Students join club sports to have fun, play on a team, stay active, socialize and so on. They do not join teams to learn about budgeting, risk management, or diversity and inclusion. However, club sport officers must undergo the necessary training and learn about all of these topics in order to manage their team effectively and safely.
The question then becomes, how can you present all of this information and provide these trainings in the most effective and engaging manner? “The biggest challenge is buy-in of the students,” said Mandy Madden, the assistant director for club sports at University of Notre Dame. “Their plates are already full, they have majors, projects, tests, papers and a lot of them have campus jobs. But now they are leaders within their club team that practice two or three times a week, and the majority of them travel on the weekend, too. So how do I get the buy-in when they are already so busy?”
Madden’s first solution is a simple one: free swag. She hosts an officer’s retreat every fall, usually the first Sunday after classes start. At least two different officers from each club are required to come — usually the president and treasurer. The retreat lasts around five hours and always includes free swag, as well as lunch.
“We start off with basic policies and procedures,” explained Madden. “We will talk about risk management, financial management, and then we will go into some educational stuff like alcohol education, diversity and inclusion, Title 9, and various things like that. We will usually do some type of leadership 101, how to be a leader, maybe watch a TedTalk, or have a guest speaker, and then a team building activity as well.”
As Madden explained, the key to a successful training is keeping the students involved and engaged. She avoids doing all the talking. “I try to bring in people like an Athletic Trainer to talk about risk management or the Office of Student Life to talk about hazing and alcohol education or someone from the LGBTQA office to talk about diversity and inclusion, so they are seeing different faces throughout the day. It spices up the presentation,” she said.
However, the fall officers retreat is just the tip of the iceberg for Madden. Additional trainings should be planned to provide maximum opportunities for learning and development. She also suggested offering a transitions training toward the end of the spring semester to give incoming officers a chance to meet with outgoing officers.
“This is more lecture based, for an hour or two, just saying welcome to the program,” explained Madden. “Let everyone get to know one another, and let them know what they should be planning over the summer. Give them the things they should be thinking about, the information they need to get from the current president before they graduate, what to expect come fall, etc.”
Another idea is a leadership series, which Madden hopes to implement at Notre Dame within the next year or two. This provides officers with even more leadership and professional development opportunities throughout the semester. For example, officers might get a basic financial management training at the retreat, but they still might not understand how to develop a budget or balance a check book. These sessions dig deeper into some of the topics covered at the retreat.
“Providing a budget education 101 class in September that officers can come to and maybe in October we bring in someone from the LGBTQA office who talks about how to provide an inclusive environment within your club team,” said Madden. “It just depends on the resources that you have on campus and what you have access to, but very rarely would I present on a topic because you want it to be a special event for them.”
These additional resources are extremely beneficial, because they help students develop skills that will not only help them as club sports officers, but in their careers beyond college. “This stuff is going to benefit you not just now, but in the long run,” added Madden. “You can put this leadership series and these educational sessions on your resume as additional education, or talk about them in a job interview.”
The final step in developing an engaging officer training: Ask for student feedback. Get your students involved, send surveys, annual reports and determine what will interest them most. “Ask your students what they need,” said Madden. “What education pieces are lacking? I feel you get more buy-in when you have involvement from the students and hear it from them. I am constantly asking my students where they think we should have the training in the fall or what swag item they want. Get your students involved and ask those questions.”