Whew! The NIRSA Annual Conference for 2019 is over and it’s time to get back to doing what we do day in and day out: supporting a health and wellbeing revolution by serving our students and campus communities. Conference week is always so rewarding, energizing, educational, and…let’s be honest, exhausting! Taking a page out of the Tom Brady playbook, I could use a nap! The record-breaking quarterback “firmly believe[s] that sleep and recovery are critical aspects of an effective and holistic training program.”

The importance of recovery

The dictionary definition of recovery is fairly straightforward:

Recovery: noun, plural re·cov·er·ies.

  1. an act of recovering.
  2. the regaining of or possibility of regaining something lost or taken away.
  3. restoration or return to health from sickness.
  4. restoration or return to any former and better state or
  5. time required for recovering.
  6. something that is gained in recovering.

However, looking at some of the related words to recovery really got me thinking.

Related words for recovery

return, improvement, resumption, readjustment, restoration, reconstruction, rehabilitation, resurgence, recuperation, revival, renewal, healing, comeback, rescue, rebound, upturn, gain, recreation, reformation, replacement

The following five words really resonated with me in the wake of our shared NIRSA Annual Conference experience in Boston:

  • Improvement – after you returned from Boston and rested, did you spend time reflecting on the things you learned that might help you improve yourself? Your programs? Your services?
  • Readjustment – Did you find the need or the desire to adjust how you build inclusive environments? How you interact with colleagues? How you serve students?
  • Resurgence – Are you stronger, more knowledgeable, or more inspired than before conference to do what you can to better someone else’s experience with you, where you are now?
  • Revival – Did you experience an awakening to a new idea? Did you discover a new motivation or a new urgency to make an impact on students’ lives?
  • Recreation – This is at the heart of what we do as a profession! Were you able to re-create your passion for the work we do?

I confess that I initially found myself a little surprised to see recreation listed among the words related to recovery. But, it offers me a new lens through which to view our recreation programs and services. Are they offered in such a way that students (and staff) can use them to recover? Recover from stress? From a lack of friends? From the woes of sedentary lifestyles? From bad decisions? Or from the many other ruts we can sometimes fall into?

I know that it can be tempting to see our facilities as bastions of happiness, as a place where participants can come to have fun in a safe, inclusive space. But, maybe, some of our folks just need a space to recover from a world that has beat them down or from situations that are out of their control yet impact them greatly. As much as they need a place to recreate, some members of our campus communities also need a place to recover from self-doubt and judgement. Can we be that as well as the fun place to hang out? These are all good questions for us as recreation professionals to reflect upon.

After seeing so many members of my NIRSA family in the same place—striving to learn new ways to serve our students, excited to connect and share ideas, serving our Association in so many ways—I am positive that the answer is a resounding YES!

“I think a spiritual journey is not so much a journey of discovery. It’s a journey of recovery. It’s a journey of uncovering your own inner nature. It’s already there.” –  Billy Corgan

Taking inspiration from Boston

In my volunteer leadership role as your NIRSA President, I had a unique perspective at this year’s signature NIRSA event. I was inspired by so many things at the conference this year:

  • I saw the Opening General Session crowd from on stage and the feeling of energy and excitement was palpable as we all gathered for the start of the conference.
  • I heard Seneca Wilson’s inspiring poem “I Rise” at the Lee Wasson People of Color Social.
  • During the LGBTQ & Friends Social, Rachael “Roach” Finley shared a heartwarming story about meeting her partner at a NIRSA Annual conference.
  • Chairman of Special Olympics International Tim Shriver delivered a fantastic keynote address about the power of inclusion to transform both the included and those who choose to include.
  • I also heard many others that had great messages during sessions – Dr. Atyia Martin, our international delegates, NIRSA members, and leaders in all areas of our governance.
  • I got to witness our incredible NIRSA headquarters staff do everything they could to help make the experience the best it could be for us as members.

I was also inspired by many great conversations among colleagues; conversations that helped us inspire, share, and relate to each other and the work we all do. I consider it a great privilege to be in front of this amazing NIRSA family to welcome and emcee a few of our times together. (Hopefully they were not complete faceplants. J)

Thank you to all the members who served in any leadership capacity during the conference and a special shout out to Walter Kolis, RCRSP and the Conference Program Committee for all of their hard work!

I hope that a positive conference experience inspires many of you to apply for leadership roles and seek out new opportunities to serve this amazing Association and the broader profession.

It takes a lot to put yourself out there and try to lead. But I hope you will take inspiration from the quote below:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”  – Theodore Roosevelt

I hope too that you were able to learn and grow during the Annual Conference. But, more importantly, I hope that after you’ve recovered from the conference, you are able to use what you experienced there to improve, adjust, revive, recreate, and ultimately have a resurgence of passion for providing programs and services that lead to a wellbeing revolution on your campus. Your students and yourselves deserve nothing less!

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.”  – Thomas Jefferson

Director of Campus Recreation at |

Kenneth W. Morton is currently the Director of Campus Recreation at Stephen F. Austin State University and is a Past President of NIRSA. Ken can be reached at mortonkw@sfasu.edu.