When thinking of club sports, the physical aspect of sports might come to mind first. The program is known for a wide array of sport activities, but lesser known and the most beneficial aspect of club sports is the development of leadership skills for students.
As a campus rec professional, you need to know how to step back and allow students this growth opportunity, but also know when and how to help them along. The first key step to success is organization.
“In order to run a club sports program, it takes organization and effective communication to the clubs in order to help them with their travel and needs,” said Michael Castaneda, the assistant director of sport programs for campus recreation at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “We ask our clubs to send us their practice and game schedules at the beginning of the school year in order to reserve the fields for them, and I always make sure to have a calendar of when the clubs have home matches or when they are traveling in order to complete the necessary paperwork.”
Staying ahead of the game, literally, proves most beneficial for both club leaders and campus rec professionals in ensuring all aspects of the club are ready. “Have dates for meetings, paperwork, concussion testing, etc. done and shared with students early on in each semester,” suggested Jenny Larson, the assistant director for campus recreation and wellness for sport programs at Elon University.
Furthermore, communication with club leaders and other campus rec departments goes hand-in-hand with staying organized. “Make sure you have good relationships with the offices on campus that you think you will need to partner with most frequently,” said Nick Brigati, the senior assistant director for competitive sports at Penn State University.
One of the offices necessary to partner with is the athletics department. “You frequently have to partner with athletics because they may have specialized spaces you need for your sports that campus rec can’t otherwise provide,” said Brigati.
Another important office to partner with on campus is risk management. It can ensure protection for the program and its users. “If you are fortunate enough to have an athletic trainer, that is awesome, but if not, invest in safety training with staff members either way to make sure they can handle injuries well,” suggested Larson.
Additionally, staying in regular communication with field maintenance staff will stay beneficial throughout the year. “I meet with them twice a semester and send them information on large tournament weekends and upcoming dates,” said Larson. “When I send out communication for the week events, I include them so they can see if anything changed and any updates to home events.”
Those most important to stay in communication with are the club leaders. “Try to create a relationship with the leadership of each club in order to create unity between the professionals and the clubs,” said Castaneda.
Larson finds being a presence in club sports rather than a bystander is how you enhance leadership skills for your students. “As a club sports professional, I start the year off by collecting leadership goals and helping them get to those goals wherever they may be,” she said. “It is the leadership’s opportunity each year to grow the team or not, depending on their actions.”
With all the club sports dos, there is one don’t to remember. “The role of a club sports program is not to be the one who recruits new organizations; it’s more about being one who is able to help organizations along in their affiliation processes with club sports and not necessarily seek out students to be in a particular club,” said Brigati.