The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), founded in 1938, is the governing association of community college, state college and junior college athletics throughout the United States. The NJCAA’s mission is to promote, govern and foster a competitive environment for two-year college athletics. With 520 member colleges and 60,000 student athletes, the NJCAA sponsors 52 national championships per year across a variety of sports.
SDM sat down with Dr. Christopher Parker, President and CEO of NJCAA, to catch up on the latest.
Sports Destination Management: The last time we checked in, you told us about some emerging sports at NJCAA. What is growth like for those?
Dr. Christopher Parker: We will host our first invitational for beach volleyball this year. Some other varsity sports that are on the emerging sports timeline are women’s wrestling, men’s volleyball and women’s flag football. We may crown a women’s wrestling champion this year, rather than hosting an invitational. We’ve also added co-ed target shooting and co-ed cheer.
SDM: It sounds like women’s wrestling is the fastest-growing sport.
Parker: It has really taken off. At the same time, there are grants that have helped two of the other sports grow; NFL FLAG has provided grants for women’s flag football, and the First Point Volleyball Foundation provides grants to create more opportunities for young men to grow and develop through volleyball.
SDM: What other growth areas are you seeing among established sports?
Parker: A lot of schools are adding soccer and cross country; I would say those are the two largest population areas. Our baseball and basketball numbers have remained consistent; we’re not losing anyone there. Something interesting is that we have picked up 20 new schools; previously, those schools did not have sports at all and now they do. At least 50 of our current member schools have added at least one sport.
SDM: We have seen the number of colleges offering bass fishing growing as well; do you see NJCAA adding a program like that?
Parker: We have schools that are adding bass fishing but it’s not an NJCAA sport right now. That’s really just because organizations like Bassmaster are doing such a good job of organizing tournaments there. Another sport that we don’t govern, although colleges do offer it, is rodeo, for the same reason: There are organizations out there serving that sport.
SDM: If destinations want to host NJCAA championships or invitationals, how can they go about it?
Parker: Our website has a special page for that; it can be found at www.njcaa.org/about/host_championship/index. Our Host Manual and Style Guide can also be downloaded from that page.
SDM: NJCAA also offers esports, and unlike NCAA, has adopted them on a full-time basis.
Parker: Yes, NJCAA Esports (NJCAAE) is now the national governing body for two-year college esports in the United States. It is its own separate 501(c)(3) organization, it has its own set of rules and its own governance, and it manages its own competitions. It was first offered in fall of 2019, but it grew a lot in COVID, since it allowed schools to compete with one another.
SDM: How many schools are offering it?
Parker: It’s growing really well. We started with 60 schools offering programs and we’re now up to 175.
SDM: It sounds like NJCAA is really doing well.
Parker: We offer a good opportunity for the right students. We’re not saying we are the best choice for every single student athlete but for those who want to stay at home and save money before they move on, we’re an excellent option. The quality of our student athletes is very strong, both athletically and academically. SDM