From February 16th to 19th, our ENAS President, Mel Parker, and Vice President, Andrea Altmann, headed to the other side of the Atlantic to Boston, Massachusetts, for the annual NIRSA Conference. We caught up with President Parker after his trip.

ENAS: What was the event about?

Parker: The NIRSA Conference is the equivalent of the ENAS Forum in North America. It provided the opportunity for facility visits (university sports facilities) educational sessions, keynote presentations, networking opportunities, sponsor interactions, a supplier Expo, and social events. Although quite similar to the ENAS Forum, it’s on a much bigger scale with around 2,500 attendees, mainly from USA & Canada. The Conference theme was the “Health & Wellbeing Revolution”, and the main topics covered were:

– Developing skills and strategies to create an integrated approach to health & wellbeing

– Empowering members to effectively tell the story of campus recreation to their own stake holders on campus & beyond

– Presenting strategies to help members incorporate the values of equity, diversity and inclusion into member’s professional practice, programmes, facilities & services

The conference offered over 120 sessions, many running in parallel, aimed at different member types: students, new professionals, mid-level managers, and Executive level. The sessions also focused on various areas including personal & professional development, facility management, programming, research & evaluation, business management, human resource management, legal liabilities & risk management.

ENAS: What is useful for ENAS to attend the event? Why? What where the outcomes of the event and in what way do the outcomes of the event affect University Sport?

Parker: Following the visit of NIRSA staff to the ENAS Forum in Nijmegen, members of the ENAS EC were invited to visit the NIRSA event, as well as to present at the event. We were able to gain a perspective of how university sport & recreation is organised and delivered in the USA, and to gain an appreciation of the current issues, challenges, and strategies used to effectively deliver sport & physical activity for students & staff. There are numerous similarities in the challenges experienced by colleagues in North American universities to us in Europe, and there is plenty to be gained from hearing about how they have addressed these issues. ENAS members were invited to be part of three different panel sessions, which were themed “Global Perspectives”, and included speakers from Europe, USA & Canada on the panels.

ENAS: Can you give three pieces of advice that can benefit ENAS members on basis of the topics of the event?

Parker: 1)Have a look at The Okanagan Charter:

2) Look to see if there is a “Special Olympics” Organisation near you, with which to link up and provide some inclusive sport sessions.

3) Check out the NIRSA website and consider attending the next NIRSA Conference, which will be taking place in Phoenix, Arizona in April 2020.

ENAS: Was there a remarkable quote? Did something funny happen? Was there a big discussion on a certain topic you did not expect?

Parker: The Opening Keynote session was delivered by Tim Shriver, the Chairman of Special Olympics International. The session was quite inspirational, and demonstrated the many benefits of offering inclusive sports sessions at your institution, and in particular linking up with a local Special Olympics organisation.


Well it seems like it was a great conference! We encourage everyone to consider attending NIRSA’s conference next year and continuing promoting the European Sports Network abroad.


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