The Association has identified equity, diversity, and inclusion as a strategic value of the collegiate recreation profession. So it is with great pride that NIRSA’s volunteer leadership and the NIRSA Championship Series Committee announce recently-adopted updates to the participation guidelines and policies of the NIRSA Championship Series tournaments.

The updates surround the participation of student athletes who identify as transgender, and they underscore the Association’s commitment to fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for all participants, officials, tournament staff and organizers, spectators, and host schools. In brief, the changes—which will go into effect after the conclusion of the 2014 Flag Football National Championships with Spring 2015 events—can be summarized as follows:

NIRSA recognizes and celebrates the transgender student population among their tournament participants. Through the guiding policies of the NIRSA Championship Series tournaments, NIRSA empowers students to participate in intramural sports and sport club divisions based on their expressed gender identity.

Organizers of the NIRSA Championship Series and the volunteer leadership of the Association recognize that coming to know one’s gender identity does not happen in a single moment; it is a complex process that can occur over an extended period of time. So, while the full details of the approved amendments and additions to the policies and related tournament materials can be reviewed here, it is NIRSA’s “Statement for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” (adopted in August of 2013) that perhaps more clearly frames the commitment to the principles of social justice that the proposed updates aim to embody.

The Work Team charged with leading this update process—comprised of members of the NIRSA Championship Series Committee and the NIRSA Strategic Values Commission for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, as well as staff from NIRSA Headquarters—made its recommendations foremost to emphasize that inclusive sport for all is an important value championed by this tournament series. The updates that ultimately were adopted are the culmination of dedicated volunteer efforts and reflect feedback from over 100 thought leaders working within the fields of collegiate recreation, higher education, and beyond.

These updates are also consistent with strategic partnerships that have emerged for the Association over the past 18-24 months. Earlier in 2014, NIRSA was officially named as a member of the LGBT Sports Coalition—a group committed to creating a sports world where LGBT people can participate openly and fully without discrimination.

The NIRSA Championship Series has a decades-long history of running high quality tournaments that promote sportsmanship, camaraderie, fair play, and inclusive competition. Our volunteers and staff have the experience to know that newly-introduced policies do not always result in the desired outcomes when they are applied to actual human beings in real world situations; as always NIRSA remains open to your feedback. Send an email letting us know your stake in NIRSA Championship Series events and how you think we can improve The Series.

NIRSA remains committed to ensuring a high level of competition and we hope that through working closely with tournament participants who identify as transgender and campus officials, The Series will sustain its spirit of championship competition and will be safeguarded from teams or individuals who might consider misrepresenting their gender identity in an attempt to gain unfair competitive advantages.

The NIRSA Championship Series does not anticipate that the recently-adopted updates will noticeably impact the experience of the majority of tournament participant organizers and participants; however, if these changes make participation more inviting and inclusive for even one more individual, then the efforts of the many volunteer leaders involved in the process will have been of significant value.

In addition to reinforcing inclusive sport for all and maintaining the competitive integrity of our tournaments, it is NIRSA’s hope that these related updates provide clarity on a subject that continues to be complex. Although these updates only apply to NIRSA Championship Series related events, it is our hope that this model might serve as a resource and best practice for our NIRSA member institutions and even beyond.


If you have questions or comments, please direct them to NIRSA Director for National Sport Programs Valerie McCutchan or the NIRSA Championship Series Committee Chair, Stephanie McAlpine.