Issue 6 | Volume 4 | 2015
FOCUS TOPIC - ATHLETIC TEAM TRAVEL
Columbus Prep is a co-ed boarding and day school of 500 students in grades 6-12. Each spring, the boys’ baseball and lacrosse teams travel south during spring break to tune-up in a warmer climate. They all travel together on a charter bus and the coaching staff serves as chaperones. The school policy requires that teams stay in a hotel with only interior room corridors and doors. Typically, 3 to 4 athletes room together. The teams usually travel to a small college town, where they can use the training facilities and drum up some competition with local schools. This specific year, one of the best players on the baseball team missed the bus and after a few phone calls was allowed to drive his own car down to meet them. His parent had given permission over the phone.
Upon arrival in Shelton, Virginia, the coaches discovered that the hotel did not have exterior doors and that much of the facility was under construction. Because the rooms were all pre-paid in advance, they made the decision to stay there anyway. Because the students ate their dinner on the road prior to arrival, they were checked into their rooms and were given a 10:00 pm lights out curfew, which was two hours away. The boys were advised which rooms the coaches occupied and told to not leave the facility. They could visit in each other's rooms until curfew. The coaches stayed in their rooms until it was time to check on lights out.
At approximately 10:15 pm, one coach discovered that two of the four boys in Room 235 were missing. The roommates did not know the whereabouts of the missing boys. The coach notified the Head Coach who proceeded to double check all of the other rooms and the lobby area of the hotel. After almost 90 minutes of searching, the two missing boys were found standing in the middle of the empty hotel pool, smoking what seemed to be cigars. The contraband was confiscated and the boys shuffled back to their room and were told to meet with the coaching staff in the morning. In the morning, they received a stern talking-to and were threatened with going home if another issue occurred. No calls were placed to the school administration or the boys’ parents.
The next morning, the coaches went from room to room in an effort to wake up the players on both teams. Upon opening the door to Room 141, the coach saw a young lady lying in one of the beds and one for the players kneeling up and drinking what was obviously a beer. The two other boys assigned to the room were both lying in the other bed. Upon questioning, it was discovered that the beer drinking lad had gone down the hill (after curfew) to the local convenience mart and purchased the beer. There he met the young lady who worked in the store. At some point thereafter, the woman joined the teen in his room where they drank and “partied” through the evening.
SPOTLIGHT TOPIC - STUDENT TRAVEL
Legal Duties of a Coach
What "hot button" issues relate to safety and security?
What changes in policy could have been made to address these issues?
What could have been prevented by better communication and planning?
After the young woman departed, the coaches met with all three boys. They were told that they were responsible for each other's behavior, would be let off with a warning for now and the school head would be informed after the trip. While no promises could really be made, the coaches planned on disciplining all three boys with extra running that afternoon. No calls were made to school leadership or parents during the trip. When the teams returned to school after Spring Break, the Head of School was notified and all three boys were suspended for a week. The parents of the two bystanders tried to appeal the suspension under the grounds that their children had not really done anything wrong. They also protested that the students were not properly oriented about rules and expectations and they did not sign anything acknowledging an extension of school rules during the trip.
How prepared (or trained) are your coaches regarding First Aid/ CPR and Crisis Management?
What happens if a participant violates school policy while on the road to an athletic contest or overnight trip?
What do coaches do if a participant breaks the law while at an away game or overnight trip?
Do your coaches ALWAYS have all the necessary contact information with them?
Have all of your coaches gone through a significant reference and background check procedure? Child abuse training?
Are all those driving a bus to and from games and events trained and legally allowed to do so? Even for scrimmages?
Does special attention and preparation accompany lodging procedures when overnight travel is required?
Do your coaches, even those coaching alone, know exactly how to handle the situation when an injured player needs to immediately go to the hospital?
Does someone from the administration always know the exact details of every away game or competition in advance?
Is every incident properly reported in a timely manner?
Sample Athletic Travel Policy
The scenarios in this case study are based on real-life situations that have occurred in multiple schools over time. They are representative of the types of challenging situations that schools routinely face. Any similarity to actual schools or individuals of the same or similar names is purely coincidental.
Coach-Driver Safety Packet
Nancy Beatty was a multi-sport championship coach prior to becoming the Director of Athletics at Providence Day School (Charlotte, NC).
Some of my best memories as a high school student-athlete were the bus trips with my teammates. Our bus trips usually involved shared stories, long naps, playing cards, and always laughter. While I was never concerned with safety as a student-athlete, I have learned a great deal over the past 30 years as an administrator and coach regarding the risks associated with team travel.
Safety before, during, and after an event should always be our focus and priority as a coach. Whether traveling to your rival down the street, abroad, or to a special event with your team, safety of your travel party should be your number one priority. This common sense best practice involves #2, #12, and #13 of our Legal Duties for Coaches (see link above): Supervise at all times, develop an emergency plan, and provide safe transportation. So many times we overlook the risks involved in traveling to our games, practices, and/or special events as a team. We take for granted that the bus will not break down, that our drivers know where they going, or who will be on the bus when we return to school.
My advice for all coaches who travel with teams is to develop a travel checklist for all of your travel events. Your checklist should include the following: directions to the event, a detailed itinerary of the travel event, travel party roster (including assistant coaches) with emergency contact numbers and any known medical conditions of students or coaches, hotel accommodations, and a record of the student-athletes who are returning with the school-provided transportation. Share this information with your team’s parents and school administrators prior to your departure. In the case of an emergency, each coach who is traveling should have emergency contact numbers for the school administrators and the student-athletes. Finally, and, most importantly, remember that supervision is a full-time responsibility. Supervision takes place on stops and breaks along the way and even upon returning from a late night game. The coaching staff should be the last to leave campus after a game and or practice. Students never should be left alone while waiting for a parent to pick them up. Safe Travels!
Athletic Team Travel is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Having coached multiple sports over my professional career, few parts of my life have given me as much joy as athletic competition. As both a coach and an athlete, there were always issues and challenges that began with the team getting on a bus or van and ending after a long road trip. In the moment, we did not think about it much, but times have really changed. Please find below some additional pointers about this important topic.
Driver Training: Most schools ask their teacher-coaches to serve as drivers. It's important that a specific school-based driver training program is in place. Most of the time, drivers meet the minimum requirements, which for smaller buses is simply to have a license. See our Helpful Links above and on this month's landing page for a school based driver training packet.
Creating Emergency Injury Plans : New fields, teams and experiences mean players are at an increased risk of injury when they’re on the road. Your school's trainer (if you have one) is not always with you and sometimes injuries require treatment before or after the game. Keep first aid kits in the vehicle where you can get to it, not under it, to cover small injuries or at least stabilize major ones. On overnight trips, make note of local hospitals or walk-in clinics where players can go in case something happens. Ideally, no one will ever visit these places, but knowing where they are can save time and stress.
Each month, in our Week 4 Deep Dive, we turn to a real-life expert to share some best practices and wisdom with you.