It has felt like ages since the last blog post. Believe it or not, it has been a scant six weeks since the last time we communicated regarding the Championship Series. So much has occurred since that time, with institutions closing their respective doors and moving to online education for the remainder of the semester. Our routines and lives have been thrown into uncertainty, and each day can feel like a surreal plot in a science fiction book. Through this mitigated chaos, though, there have been bright spots in regards to campus recreation. I have seen how departments have banded together to bring programs to a wide variety of audiences, serving the needs of their campus communities without sacrificing the safety of those wanting to participate. I applaud the continuous effort of campus recreation in engaging people and showing that we can continue to have wellness at home while we observe physical distancing.
The Championship Series has also been active since our last post, with the executive team evaluating completed programming and moving forward toward planning for its future. We have been planning our transitions as well, with the executive team and some of the work team chairs changing on June 1. I have one last post up my sleeve though, so I’ll save my “Thank you”s for then. For now, I would like to highlight some of the Championship Series’ accomplishments and initiatives—all stemming from the Series Talk Live podcast presented on April 22.
By the way, before we move on to those highlights, please give Dave Peters and Marty Dempsey your deepest appreciation for creating the Series Talk podcast. This has been an absolutely refreshing way to relay information about the Championship Series without it ever feeling like a lecture. They have been phenomenal at engaging hot topics in a way that keeps the viewer’s attention. The PTI-style has also been fun, keeping things loose and concise without filler that turns listeners off of their segments.
If you want the full rundown, check out Marty and Dave in the April 22 edition of Series Talk Live!
The Championship Series has had achieved some great accomplishments over the last year, and they include:
Unified Task Force
Led by Amanda Alpert of the University of Mississippi, the Unified Task Force was added to the Championship Series’ work team structure to continue standardizing Unified play at regional and national tournaments. This past year, seven flag football regionals and three basketball regionals featured Unified divisions, and the National Soccer Championship featured three Unified teams for the first time. The immediate goal of the Unified Task Force is to feature Unified divisions at all NIRSA Championship Series National Championships. It also creates opportunities for campuses to communicate with Special Olympics North America to bring Unified Sports to their communities.
Advancement of the Club Basketball League
Josh Dietrich of Kent State University has done a tremendous job stabilizing and strengthening the foundation of our Club Basketball League for the Championship Series. This league offers club basketball teams an opportunity to play in regional leagues without the pressure of establishing a site to play at or finding officials. Games are played with multiple teams onsite, and the host institution assists with managing the events. The fee for the league covers two conference tournaments as well as entry to a NIRSA Championship Series Basketball regional event.
The Series Academy
Many individuals within NIRSA are looking for opportunities to serve the membership, and the Series Academy is a great conduit to those opportunities. The Academy—a preconference opportunity that would have been available at the 2020 NIRSA Annual Conference—teaches valuable skills that develop individuals into the volunteers that Championship Series’ tournaments and work teams desire. All faculty of the Academy have seen success within the Series and are looking to share how an individual’s skillset can improve the quality of the overall Championship Series.
This Academy is not just for competitive sports professionals and students. It is meant for all aspects of campus recreation. Aquatics, marketing, facilities, development—your skills can be used within the Series, and you are encouraged to participate and apply. We’re also looking beyond holding just a preconference event with the Academy. We want to present this opportunity at multiple events on a virtual platform for those unable to attend a conference.
The Virtual NIRSA National Basketball Student Officials Webinar
While we were unable to conduct the NIRSA National Basketball Tournament in Wichita this year, the National Basketball Officials Committee presented a first: a virtual webinar for its student officials. This webinar—hosted by Jon Broska, Natosha Harris, and Michael Castaneda—featured six hours of fantastic content for the 100+ student officials and professionals in attendance. It discussed topics such as mechanics, positioning, and officiating philosophies. The webinar also featured guest speakers like Court Club founders Ed Rush and Rob Rorke as well as NCAA Division II National Officials Coordinator John Blazek, who spoke highly of the mentorship and training NIRSA professional have offered to student officials.
Facing the future
Again, much has occurred over the last six weeks with the COVID-19 pandemic. With an eye to the future, questions have been raised about the Championship Series and its direction moving into summer and fall.
Are you looking to add sports to the Championship Series?
We do see many opportunities—this has especially been the case these last few weeks—to add sports to the Championship Series lineup. Our biggest concern is stability and sustainability. The Championship Series has built its reputation on premier experiences. We must first stabilize what we have now through this pandemic and make sure we can continue to offer these premier events. Adding new sports can stretch resources thin, and that can result in a bad experience for our participants. We’ll monitor those new sport opportunities for now while we stabilize current offerings through the pandemic. In the meantime, if you do have a suggestion for a sport or activity to add to the Champ Series, please let us know through the Series Proposal Form.
Esports? Esports? Esports?
Yes, we have discussed adding esports to the Championship Series. We’ve seen the surge in esports offerings—especially on campuses during the last few weeks. We want to see what the possibilities are with esports. We want to see if we can present a premier experience to our stakeholders and participants.
Will we have events in the fall?
The Championship Series is looking at CDC guidelines for safety, regional and national openings and policies, and is also considering risk management questions as we discuss offering fall events. Budgetary discussions at institutions and travel restrictions are also just a couple of the many factors in play. While these will have an impact on our ultimate decision, our main focus will be on the safety and health of our participants and volunteers. It is not worth having an event if it will endanger others, period.
Here is a short summary regarding the future of the Championship Series: We’re taking all factors into consideration in terms of offering fall events as well as new sports and engagement opportunities. For those of you looking for 100% clarity regarding the Championship Series’ immediate future, I’m afraid I cannot you offer that. We have to consider what happens over the next few weeks before defining what will be possible for the Series. However, we have a team of individuals who are looking at new avenues for the Championship Series to potentially explore, so I’m positive that we’ll be able to get answers as soon as possible.
Congratulations are in order!
During our Series Talk Live! roundtable, we were able to congratulate those who received awards from NIRSA and the Championship Series for their constructive work and dedication to advancing the Championship Series. The efforts and contributions of these individuals and institutions are what make the Championship Series special. Send your kudos to the following individuals for being selected for these awards and recognition:
Institutional Registration – National Flag Football
Gold – University of Southern Mississippi
Silver – Georgia Southern University
Bronze – University of Maryland
NIRSA/USTA Tennis Ace Award
Individual – Adam Richman, The University of Alabama
Institution – Indiana State University
NIRSA Annual Service Award
Individual – Randall Ford, The University of Texas at Austin
Group – NIRSA Series Task Force 2.0
Sarah Fain Distinguished Service Award
Brooke Turner, The University of Alabama
We have advanced the Series with our accomplishments this year, and we cannot lose sight of that in the midst of this pandemic. We are also preparing the Series for its future within and post-pandemic, exploring our options and routes. Thank you for continuing to support and encourage us during this time. The Series will continue on, and we are ever hopeful that we will continue bringing premier experiences to all who choose to get involved with it.