By Katie Helms, Nazifa Islam, and Nick Zumbrun

Over 2,600 attendees and 650 exhibitor representatives had a fantastic time building “A Strong Core, A Bright Future” in Kissimmee, Florida at the 67th  NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo. NIRSA members came together from all around the world from April 3–6 for what 2015–2016 NIRSA President Stan Shingles calls “the NIRSA family reunion.” Members had a chance to learn, network, and socialize together—we truly had a wonderful time in Florida!

This year, thirteen NIRSA 2016 attendees volunteered to take part in a new “I write for NIRSA” conference campaign. This campaign aims to bring more personal looks at various conference events to all Association members, whether you were able to attend NIRSA 2016 or are considering what you might find at NIRSA 2017.

Did you miss out on visiting the Career Opportunity Center this year? Don’t worry, Samantha Wallace—Coordinator for Youth and Activity Programming at the University of Arizona—writes all about her experience at the 2016 COC. Curious about what Take a Student to Lunch/Meet a Mentee for Life is like? Get ready to learn all about how this premier networking opportunity went for three different NIRSA members!

So read all about the 2016 NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo—even if you were there, this is your chance to see it in an entirely new light!

Expo fun

The 2016 Recreational Sports Expo was an enormous success! It featured 172 amazing vendors who showcased the most innovative products and services in the industry. The Expo Hall Grand Opening took place on Sunday evening directly after the Opening General Session. That night, nearly 2,700 attendees filled the aisles and secured their attendee duffle bag sponsored by Core Health and Fitness. Attendees then visited exhibitor booths as they tested products and learned how to improve their rec centers.

Exhibitors like Ed Avery of really enjoyed their time in the Expo. “Great thanks to so many of the NIRSA members who made my first experience with your people most enjoyable,” says Ed. “The variety and quality of the many programs were certainly helpful in my understanding of the recreation and intramural community, allowing me to better serve each member. However, it’s the friendliness and comradery of the group that makes it special. You made me feel welcome and a part of the gang.”

In between visits with vendors, folks tested their skills at the NIRSA Hoop Shoot Contest sponsored by 2XLGopherMondo, PlayyOn, Porter Athletic, and Spalding. Winners of the Hoop Shoot won a cash prize in addition to the new official NIRSA Basketball from Spalding!

Attendees also enjoyed trying the newest workout routines in the Fitness Forum presented by Life Fitness! There were plenty of early birds breaking a sweat during the early morning workout the next day. Katie Helms, Assistant Director of University Recreation at the University of Arkansas, was one of those early birds. She was happy to join the “I write for NIRSA” conference campaign to share her experience!

Later on Monday, attendees enjoyed a great cup or two of fresh brewed coffee courtesy of Core Health and Fitness before participating in the amazing Unified Sports experience with representatives from Special Olympics and Unified Sports athletes. Attendees got to learn more about the NIRSA’s recent partnership with Special Olympics while playing bocce ball and pickle ball with Unified Sports athletes.

After working up an appetite, nearly everyone grabbed lunch from the grab-and-go carts and enjoyed free ice cream thanks to Sasaki Associates. Many attendees then had a blast trying to deadlift more than Big D at the PLAE booth. Attendees also enjoyed great snacks, checked out what’s new in the world of suspension training, and did so much more in the Expo!

The NIRSA booth stayed busy throughout the Expo handing out duffle bags, pens, and Bluefish stress toys. The NIRSA booth was also the only place to enter to win the Star Trac Studio 3 Bike and Schwinn IP Pro 20 Bike donated by Core Health and Fitness. The grand prize winner of the Star Trac Studio 3 Bike was Nicole McKibben of South Dakota State University while Brynn Cox of Texas State University won the Schwinn IP Pro 20.

The NIRSA Recreational Sports Expo continues to be a monumental success year after year. Thanks to the support of our exhibitors, our 32 conference sponsors and NIRSA Partners, our volunteers, and attendees.  We can’t wait do it all again and see you next year in National Harbor!

Looking forward to National Harbor

We hope this year’s “I write for NIRSA” conference campaign has reminded you of how wonderful your time in Kissimmee was and made you look forward to another fantastic conference in National Harbor, Maryland in 2017. In National Harbor, there will be even more amazing educational sessions, inspiring speakers, a great Expo Hall, and so many fun networking opportunities!

Consider joining the ongoing “I write for NIRSA” campaign—lend your voice to the Association and gain professional development by writing feature articles for the NIRSA News. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring your unique perspective to all Association members. We would love to hear from you! If you’re interested in writing for NIRSA, please contact NIRSA Communications Coordinator Nazifa Islam.

Members can relive some fantastic NIRSA 2016 memories by checking out the NIRSA Facebook page, and the @nirsalive Instagram and Twitter feeds; a search for the #NIRSA2016 hashtag will bring up great moments from Kissimmee. Photos taken by Steven Miller, NIRSA’s official conference photographer, will be available in a matter of weeks—keep an eye on the NIRSA News for that announcement!

The Gaylord Palms was the perfect place to reconnect with friends and colleagues, to reaffirm our commitment to our strategic values, to strengthen our core competencies, and to support the important work NIRSA members are doing every day in the collegiate recreation field. We had a wonderful time building “A Strong Core, A Bright Future” with our NIRSA family and cannot wait to see everyone again next February in National Harbor for NIRSA 2017!

If you have questions or comments about NIRSA 2016 or NIRSA 2017, please contact NIRSA Director of Professional Development Kristen Gleason.