Welcome to the new year! We’re already a month and a half into 2020, and I hope everyone has had an opportunity to reflect upon the previous year and find some inspiration to motivate you through the beginnings of your semesters. I know it feels like winter has been bearing down on us forever, but I assure you that in the next month, the throes of this snowy season will give way to spring and a fresh start!
We’re just a little over halfway through the NIRSA Championship Series season, and a lot has happened since we last talked. We’ve had two national championships in two different sports—soccer and flag football—and both events were held at the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex in Round Rock, Texas. I could not be any more thrilled about their outcomes.
I have been a part of NIRSA National Championship Series events for many years now, and I perpetually feel compelled to remark on the professionalism and exceptionalism that is always on display at them. Our volunteers are the best around—hands down—because of their knowledge, attention to detail, and customer service. They know what it takes to develop and implement a premier experience for our participants—and this is why the soccer and flag football championships were truly fantastic events.
Doubling down at Round Rock
As I previously stated, the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex (RRMPC) was recently home to both the NIRSA National Soccer Championships and the NIRSA National Flag Football Championships. While we were only there for soccer this one year, we do have a three-year agreement with the complex in regards to flag football. The professional staff at the RRMPC were extremely excited to host both events and saw the tournaments as opportunities to provide a high-quality atmosphere for our participants. They also saw these events as learning opportunities; while we continue to navigate a multi-year experience, we’ll be able to break down what’s going well and also what could be improved.
The National Soccer Championships boasted a record 99 teams this past November, and the popularity of this event is widely known throughout the nation—especially with our club participants. The weather was a little chilly the first day, but warmed up quickly and gave us gorgeous sunshine and temperatures. The complex was more than capable of providing fantastic fields for play, and the teams seemed to enjoy their experience playing on them.
Our volunteers and game officials were again on-point with their friendly attitudes and knowledge of the tournament setup; they were willing to lend a hand whenever needed and asked. I am especially proud of the inaugural Unified Division at the national tournament, which saw three teams take the field. In another first, student officials managed those Unified games. The mentorship and services our staff and student officials provided were exceptional, and I can only see great things for this division moving forward. I also want to congratulate the 99 teams that participated and made this a phenomenal championship!
The National Flag Football Championships saw us back at the RRMPC for another round of exciting and fast-paced play. A total of 44 teams made their way to Round Rock in the new year to play for their respective national titles—and, again, the weather couldn’t have been better. Sixty and 70 degree days blessed our participants and staff as we saw everyone engaging in spirited play and friendly competition. The volunteers were fantastic again, and our staff received many compliments on their service to the event. Our student officials even received high marks for approachability and a willingness to work with participants—and that is difficult to come by these days!
While we’re returning to the RRMPC next year for the National Flag Football Championships, our big addition for next time will be a Unified Division. I am humbled by the work our Unified Task Force has done this past year to make the Soccer and Flag Football Unified Divisions a reality, and I’m excited to see what their futures hold.
Working to improve and include
I can name a multitude of great experiences that take place at our national events. There are times, though, when I’m thankful for outside eyes that help us see potential opportunities for improvement. After our Flag Football National Championships, a few of our NIRSA members asked us about the representation of female officials at the tournament. They had noticed that many pictures were posted with officials, but throughout all of them there was just one female official visible. I am happy to say that there were in fact more female officials at the tournament, and that the committee was conscientious when going through the process of selecting female officials; however, that does not conclude this conversation.
A popular phrase I have heard throughout my career is “Perception is reality.” For a few of our members—and perhaps many more who did not reach out to us—the reality was that we were not doing our due diligence when it came to this aspect of the Championship Series. We have reached out and invited many of our stakeholders into this discussion to see what we can do to continue to improve selection processes at regional and national levels as well as to evaluate all officials on a level field. We are having a very deep conversation about this, and I am thankful that we have members that care about the Series and want to advance it for all. This is what sets the Championship Series in a class all its own: Our membership’s willingness to work with us to note improvements and work toward solutions that will push the needle further.
Please know that we are always open to suggestions and observations—I encourage you to take advantage of the NIRSA Championship Series Proposal Form if you have an idea you’d like to share. Thank you for the support and willingness to help us continue to grow.