National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
NAIA champions small-college/university athletics
How your community can benefit from the NAIA and all it offers
Everyone has heard of the NCAA and the big-dog universities it serves.
But do you know about the NAIA? The acronym stands for the “National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.” Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., the NAIA has been around for more than 80 years now. It represents the athletic programs of America’s smaller colleges and universities, as well as their counterparts in Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
And though they may be small, the athletic programs and related championships of these colleges make a huge economic impact upon the communities and regions they serve. According to the NAIA’s Website, the organization represents some 77,000 student athletes, and they form the center of all NAIA experiences. It is responsible for more than $800 million in scholarship monies, and it features 28 national championships in 21 athletic conferences, serving some 250 colleges and small universities.
In 1937, the seed of the NAIA began with the tip-off of a men’s basketball tournament in Kansas City that has become the longest-running event in college basketball. This event was organized in part by none other than James Naismith himself, the Canadian coach, phys-ed teacher and chaplain who invented the game of basketball. Out of this tournament grew the NAIA, an association that has been an innovative leader. The NAIA was the first collegiate athletics association to invite historically black institutions into membership and the first to sponsor both men’s and women’s national championships.
Corey Westra, the NAIA’s tournament director for Sioux City, Iowa, recently spoke about the organization.
“Beyond the economic impact is believing in the NAIA’s character-driven athletics,” said Westra. “Our city has been proud to partner with the NAIA for numerous years, hosting numerous national championships.”
He added that you, too, can boost your city’s profile by hosting a NAIA championship. It’s not only an economic shot in the arm, but it also generates much excitement at the local, regional and quite often even national levels.
“Hosting a national championship is an outstanding experience,” Westra continued, encouraging more folks from cities and towns across America to get involved, host these young athletes, share their dreams (big goals in more ways than one!) and take part in the thrills and drama that typify the world of sports. “You’ll get to interact with the best student athletes in the country, each and every day.”
Why host? Well, why not?
As Westra rhetorically asked: Why host a national championship event? The advantages are many, and certainly they are also enormous. You will see untold benefits from:
*an increase in economic activity;
*thousands of visitors from out of town, all of them patronizing your restaurants, hotels and other such places of business and interest;
*the opportunity to showcase your community, its people and its facilities;
*the prestige of having a national championship hosted in your community;
*and national exposure on such sports-related networks as ESPN and other outlets specializing in these events.
Plus, as Westra noted, you’ll see related benefits to other organizations and their concomitant events, such as the Special Olympics.
“It’s a great way to interact and have fun with those kids in our community as well,” he observed.
Talking of character, there’s the NAIA’s “Champions of Character” program. This initiative connects communities and NAIA Championships across the United States. “Champions of Character” activities are an integral part of every NAIA Championship, and they have a huge annual impact upon more than 30,000 people. Championship hosts are free to choose the “Champions of Character” activity that best fits their championship and community.
The vision of this program is to do nothing less than change the very culture of sport itself. Its mission is to provide training to instill the values that build character, so that students, coaches and parents know, do and value the right thing, both on the field and off of it.
Research shows that the longer students spend in sports, their social reasoning––especially the time-honored ethos of sacrificing one’s self for the good of the team––only increases. The “Champions of Character” program helps participants find the balance by keeping these five core values––integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership––at the heart of the athletic experience. Students learn to understand how these values play out in both practice and competition. Coaches are taught how to intentionally define, model, shape and reinforce the aforesaid values through their coaching and mentor work. Parents learn how their behavior is key to supporting their athletes.
For more than 23 years now, the “Champions of Character” program has been making a positive difference in developing athletes, coaches and parents of character. The NAIA is committed to advancing character-driven athletics.
As well, the “Champions of Character” conducts clinics. And it has developed an Internet-based training course to educate athletes, coaches and athletic administrators with the skills that are necessary to promote character development in the context of any given sport.
Looking to the future
The NAIA has a bright future ahead of it, and it’s only onward and upward.
The organization is investing in future leaders in collegiate athletics. The NAIA invests in people. Whether that comes in the form of its student athletes or its minority and female athletics administrators, the organization is committed to providing the opportunities and resources to help its people learn and grow. As such, the NAIA invests its time and resources in leadership development programs for its student athletes, growth opportunities for future administrators and mental health programs for its athletes, coaches and administrators.
An example is the NAIA Governance and Leadership Academy (or GLA), which provides training on NAIA governance and strategic initiatives to minority and female athletics administrators. The GLA introduces participants to NAIA committee work and service, whilst at the same time, it enhances their leadership abilities.
One such program beneficiary is Amy Beall, head coach of the volleyball program at the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Beall recently shared more about her own experience with the GLA.
“I’ve learned lots of good ideas for getting our academics and our faculty members more involved in the athletic world,” the coach remarked, adding that the program is “pretty impressive.”
AT A GLANCE
NAIA or National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
What: Representing the athletic programs of America’s smaller colleges and universities, as well as their counterparts in Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Where: Kansas City, Missouri