Virginia Tech’s Sport Club Participant Code of Conduct Agreement
July 16, 2011
Assistant Director of Recreational Sports
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.
At our annual Sport Club Officer Workshop, a significant amount of time is spent discussing expectations for club/individual behavior when teams are both hosting competitions and traveling to other campuses to compete. My staff and I emphasize the responsibilities inherent in representing Virginia Tech, the Department of Recreational Sports, one’s team and oneself when competing as a member of one our sports clubs. Despite our on-going efforts, we have had to deal with various behavioral-related situations over the years with some of our clubs that points to the fact that at least some of our sport club officers and team members do not fully grasp either the nature of the relationship between the sport club program and the university or the expectations placed on them by the sport club staff.
Following an alcohol-related incident in Spring, 2010 that resulted in a two-year suspension of our men’s and women’s club tennis teams, it became obvious to the sport club staff that something needed to be done to clearly outline our expectations for student behavior and to help students understand the potential ramifications of not meeting those expectations. Although the overwhelming majority of our sport club participants are excellent representatives of the Virginia Tech sport club program, it only takes one or two students to place an entire team in a bad situation, as our tennis clubs found out a few months ago.
Drawing on discussions that started at the 2009 NIRSA Sport Club Symposium in San Diego and continued through that summer, we decided that it was time to formalize our expectations for student behavior for our sports club program. Based on resources shared at the San Diego symposium, particularly from Temple University and the University of Colorado at Boulder, we designed our “Sport Club Participant Code of Conduct” http://www.recsports.vt.edu/clubs/conduct.php and began incorporating it into our program in Fall, 2009.
Since we require every sport club participant to complete an “Assumption of Risk/Proof of Health Insurance” form, students are required to read and agree to the Code of Conduct first, before they are taken to the Assumption of Risk Form on our website. Every student must check off each box/provision of the Code of Conduct, and electronically sign the document, in order to access the “Assumption of Risk” Form. In order for a student to participate in our sport club program, they do not have the option of agreeing or not agreeing to the Code of Conduct; if they do not sign the Code, they cannot complete the Assumption of Risk Form and they cannot be a member of one of our clubs.
The Code of Conduct addresses the primary areas of concern we have for our sport clubs; drug and alcohol possession & usage, sportsmanship issues and hazing, among others. The Code also contains links to both our Sport Club Handbook and the university’s “University Policies for Student Life”, for additional information and detail regarding expectations for student behavior, not limited to the context of sport clubs. We take time to review the Code at our fall club officer workshop, explain the reason for having the Code, use it to begin a discussion about VT sport clubs, their relationship to the Department of Recreational Sports, and the potential consequences to both individuals and entire teams if provisions of the Code are violated. Students can no longer claim that they did not know about or understand what types of actions or behaviors are not allowed/unacceptable/illegal by either Recreational Sports or the university as a whole.
We have found that implementing a Code of Conduct has been extremely helpful to both the sport club staff and to our sport club officers and team members. It has helped to clearly establish and define expectations for behavior, and has served to impress on our students the responsibility that accompanies the privilege of representing Virginia Tech in intercollegiate athletic competition.