Crisis management is the process by which an organisation or group of people deals with an event that threatens to harm them. In our line of work this refers to you, the people you are managing and of course the team you are part of and the University you represent.

Although managing a crisis may not be something you generally think about as part of your role as a touring team manager, it is highly likely and probably inevitable that you will face some manner of crisis at some point in your career.

Increasingly, the sporting environment has been subjected to unpredictable events, however, not all incidents are critical, nor are all critical incidents of the same severity. Your management of critical incidents has a knock on effect onto many areas – what you cannot afford to do is put your head in the sand and think that it won’t happen to you, your team or your club or university. It will!

Of course, any sport – be it competitive or recreational – involves some manner of physical risk. The type and level of this risk depends on variables such as the activity involved, the location, the skill level of participants, the timing of the event and the number of spectators.

But what could possibly go wrong on tour?

Losing a room key is one thing – athletes getting drunk and committing or being subjected to sexual assault is on a completely different level.

Whatever the event, it is essential you are prepared to manage these risks. The variety of scenarios can range from mundane through to life threatening, but in all cases recognising that crisis will happen and planning for almost any eventuality is the best approach.

The best way to deal with is to put in place a process for its management, a process that can be reduced to 3 Ps:

  1. Predicting;

  1. Preventing; and

  2. Preparing.


Predicting refers to anticipating the possible problems that could conceivably occur prior to, during and immediately after a tour or an event.

  • Examine the context of your tour and identify issues that have happened within this context over time; and

  • More broadly, examine any incidents that may have occurred within your organisation previously and anticipate where problems may occur.

At this stage it could also be helpful for management to examine exactly how any previous incidents were handled – what strategies worked in the past, what was done poorly, and personnel who were particularly adept and those that weren’t.

You might like to consider the following examples: injury (minor to major) to a player; player send off during competition; death or serious injury of a player in or outside of competition; altercation with officials; racial vilification; player/coach conflict; player/player conflict; and alcohol and drug abuse.


Once the various situations have been identified the second P is prevent. If management can understand the source of any problem and take steps to remove it, then they have the best chance to control events.

Your organisation may for example have considered the issue of one of your athletes taking performance enhancing or recreational drugs. This is of course a possibility on any major tour and with any athlete including students.

Steps you can take to minimise this potential problem include ensuring players are aware of their professional and cultural responsibilities, and that random drug testing will take place.


The third P is prepare. This involves preparing a baseline crisis plan that can be activated on demand. Your plan doesn’t need to be lengthy but should include the following:

  • emergency 24 hour phone numbers of the personnel to be informed and involved, and each person’s assigned responsibility;

  • the appointment of one point of contact in the group to manage incidents;

  • an understanding of the types of crises that can occur,

  • escalation protocols (in other words, at what point do you need to notify others), and

  • a process for evaluation and locking in lessons learned – ‘The more you evaluate what happened, the better you’ll do next time’.

The articles that follow all describe a crisis of the type that you could reasonably expect to happen on a sporting tour.

How will you respond?