NIRSA is the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association. The NIRSA annual conference was held in Washington DC this year. I had the opportunity to participate in the conference and wanted to share some of what I learned.
After several days of sessions and talking to customers, my top 3 takeaways are below:
- Our gray polo shirts fit in! I’ve never seen so many collegiate polo shirts and khaki pants all in one place
- If you attend NIRSA be ready to have old college memories come to mind
- If the conference is in Washington DC, be prepared for the taxi driver to ask you your party affiliation as an ice breaker
These takeaways are all true of course, but here are some overall themes that will help me in my role as Product Manager for SpectrumNG.
Campus Recreation Staff
Like many organizations, there is a staff structure that we need to understand so we can serve and market our products accordingly. There are three main levels of staff we work with at Campus Recreation Centers:
- Students – Students can hold all sorts of positions at a campus recreation center including welcome desk, fitness staff, fitness attendants, and more. Rec centers, as a general rule, employ the majority of students on campus
- Graduate Assistants – If a person is dedicated to a future in the recreation industry, they must have a master’s degree and they must complete a graduate assistantship that is equivalent to an apprenticeship. The grad assistantship is one step to a future career in recreation
- Pro staff – These are the professional staff at the rec center that have a dedicated career. Typical roles includes Marketing, Camp, Fitness, Director, and others
Think back to the different levels of staff for a minute. Since a large majority of the staff at a rec center are students guess what is very normal! Staff turnover – by default every staff person will turn over in 2 – 4 years. We can help our Campus Recreation customers by providing training materials that can be used over and over again by the rec center as they train new staff. We also put a focus on ease of use for our student staff that may be new to this type of software.
Inclusion is a hot topic in the health and wellness industry as a whole and it’s even more important to campus recreation centers. At NIRSA there was a focus on welcoming LGBTQ and creating gender neutral spaces such as restrooms and locker rooms. For members with disabilities, recreation center are adding multiple options such as wider benches for weight lifting to allow for easier transfer from chair to bench, dedicated dog hooks/areas for service dogs, and more. Finally, campus recreation centers are moving away from the term “freshman” to the term “first-year” since not all students/staff relate to the term “man.”
They are all about engaging staff, students, alumni, etc. One welcome desk process was to welcome the member at 10 ft. and 5 ft. If they are 10 ft. away from you just walking in the door you wave or nod to acknowledge them. Then when they are close enough to see their face you actually speak to them and engage them in a conversation.
Recreation centers are looking towards improving retention numbers more and more. If campus recreation centers can keep their student members as engaged as possible during their time in the rec center, they may convert to an alumni membership or alumni donor later in their life.
Just like many other clubs the onslaught of boutique gyms has changed their business. Over the past several years campus rec centers have altered their programming to compete with these gyms or altered their membership plans to generate new revenue streams. While many campus rec centers may compete with local YMCAs they have also created partnerships with them. For example, allowing the Y to operate an after school site or day camp within the rec center.
I’ve enjoyed sharing my experience from NIRSA! NIRSA was filled with many great conversations with customers, future customers, partners and potential partners. Were you there? Feel free to comment below.