Every school is set up a little different when it comes to starting any kind of organization or club. Starting a skydiving club does mean a few more hoops to jump through but it can be done. There are a couple of tricks that help regardless of what your school requirements are and a couple of explanations of liability that can give the school some peace of mind when it comes to considering skydiving as a sport. The following are some steps of action that are fairly standard across the board as far as most colleges are concerned and other hurdles that can be overcome. This will provide a good starting point to work from.
The first step is to research the classifications of different organizations at your school and what the requirements of each of them are. For instance, at Georgia Tech we have cultural clubs, interest organizations, and sports clubs. The sports clubs are organizations with a competitive focus that compete in collegiate competitions. This is a recommended route to take because it is much easier to petition for a club that is competing against other colleges and universities. Your college or university doesn’t really have the ability to argue that no other school would do this when there are nearly 100 other schools that will do this and have done it since 1961.
Once you have determined what the focus of your club is going to be then you have to find out what action to take to actually become an organization. At Georgia Tech you must first go to the student government to become a recognized organization. There are several requirements that need to be met for this to happen:
Having a plan of action and competitions already set shows that you are moving in a positive direction and shows that this whole skydiving thing is possible.
There are a few ways to meet these requirements without taking too much effort.
First, building a membership base is important because some schools require student numbers and proof of each member having paid dues. This can be overcome and a large membership can be shown by hosting a Tandem Day at your local drop zone. Many times a drop zone will want to help the school out in hopes of gaining future business. If the drop zone can offer a discounted rate, you can then up charge half of what the discount was and use this for each person’s dues. Ask each person to sign up for your club and record their student number and the day they jumped. It’s easy to get a membership of 10, 20 or even more this way. This takes care of your minimum dues requirement.
The constitution is only a little bit of trouble and not as big of an undertaking as you might think. This is mostly because other constitutions exist and most of what a constitution states is that the club abides by “Robert’s Rules of Order”. This Robert’s Rules of Order is used by most universities and organizations as a diplomatic grounds because, let’s face it, we want to jump and not just deal with politics. The best thing to do is try to find another organization on campus and use the same basic idea that their constitution uses.
In addition, you really only have to state that the club will abide by all rules and regulations of the USPA (United States Parachute Association). This includes required membership for any certified skydivers in the club. The USPA also needs to be a requirement for insurance purposes. Most universities and colleges require insurance for their competitive clubs and the USPA covers this. This is a very crucial argumentative point and an important requirement to help avoid being turned down by the school.
Having a purpose or intent for charter that is well written and focused shows that you take this very seriously and that there is a reason to go skydive with other schools. The idea of a school becoming a competitive part of a fast growing sport in the collegiate arena can be very appealing. This can provide more positive feedback for the school and can be a selling point, not just for diversity of activities, but for a showing of a well run school whose students can accomplish anything. This is a very good point to be made to the student government when requesting a charter.
The National Collegiate Competition is run by the USPA and has been around since 1961 with more than 40 colleges competing year after year. The next competition is coming up in December (between Christmas and New Years) and is open for registration up until the day before competition. This is an outstanding goal to set for your up and coming club and a great one to advertise to the school when petitioning for your charter. Check out the USPA website for more information on the competition, and remember that you only need to be a college student to compete. If your club isn't up and running yet, that's OK, get over to the competition and have some fun!
This can have a couple of answers that may work. First of all, skydiving is not anymore of a dangerous sport than any other competitive sport and any school government would be hard pressed to find statistics stating otherwise. But, with inherent risks in any sport, the school wants to hear a couple of things that will relieve them of the responsibility of student injuries.
In order to become a certified skydiver, you must first complete an AFF (Advanced Freefall Course) or another type of certification. At Georgia Tech, we currently do not have any club instructors so everything is run through the drop zone. An aspiring student calls the drop zone and makes their own appointment and then completes the chosen certification under drop zone gear with drop zone instructors. All liability is thus far taken by the drop zone with no interference needed from the club.
After becoming a certified skydiver which includes completing at a minimum six hours of ground school and seven actual skydives, the new skydiver is required to join the USPA for insurance purposes. The new skydiver is also required to fill out a drop zone waiver releasing the drop zone of liability and stating that they understand the inherent risks of the sport.
Certified skydivers using their own gear or gear rented from the drop zone carry no liability with the school. This means that a skydiver can get certified and continue to skydive as well as compete without the school actually ever getting involved. The only real objective is to be able to use the school’s name in competition.
If your club is just starting up then you probably do not have any school owned equipment to worry about or for the school to worry about equipment liability. This is one of the details where you get your club started first and purchasing equipment later is easier with fewer questions.
If liability questions are asked, the USPA and FAA require every voluntarily jumped parachute rig to have a reserve parachute. This reserve parachute must meet certain FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations as well as only being packed by an FAA certified rigger. The following website link is an extremely helpful reference to have available to you when presenting this to your school. I strongly recommend printing it up and having a notebook available during your presentation. Become familiar with this information and use it to your advantage.
In most cases, it is easier to become a club first before asking for equipment. There are usually limitations on how much funding an organization can receive in their first year and this is usually best spent making sure you get to a competition and can show the school’s presence at a competition. Once you show the school’s presence at a competition for the year you can apply for funding the following year with an already established status as an organization of the school.
The USPA National collegiate competition has been occurring since 1961 with 40 colleges competing throughout the 1960’s. This number has been growing along with the sport and is proof of the priority of safety within the sport. Georgia Tech first gained its charter to have a Sport Parachute Club in 1969 and has been a competitor in this competition ever since. We have a spotless safety record over the 38 years of the club’s presence in the sport. The sport is also one which encourages good sportsmanship and friendly competition with other colleges all over the nation. There are very few sports where all of the teams help each other out to this magnitude. This type of camaraderie is advantageous to any college or university and is an outstanding public relations tool that can be used to the school’s benefit. Many of the world’s best skydivers are alumni of college programs that have gone on to improve not only the sport but the sport’s extremely safe equipment.
I hope this has been a helpful starting point for anyone looking to start a club at their school. A great deal of whether a club is approved or not is in the presentation and preparedness of those looking to start the club. These tips about liability and the web references provided have been very valuable year after year when it comes to protecting our charter and helping other schools get started. I would suggest making a notebook that contains as much of this information as possible and having it presentable to any group that may have questions. This stops many hang-ups before they grow into another hurdle.
After doing some research on how your particular school government works and the requirements of starting a club, if you are looking for further help, you may contact me through the following website. I would be happy to compose a letter on behalf of the Georgia Tech Sport Parachute Club in order to encourage membership and collegiate competition in the outstanding sport of skydiving.
College Skydiving and the USPA are now working hand-in-hand to provide the best information for upcoming and current college skydiving clubs. There are many similar goals that both organizations are interested in achieving, and working together makes these goals much more attainable.
The USPA is offering assistance in the form of legal advice pertaining to sample club waivers and a sample club constitution. They are also providing factual information in the form of statistics and trends of the skydiving community in order to better discuss liability issues with school administrations and student governments. They have developed a page on their website with detailed information that is a must for any club to have on file. You can find this information at www.USPA.org on the USPA's Starting a College Club page.
College Skydiving wants to pursue the social and creative outlets of each club and club member, as well as any college skydiver for that matter. This will be accomplished by continuing to push the Forum on our site and providing a news outlet for all college skydivers to keep us updated on events, accomplishments and happenings. There are plenty of features to keep the site new and interesting, but most importantly it will be an information outlet that is easy to use and based on the interest of the entire college skydiving community.
Don’t hesitate to submit ideas and suggestions via our Contact Page, and keep checking back for updates!
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