Hosted by Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events, the 2023 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Women’s Soccer National Championship will take place Nov. 27 to Dec. 4 at the Foley Sports Tourism Complex in Foley, Alabama, as the 16 best soccer teams from small universities across the country vie for the championship title. The championship has been held along the Alabama Gulf Coast since 2012 and has become a holiday tradition for teams and local businesses alike.
“Our coastal community has embraced the NAIA over the years and loves welcoming each team, family and fan, cheering for them on and off the field,” said Michelle Russ, vice president of sales, sports and events at GSOB Sports & Events. “Many of our sponsor business leaders serve as ‘honorary coaches’ to the teams on the sidelines, in the destination during their stay and throughout the year as they stay in touch.”
The NAIA’s Honorary Coach initiative aligns with the governing body’s Champions of Character® program, aiming to change the culture of sport by displaying its core values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership on campuses and in championship destinations. Brian Harsany, owner of Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar, Cobalt The Restaurant, GTs on the Bay and other Orange Beach-based eateries, has served as an honorary coach since 2012 and his team hold 10 of 16 honorary coach positions during this year’s championship.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed being an honorary coach through the years,” noted Harsany. “It’s fulfilling being able to welcome these student-athletes to our island paradise, helping them with any needs they may have while being our guests.”
Another way the NAIA gives back and displays servant leadership in communities it visits is through Teaming Up for Character™ events. Student-athletes will demonstrate soccer skills and discuss the NAIA’s core values with P.E. classes at Gulf Shores Middle School Monday, Nov. 27, and Orange Beach Elementary School Tuesday, Nov. 28.
All games will take place at the Foley Sports Tourism Championship Stadium, with the top 16 on Monday, Nov. 27, and Tuesday, Nov. 28; the quarterfinals Thursday, Nov. 30; the semifinals Saturday, Dec. 2; and the championship Monday, Dec. 4. All games will be streamed live on the NAIA Network except for the championship game, which will be streamed live on ESPN3.
The Championship Celebration will begin at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26, at the Orange Beach Event Center at The Wharf in Orange Beach, and the Semifinalist Luncheon will commence at 12:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, at Magnolia Hall in Orange Beach – both events open to the public. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $25 each.
For information on upcoming athletic events along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, visit GSOBsports.com, or call 1-800-745-SAND.