of travel. Any trip that is not registered through the ABC system is not an officially recognized trip and therefore will not receive any college funding or support.
When we first introduced the point system, clubs caught on very quickly that it is in their best interest to register their events and submit event reports. Over time, Clubs significantly improved their understanding of the importance of registering events. Once their event is registered, it becomes easier to track who is traveling on a given weekend in order to stay on top of the trip plans.
Although there was only a 12.5% increase in the number of Sport Clubs from 2001 — 2008, there was a 137% increase in the number of registered events in the same time period. Further, only 40% of clubs registered events in 2001, but 84% registered events in 2008. *Because not every club holds events every semester, the remaining 16% of clubs that did not have registered events in spring 2008 does not necessarily indicate non-compliance; it simply may mean that those 7 clubs did not have any competitions or events to register.
The learning curve for any club officer is usually steep. One of our intended outcomes in formulating these policies has been not only to make it easier for officers to comply, but to provide them an incentive. There is no doubt that our travel policies will continue to evolve through ongoing club feedback, technological innovations, and changes to college-wide policy. We will continue to make sure our policies work within our institutional culture by gathering feedback from key constituents. Something that I do not expect to change are the two core principles at the heart of our travel policies: 1) Make it simple; 2) Provide an incentive.