“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” –H.E. Luccock
My beginnings in campus rec
I began my journey with the NIRSA Championship Series long before it was ever called such. I was a student official at THE Ohio State University, all the way back when the year started with a “1.” I had just began officiating for OSU Rec Sports, and I was enjoying the opportunity. It paid bills and it appealed to my social side, allowing me to meet people and develop friendships. Pretty innocuous in terms of campus jobs—or so it seemed.
My intramural sport coordinator at the time invited me to participate in a NIRSA regional flag football tournament held on campus. I had been enjoying the job up to that point, and a few extra bucks never hurt a poor college kid. Plus, I had heard of maybe winning some trip to New Orleans or something. Who knew. I bit and agreed to work it. What I DIDN’T AGREE TO was the result of that regional. No, not the “Didn’t make first cut” result (I have to admit—wow, was I terrible). It was the “Maybe found my calling” result. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work and learn from some of the best in the field of campus recreation. It sparked something inside of me that, with the development of my mentors, helped me turn a corner and find my career.
It’s been twenty…ish…years since that aforementioned tournament, and I have to marvel at the direction and evolution the Championship Series has taken since then. The NIRSA Championship Series has meant a great deal to its participants and volunteers since its inception in 2006—and even in its iterations before that.
In 2016, Jacob Tingle, April Flint, and Dan Hazlett published “Exploring NIRSA Championship Series Professional Development Opportunities: Understanding Their Perceived Value to the Association” in the Recreational Sports Journal. Their article stated that NIRSA professionals find distinct and fantastic value in the volunteer involvement provided by the Championship Series. I am one of those professionals who has experienced this fantastic value. From student official to my current role within the Championship Series, my involvement has shaped me and my love for collegiate recreation. I now come into this academic year as the Chair of the Championship Series, and this position comes at a pivotal and exciting time.
Before I continue on, I would be remiss if I did not recognize and applaud the work of the outgoing work team chairs from last year. Laura Thomas, Oscee Wheatfall, April Flint, Drew Cantwell, and Arianne Judy have earned the highest commendations for their efforts in advancing not only their respective areas and work teams, but also the Championship Series as a whole. Dedicated individuals like these are what make working in the Championship Series so rewarding. Their abilities leave me in awe, and it has been an honor to experience their commitment and passion toward elevating the Series. Their personalities, energies, and knowledge will be missed.
I also want to extend a special thank you to Randall Ford, the outgoing Chair of the Championship Series. Randall was brought onto the executive team after the untimely passing of Sarah Fain in 2017. Sarah’s involvement in the Championship Series is legendary and her personality and compassion even more so. Randall handled the transition into Sarah’s executive spot with grace and humility, and served the Championship Series with vision and joviality. Randall continued to guide the Series in an upward direction with the introduction of Series 2.0, which updated and redefined the parameters of success for the Championship Series. Randall, I’ve enjoyed every second working alongside you. You are someone for whom I have great admiration and respect. Thank you for your service to the Championship Series, and good luck with your new opportunities with the NIRSA Foundation Board of Directors!
We’re ready for this next year
Our team has already hit the ground running for this upcoming year. Earlier in June, the Championship Series and its work team chairs convened in Columbus, OH for the Series Summit, a three-day meeting of some of the most talented and motivated individuals in NIRSA. During this meeting, we processed our first year under Series 2.0 and came to some definite conclusions:
- Series 2.0 was NECESSARY. Since its beginnings in 2006, the Championship Series has not had an update in its vision and principles. Much has changed, and we have to change with it.
- We offer premier experiences for our participants, student officials, and volunteers. Very few individuals can argue about the passion and detail we put into our regional and national tournaments. We have the expertise to accomplish this consistently.
- We provide professional and personal development opportunities for all who participate as volunteers—and these opportunities hone valuable skills and leadership abilities that are coveted in our field and beyond.
- We have only scratched the surface of what we can do and need to work on areas where we risk a diminishment in quality and opportunity within the Series.
While the first three bullet points are deserved pats on the back for a job well done over the years, the last bullet point is one we all need to focus on. Series 2.0 was a deliberate acknowledgment that evolution is required in order to continue thriving. The Series thrives, make no mistake, and we need to look at all areas to make sure we continue to keep our promise of providing that premier experience and holding to that purpose of experiential learning through sport.
Our work teams have been finetuning their goals and charges for the year to make sure they align with Series 2.0, and we couldn’t be any readier to get underway. We have already begun addressing many of our growth opportunities and concerns which have become increasingly prevalent within the Championship Series. We’re thrilled to have created a Unified Sport Task Force to continue advancing these divisions not only within basketball but within all sports at the regional and national level; the goal is to do so until they are considered commonplace. We have heard the concerns about how there’s been a declining interest in flag football over the years. Thanks to some great individuals, we’ve been able to reestablish a regional in Region III and begun formulating some long-term and sustainable plans for this sport.
Our club basketball league has grown by leaps and bounds. We’re purposefully establishing sites and divisions and are communicating how to participate in this league. We’re also working to improve the participant experience and tell the story of why the Championship Series is important to them. Our Series participants are our lifeblood, and we owe it to them to find ways to keep the participant experience engaging and exciting.
Communication is key
As the noted philosopher and 20th century rapper Pepa of Salt-N-Pepa once said, “Lack of communication is the key to any successful relationship going wrong.” This year, we want to make communication a theme with those who have a stake in the Championship Series. We recognize that over the years, there has been incomplete, inconsistent, and flat out incorrect information regarding the Championship Series. We want to eliminate as many—if not all—of these issues as we can.
One of the Series 2.0 principles is to lead with honest and open communication. We will work to uphold this principle so that we can continue to strengthen our trust between the Series and you, the participant. Likewise, if you have questions about the Championship Series, or come across hearsay regarding any aspect of the Series, I am personally asking you to contact us so we can give you the correct information. Connecting the dots without the proper numbering gives all of us the wrong picture, so let us help.
Managing the Championship Series is a HUGE undertaking, and our team is up to the challenge. You will not find a more energetic, passionate, and inspired group of individuals than those listed below. These executive team members and work team chairs are here to serve and make sure that we continue to advance the needle—as the wise past-chair Oscee Wheatfall once said. I am humbled to be able to work with such talented people.
- Marty Dempsey – Vice Chair, Sports – University of Florida
- Ashley Lax – 2nd Vice Chair, Operations – University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Valerie McCutchan – Director of National Sports Programs, NIRSA
- Nicole Jackson – National Sport Programs Coordinator, NIRSA
- Jeff Logsdon – Basketball Chair – University of Cincinnati
- Joshua Dietrich – Club Basketball Chair – Kent State University
- Jarrode Davis – Flag Football Chair – Ohio State University
- Jon Janis – Soccer Chair – University of Houston
- Gary Cahen – Tennis Chair – University of Central Florida
- Antonio Gonzalez – Assessment – University of South Florida
- DJ Doss – Brand Management – Kennesaw State University
- Kelli Rockwell – Standards – Georgia Tech University
- Abby Van Note – Student & Professional Development – University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Amanda Alpert – Unified Sports Task Force – University of Mississippi
My quote AAAAAALLLLLLL THE WAY at the top of this blog entry has a point. No one person can create and perform such an undertaking as in a symphony. It takes many focused and dedicated people to create such beautiful music. Our exec and work teams are ready to perform this year’s concerto, and we want to include you in it. You have the ability to volunteer, the opportunity to support, and the power to influence. Help us extol the virtues of the Championship Series and what it means to all who participate, and assist us with continuing its growth and progress. Talk to teams, talk to membership, talk to us.
Let’s accomplish this, together. All of us.