These next few weeks will provide endless new opportunities and experiences for a lot of folks. From new and returning participants to young and experienced professionals, tournament time is always the best time! A lot of folks in our field got their start officiating at these very tournaments and many—if not all—could (or should I say will) tell you about their first tournament experience and, even better, show you the random All-Tournament award they received way back when.
The tournaments represent a mini-family reunion of sorts for us all. We talk a lot about the NIRSA family, and what better excuse to go see family than working early mornings and late nights in less than ideal circumstances just to create a new memory? For the officials, it’s a time to see where they stack up alongside other officials and to build new relationships with individuals who enjoy the sport of officiating as much as they do. As for the participants, not only do they get the competition they seek but they get an opportunity to experience a new environment and enjoy the comradery of traveling and competing with their teammates.
Across the country, we strive to put on the best product possible for participants—all while making sure that student development remains a high priority. I know a lot of us can explain what benefits participants and volunteers gain from tournaments, but sometimes the people we report to need to see the actual data. Many of you are familiar with the “Exploring NIRSA Championship Series Professional Development Opportunities: Understanding Their Perceived Value to the Association”, the first part of a research project conducted and compiled by NIRSA members Jacob Tingle, Dan Hazlett, and April Flint. This research project outlines the value these tournaments have for professionals volunteering at them. These NIRSA professionals are currently in the process of conducting the second phase of this research, which looks at the perceived value of tournaments to students. The upcoming tournaments are crucial to this research and will help provide great insight into the importance of what we do and why we do it.
Anytime I hear about a tournament having to be cancelled, I feel for everyone missing out on such a great opportunity. Sometimes—even after all the marketing, promoting, and emailing—the tournament just doesn’t come together. I firmly believe this should never be the case. There are so many institutions around and so many students looking to participate. We all play a small part in helping these tournaments take place. Whether it’s asking your championship teams to consider playing in a nearby tournament to test their skills or if you’re fortunate enough to be able to support your teams in attending tournaments, we should always make sure students know about these opportunities.
In addition to making students aware of the opportunities NIRSA provides, we should be aware of the other tournaments they’re involved in. We like to give our teams and students the autonomy to make informed decisions, but there are a lot of organizations out there who don’t hold the same values when it comes to tournaments and student development. And so, unfortunately, students do not get an amazing tournament experience every single time they decide to participate in one. This isn’t to claim NIRSA members consistently put on the best tournaments possible—we’re all always looking to improve every aspect of our tournaments—but we do know that our values are focused on what’s best for the student.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the Championship Series, I encourage you to apply for the 2nd Vice Chair position that will be accepting applications soon. This is a chance to provide leadership and help guide various work teams. On top of all of that, you get to work alongside good people like Val McCutchan, Randall Ford, and Scott Flickinger. If you decide against taking this chance, another great way to support the Championship Series is by supporting the Student Officials Development program. Through officiating, students build skills like conflict resolution, communication, problem-solving, and decision-making. Young officials who participate in NIRSA’s training become lifelong sports fans who give back to their communities both on and off the field. So please consider donating today and supporting this wonderful part of the Series.