It started unraveling as they paddled their kayaks back towards the dock. Nearing the narrow estuary, as it opened up to a wider stretch of water, one of the kayaks suddenly tipped over, throwing its two female occupants overboard. And they couldn’t manage to get back aboard.

Watching this scary scenario unfold, my friend quickly paddled over to assist the instructor. After several attempts to get the two ladies back in the boat, this rescue strategy was abandoned; it was taking too long, and the kayakers were getting tired. It was agreed that the best solution was to tow the kayak back to the dock—with the two shivering paddlers clinging to the rear of the vessel. It took a little time, and a lot of effort, but fortunately all ended well.

I asked my friend: what went wrong? His answer serves as a heads-up for all recreation professionals who oversee non-credit instructional programs:

  1. Before the trip started, the instructor did not conduct any training on how to get back into a kayak after a spill.
  2. The instructor didn’t ask anyone about previous padding experience. And since it was a relatively easy paddling route, he made an assumption that everyone could handle it.
  3. The instructor had no experience in rescue technique or procedures.

What does the scenario tell you?

The kayak instructor made assumptions about his paddlers. As the recreation administrator in charge of instruction programs (especially higher-risk programs), you should not assume that instructor certifications cover everything—especially when it comes to dealing with an emergency.

Even if an instructor certification process does cover everything, you can’t safely assume that your instructors actually follow the required protocols.

What do you need to do?

Your first priority should be to evaluate instructors of higher-risk programs. Your second priority is to make sure that your instructors are trained across multiple areas or in risk management; negligence awareness training isn’t covered in most certification programs. But it can save lives!

Consider reviewing the staff training and professional development webinar videos on ‘Negligence and Risk Management’ developed by McGregor & Associates. These videos focus on awareness and help people to look at situations through different sets of eyes, thereby strengthening their risk management mindsets.

For more information on these videos, visit the SportRisk website.

McGregor & Associates is a leader in campus recreation risk management

We have been in the campus recreation risk management business for over 20 years. We have a proven track record, are widely known, and cited across North America as the go-to company for risk management help. It’s why NIRSA decided to partner with McGregor & Associates in promoting the SportRisk ‘Best Practices’ Risk Assessment Tool!

So don’t wait any longer. To register and learn more, visit the SportRisk website or contact President of McGregor & Associates Ian McGregor.

Ian McGregor, PhD, is currently the President of Ian McGregor & Associates.