“Sometimes the slightest things change the directions of our lives, the merest breath of a circumstance, a random moment that connects like a meteorite striking the earth. Lives have swiveled and changed direction on the strength of a chance remark.” -Bryce Courtenay
Nothing can feel more exciting and more chaotic at the same time than the start of the academic year. As our students return to our respective institutions, we hope that the changes and additions made to our programs create opportunities they’ll take advantage of throughout the year. The influx of new students—as well as those returning—always produces events that can be memorable and, in the right circumstances, inspiring. The beauty of collegiate recreation is that we never have to look far for inspiration. A casual perusal of Facebook a few days before writing this post was one of those inspiring moments for me. My colleague Greg Durham, Assistant Director for Competitive Sports at Creighton University, wrote about an experience that happened during his flag football training:
“Tonight, at the third night of flag football training, a new student official let me know that she had never participated in organized sports. Curious, I asked her why she wanted to officiate. She said that she saw how much intramural officiating changed one of her friends at Michigan State.
My student’s primary goal wasn’t to get a paycheck or to work her way up the campus rec ladder. She came out to ref flag football because she saw how influential officiating was on one of her friends who looked like just her and shared a similar story. She wanted to develop her confidence and her presence as a human, specifically a young Indian woman.
Sometimes our students have incredible stories. She completed flag football training tonight—she’s eager to learn and to develop. I’m really excited to see her develop. These stories make all the late nights worth it.”
How can we not read this and think about the opportunities we, as professionals, have been able to offer our participants? Many of us are in collegiate recreation because we enjoy presenting chances for others to grow and recreate. This story, along with many others I have read and experienced over the years, is one that makes me smile and affirms my choice of profession. It’s also one that makes me question what we can do to continue bringing these prospects to our students. What can we do to further our participants’ experiences and growth? What other opportunities can we introduce and give to our students to bring a new and unique spotlight to our programming?
What else can we give?
Making Opportunity Known
The NIRSA Championship Series Flag Football regional season is right around the corner, and the opportunities for officials and teams to participate have been made available. I cannot fully explain to you the impact that these regionals have had on my development as a student and a professional. My first exposure to a NIRSA regional was in 1999 as a student official—and it was unforgettable. The evaluators, volunteers, teams, fellow officials…everything felt premier, like it was meant to happen specifically the way it did. Twenty years later and I am still in awe of our volunteers’ abilities to create that same premier experience for individuals today. I am thrilled that the officials of today continue to be bestowed with opportunities to grow and learn their craft. Our improvements in technology and teaching methodology now rival those of a collegiate officiating camp, and that is impressive. The reason we have such phenomenal officials is because we show them that path through the Championship Series. However, I hope we’re offering the same opportunities to our student participants by making the Championship Series known to them as well.
The backbone of the Championship Series is participation by our student teams. We can have student officials that get 99.9% of all calls correct (no official is ever 100% correct), volunteers that give five-star service and effort at regional and national sites, and work teams that bring progress and innovation to the Series. It means nothing, though, if we do not have a purpose to do this work.
Our purpose is to bring experiential learning to student participants. Through that experience we bring those participants chances to develop skills that can be transferred to other aspects of their lives. Whether it’s a deepened appreciation for their sport and opponents, leadership skills to prepare a team for play, or an opportunity to educate their campus about intramural and club involvement through extramural participation, contestants cannot capitalize on their experiences if they don’t know about the opportunities available to them through the Champ Series. We have to be the conduit for this information to hit our students’ eyes and ears.
As I’m typing this, I also know that many of us are facing challenges on many fronts when it comes to supporting student participation. I am one of those individuals myself, and I feel the pain of balancing fiscal responsibility and student interests. The hope isn’t that you purposely cut programming and funding to areas just to move a team to a regional tournament. The hope is that you make the information available to your student populace, have conversations with interested parties, and discuss the possibilities of attendance if they seem interested. The dissemination of information costs nothing, and assuming that students would have no interest in participating in the Championship Series is folly when information has not been made available to them. All it takes is one person—developments can be fostered from there.
As your intramural and club seasons begin, I hope you can take the time to show participants the Championship Series opportunities that are available, and see what assistance you can give to those wanting to be involved for the chance of experiential learning through participation. With your help, we can continue to strengthen the Championship Series and provide more possibilities for everyone.