The most dangerous aspect of coaching is travel. School teams are frequently transported by van, often with the coach at the wheel. I’ve been that driver/coach dozens of times, and it can be risky business.
Coaches experience an adrenaline crash after competition and must often fight fatigue at the wheel. And being the captain of a vehicle containing other people’s children is an incredible responsibility. Their lives and the well-being of their families and friends is literally in your hands. The frightening thing is that their safety is sometimes out of your control. Snow, fog, oncoming drivers (possibly impaired), rain and ice may all be the cause of an accident you can’t prevent.
That’s why my heart goes out to the families of the high school athletes in New Brunswick, who were killed recently while driving home from an inter-school basketball game. I particularly feel for the coach who was at the wheel when their van hit a patch of ice and slid uncontrollably into the path of an oncoming transport. It’s every coach’s nightmare.
It has yet to be been determined whether it was a contributing factor, but the team was traveling in a 15-passenger van. Studies have shown that these vans lose their ability to maneuver when fully loaded. Part of the problem is that adding passengers to such vehicles raises their center of gravity, reducing their stability. The other problem is their configuration, in which a large portion of the vehicle extends past the rear wheels. It’s an unstable design.
Many schools now prohibit the use of such vans. This leaves many teams with a problem— how to provide transport to away games. A common solution is to rent two 7-passenger vans. The problem is a slightly higher cost and the fact that you need two drivers. This is a trade-off because the chances of finding two experienced drivers are less than finding a single driver who is good behind the wheel. The other option is to rent a bus with a professional driver. The obvious problem here is cost.
There is another solution — a 12-passenger van. They are essentially the same as a 15-passenger, but less of the vehicle extends beyond the rear wheels. Our squad has been using them this year and they’ve worked well. There’s enough room in the back luggage area to accommodate at least one bag for most of your passengers. And the cost is about the same as a 15-passenger van. Not all vehicle rental companies carry them, so don’t give up if the first company you contact says they’re not available.
It’s worth looking into.
Dick Moss, Editor,