Running a club
When running a club the earlier you start planning the easier your life will be later, when you’re eyes are bloodshot as your organising a trip at 2 am alongside that assignment you should have started weeks ago. Here are some sugestions as to how you could go about running your club.
Despite how you may feel your university days won’t last forever, your club might be successful and vibrant now but without fresh blood, your club will soon wither away when it comes time for you and your peers to graduate and move on from student caving.
Luckily for us, universities spend millions of pounds on marketing and recruitment each year. So all you need to do is convince people that despite what they may have believed previously they actually came to the university to go caving.
In order to do this, think like a fresher, what does a fresher want? They want to have new experiences, meet new people and challenge themselves. Caving clubs tick all of these boxes all you need to do is get to them before the other societies do. Aside from the exciting adventures which await them, you’re also offering them the opportunity to be part of a great community of people that spans across the UK and beyond and the longer they stick around the more they’ll realise this.
Typically a freshers first encounter with a caving club takes place at a freshers fayre, therefore, it is useful to attend these events be friendly and talk to people about caving, 95% of the people you encounter at these events you’ll probably never see again and freshers will drop out of your club in the first few weeks but 3-4 keen freshers is more than enough to keep your club in good stead so don’t be disheartened by this.
Be sure to design your freshers stall to be exciting and interesting, have a laptop with a reel of pretty caving pictures/videos running in the background, and backup laptops for when these run out of battery, pepper your stall with bits of caving/SRT equipment. Design a cool flyer with a list of your upcoming fresher events, be sure to have an active and easy to find online presence, collect emails and send people updates/reminders throughout the first few weeks of freshers season.
Some clubs give a presentation after advertising themselves at their freshers stall, this is useful as it allows you to inform and enchant a room of potentially interested people while giving them a chance to meet you and other freshers, these talks are often best held in pubs as it’s easier to convince people to stay behind for a drink afterwards.
Beyond this just avoid being cliquey and get organising your first trips, appropriate freshers trips vary from region to region so ask your club or refer to the caving regions section later in this document for some ideas of where to go for your fresher’s trips.
Student caving clubs are often the best place for people to learn how to cave, as the trainers are volunteers any training provided is typically free, apart from maybe venue entry and kit. Various skills workshops also take place at CHECC events throughout the year and there are some training resources at the end of this guide. In terms of training the next generation of cavers the best way to do this is generally to just go caving progressing from easy to hard caves gradually, but unless you cave exclusively in south wales you’ll probably have to teach/learn SRT at some point. Teaching SRT is a tricky task, fortunately, we’ve made you a syllabus template which should give your freshers a good idea what they need to learn.
First aid courses
If you’re interested in doing a first aid course for your club then you can get some great training from Sean Whittle of Dales Training based in the Yorkshire Dales. He’s currently offering to give university caving clubs discounted first aid course provided you can pay for the Venue, a caving Hut with a projector will usually do, the YSS is a decent place to hold a first aid course. If you ask nicely they may be willing to let you use their meeting room. If you want him to run courses outside of the Yorkshire Dales like at your university or down south then be sure to put book a B&B for him. He offers 2 options for his First aid courses.
Level 3 Outdoor First Aid. 16 hr Book and full certification £760 for a group of up to a maximum 12. That is if you supply the venue. (works out at £63 pp normally £125 pp)
14-16 hour unaccredited (not an actual qualification), “First Aid for Cavers” Certification only, no book. This is basically the same, without the ridiculous expense of the examination board. Some first aid knowledge is helpful. £60 pp, but no limitations on numbers, Though practically 16 is about the max, and this is dependent on the venue and realistically there will be a minimum of 8 to make it viable.
If done properly cooking for lots of people can be really cheap, healthy and tasty. You could walk into a supermarket knowing how many people are coming on your trip and simply guess how much food to buy. This works out surprisingly well most of the time especially for smaller groups where you can cook more interesting meals. But doing this does occasionally lead to a lot of leftover food.
For efficient food purchasing, you could use this spreadsheet to calculate how much food you’ll need and alter it to suit yourself. The art of making a good spreadsheet lies in making it as effective but also as simple as possible. Here the spreadsheet is laid out in an easy to read format and can be altered to suit your needs very easily.
You’re usually best off checking to see if your university A generous benefactor is prepared to give university clubs £1000 a year over the next year. We will provide more infomation about this soon.
The task of reading or drafting a risk assessment is something generally considered a boring thankless task prescribed by overprotective universities in order to prevent them from being sued. To some extent this is true and a to a large extent risk assessments are common sense, however, the risks involved with caving are real and it is your responsibility to ensure everyone is aware of the risks and how they are mitigated. For this reason, your club should provide every member with an easily accessible copy of your clubs risk assessment.
If you are unsure exactly what risk means or how to read a risk assessment, we have provided a brief explanation below along with an example copy of what a caving clubs risk assessment should look like.
A risk is made up of two things:
- A hazard/consequence (for example dying from hypothermia).
- The probability of that consequence occurring.
Both consequence and probability can be quantified (usually on a scale of 1-10), admittedly this quantification is subjective but gives you a good idea of how serious a risk is. Once quantified the scores are multiplied together (Consequence x Probability) to give a risk rating and it is this rating we used to decide whether a risk is acceptable or not.
Risks made up of a serious consequence and a high probability occurrence need to be mitigated in order to make them acceptable.
In the above case, the consequence (dying from hypothermia) will always exist in wet British caves but the probability of its occurrence can be reduced dramatically through simple steps such as making sure cavers are appropriately dressed, group shelters and high energy foods are available and that people are instructed to keep moving if they get cold.
Caving inherently contains many risks and the process of drafting a risk assessment helps us ensure risk remains at an acceptable level:
- Identify hazard
- Rate severity of the hazard
- Determine the probability of hazard occurrence
- Multiply hazard severity with probability of occurrence
- Determine whether risk level is acceptable or not
- If risk level is too high take steps to mitigate risks
If the risk level is still too high then it would be irresponsible to allow your trip to take place until the risks have been properly mitigated.
The above describes the bureaucratic process of assessing risk, this is useful however at times you will need to make more dynamic choices involving risks and you may not know what the right thing to do is, making the correct choices in situations like these, including the decision to do nothing and seek help, will come with experience and training. All the more reason to attend those training sessions.
If your reading this you’ve hopefully been around long enough to know how to plan and prepare for a trip, but in case you’ve forgotten here’s a reminder.
- Select a cave, with a backup dry cave option in case the weather stops the trip going ahead. Make sure your choice of cave is suitable for the members of your group.
- Arrange permits or a way to get hold of the keys to this cave if necessary.
- Organise transport.
- Organise Accommodation and Food if it’s a weekend trip.
- Print off descriptions/rigging guides/surveys this sort of information will prevent things from going wrong, read and process the information before you go in the cave so you have an idea what you’ll be coming up against.
- Pack all the kit you’ll need the night before, this includes your personal kit, rigging stuff, first aid kits and group shelters. Don’t forget to tie knots in the end of your ropes.
- Inform people of the nature of the trip send them the information you have on it if you can, wet/dry, short/long, tell them to bring extra layers if they’re going to be waiting around at pitches all day.
- Make sure all the club lights are charged.
- Get people to help you do all these things.