The Need for a ‘Framework’ to Manage Sport Clubs

April 28, 2011

Ian McGregor, Ph.D.
McGregor & Associates

Across North America, Sport Clubs continue to be a major ‘sweaty palm’ issue for most Campus Recreation departments. Student-run Sport Clubs can provide an excellent learning environment for student leaders. However, from the administrator’s perspective, too many Clubs are just ‘doing their own thing’ with few controls in place to minimize problems. Hence it is all about finding that balance between freedom and control.

Many Sport Clubs operate with a fair degree of autonomy. However, the bottom line (from the Court’s perspective) is that Sport Clubs will likely be deemed to be ‘part of the University’, since they compete regionally and nationally as a ‘University’ team. Therefore the University will likely be held responsible for Sport Club activities (as these relate to practice and competition as well as travel, fund raising, social activities, etc.). Hence it is important that Campus Recreation departments effectively manage Sport Clubs to ensure that (a) the risk of participant injury is minimized and (b) a costly lawsuit is avoided.

The solution is to implement a ‘framework’ for managing Sport Clubs which provides flexibility on how to implement various Sport Clubs policies and procedures, yet incorporates some ‘bottom-line’ or ‘non-negotiable’ requirements which need to be followed by Sport Clubs.

Any Sport Clubs ‘Framework’ needs to incorporate the following key elements :

1. Recognition/ Renewal of Sport Clubs

While the process to recognise and renew Sport Clubs may be handled differently on campuses, the Sport Clubs Administrator must be involved in this process, especially if financial and/or facility resources are an issue.
2. Annual Submission Requirements

Effectively managing Sport Clubs begins by collecting appropriate data on each Sport Club. Whether this is done electronically or manually, it is important that the Sport Clubs Administrator establishes what information needs to be collected (e.g. emergency contact information) on each Sport Club and individual Sport Clubs members — and also establishes strict submission deadlines.

3. An effective Sport Clubs ‘Management Structure’
Ultimately, the Sport Clubs Administrator should have overall responsibility and accountability for Sport Clubs. This means that a management structure reflecting this reality needs to developed and implemented. The management structure should clearly spell out the roles and responsibilities of:

*The Sport Clubs Administrator (Campus Recreation staff)
*The Sport Clubs Executive Board (i.e. Sport Clubs Officers)
*The Sport Club Coach
*The Sport Club Advisor (if applicable)
*The Sport Club Council (if applicable)

A priority in this area is the relationship between Campus Recreation and the Sport Club coach. Coaches can be paid or volunteer students, faculty/staff or off-campus personnel. Whatever the arrangement, all coaches need to focus on coaching and not be involved in the day-to-day responsibilities of running the club — tasks that should be performed by the Sport Clubs Officers. It is also critical that the Sport Clubs Administrator is actively involved in the coach selection process.

4. Travel Policies & Procedures
Travel is a huge concern for the Sport Clubs Administrator (and institutional Risk Manager/ University Counsel!). Hence it is vital that a simple yet effective travel management system be implemented.

If developing a travel policy from scratch, it is important to focus on four key areas :
*Emergency Response Plan

In addition, effective travel management depends on two key people — the Trip Administrator (typically the Sport Clubs Administrator) and the Trip Leader (a Sport Club member who travels with the Club). For these two positions, determining ‘who is responsible for what’ is a core issue for effective travel management. In addition, to address the ‘plethora of paper’ issue, many campuses have developed custom software programs to help track and manage Sport Clubs travel.

While there will likely be resistance to the implementation of a new framework for managing Sport Clubs, moving in this direction has become a necessity given the high-risk nature of many of the sport clubs operating on campuses today, and also the unstructured and often ‘arms-length’ operation which many Sport Clubs currently enjoy. It’s time to move to a model that provides structure and minimizes injury through safe practices — while at the same time respects the need for Sport Clubs to ‘run their own show’ within some reasonable boundaries or framework.

For further information on the ‘Sport Clubs Framework’, contact the author directly at

For information on the ‘Sports Club Online Course’ which is based on the framework, go to

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