Inside Events: The American Pole League
15 Feb, 2020By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Rori Chacon, Director of Marketing
The American Pole League (APL) is a non-profit organization and a member of the International Pole Sports Federation also known as the International Governing Body of Pole Sport. In 2017, IPSF was awarded Global Association of International Sports Federations Observer Status (GAISF, formerly known as Sport Accord). IPSF has the stated mission of enabling and inspiring people to take part in safe and effective pole sports around the world.
Sports Destination Management: We’ve been hearing a lot about pole sports internationally but not as much within the U.S. How old is the American Pole League?
Rori Chacon: This will be our third year. We came together as a very small grassroots organization. We’d like to send athletes to Worlds, but if you want to do that, you have to be able to compete at Nationals. Prior to APL, we didn’t have Nationals in the U.S. If you wanted to compete, you’d have to fly to another country.
SDM: What is the membership structure?
Chacon: Studios or individual athletes can be members. If you want to compete, even if you’re training at home, you’re encouraged to join under a studio name. At Nationals, athletes wear that studio’s track suit before and after you take the stage, and in the kiss and cry seat If you have no studio affiliation whatsoever, you must purchase a plain tracksuit.
SDM: What is involved with entering Nationals? Are there qualification protocols?
Chacon: For all disciplines, prior to the competition date, athletes will register online, and then submit the required forms which include information regarding their music selection, concept and a description of routine. For pole sport athletes are also required to fill out compulsory and technical bonus forms.
SDM: We know there are several different types of pole sport out there.
Chacon: Those are called disciplines, and yes, there are several. Pole Sports includes the basic elements with an emphasis on athleticism. Artistic Pole is a little more creative. Ultra Pole is really cool – you almost have to see it to believe how athletic and acrobatic it is. Urban Pole is something that takes place outside.
SDM: We’ve also heard there is Para Pole.
Chacon: Yes – it is set up for people with different types of challenges and there are different categories of competition. Sometimes, someone is in a wheelchair or otherwise mobility impaired, such as by the loss of a limb. It’s also possible to compete with other challenges. There’s a very well-known para pole athlete who was born with one arm.
SDM: How many competitors do you get at Nationals in the U.S.?
Chacon: Over past two years, we’ve been averaging about 30 each year. We’d love to have maybe 100, 110 people but it’s still very new in the U.S.
SDM: Something that surprises people is that, particularly internationally, there is men’s pole and also juniors.
Chacon: Yes, that’s something people don’t know. For kids, particularly internationally, competition starts as young as six years old. There are a lot more kids involved internationally.
SDM: What are some of the misconceptions people have about pole?
Chacon: That it sexualizes, and particularly that it sexualizes children. It doesn’t. It’s very athletic and that is where the focus is.
SDM: Let’s talk for a few minutes about Nationals.
Chacon: Our Third National and Open APL Championships will be held in Tucson, AZ at Sporting Chance Center on August 1. Everything will be conducted according to the rules set forth by IPSF.
SDM: How many years have you been meeting in Arizona?
Chacon: Well, this will be our third year. It’s where we started but in 2021, we’re looking to take things to the East Coast, just to try to give more people a chance to compete.
SDM: What should destinations do if they’re interested in hosting the Championships?
Chacon: They can contact us via our website.
SDM: What are you looking for in a facility?
Chacon: We need something sporting in nature – a sports center or a gym is usually what we’re looking for. Sometimes, a concert or an arena venue could work. We need someplace with secure dressing rooms and ideally, something near tourist attractions people can enjoy.
SDM: What’s the Chance Sporting Center like, to give an idea?
Chacon: It’s a multi-purpose facility. It looks like a big auditorium with three large basketball courts with bleachers. We have contracts with companies who can come and set up our competition equipment, which includes competition-standard poles. One pole is for spinning and one is static. They have to be set up in such a way that will provide room for two sets of judging panels, and of course, there has to be an appropriate sound system.
SDM: Going back to an earlier point, we hadn’t heard much about pole sports in the U.S. until recently. Are there certain countries that really specialize in it and year after year, produce medalists at the world level?
Chacon: Russia – that’s where it is really big. A lot of world champions come out of there, and also out of Ukraine, Singapore, Mexico and Australia too. They have so many talented athletes there. It’s still a young sport here. We’re looking forward to helping it grow.