With New ISF Partnership, AAU to Welcome International Youth Athletes | Sports Destination Management

With New ISF Partnership, AAU to Welcome International Youth Athletes

Mar 02, 2023 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Usually, AAU makes news because of the sheer size and scope of its events. Case in point: The most recent Junior National Volleyball Championships arrived in Orlando in 2022 and brought more than 70,000 people and $228 million in economic impact. The Junior Olympic Games brought 19,000 people and $65 million to Greensboro.

But the latest news is not one event, although it has the potential for plenty of them. AAU is partnering with the International School Sport Federation (ISF) to host events for athletes under the age of 15 from across the globe. The goal is to start hosting events sometime in 2024 in Orlando.

ISF, based in Belgium, is an international non-profit sport organization recognized by the IOC to organize world school championships for youth. ISF has 132 member countries on five continents.

AAU’s website quoted J.B. (Jo) Mirza, AAU President, as saying, "ISF and AAU will combine our extensive youth sports expertise to put on unique events for international athletes that foster an Olympic spirit. Orlando, the home of AAU, provides an enticing location to host these events. As the most visited destination in the United States, there are plenty of activities and attractions for athletes and their families to enjoy."

SDM caught up with Rachel D'Orazio, AAU’s director of marketing and public relations, to learn more.

Sports Destination Management: It sounds like a great partnership. What kind of events does ISF bring to the table?

AAU Junior Olympics
All images courtesy of the AAU

Rachel D'Orazio: ISF competition are held across the sport spectrum. They offer everything from aerobic gymnastics, alpine skiing and archery to track and field, biathlon, boxing, fencing, figure skating, judo, taekwondo, parasports, wrestling, volleyball and more. A full list of the sports can be found at this link.

SDM: Along those same lines, what event(s) does AAU plan in the foreseeable future with ISF?

D'Orazio: Right now, the list is being finalized. I imagine any ISF and AAU jointly hosted events would include key AAU sports such as basketball, karate, taekwondo, track and field, wrestling, volleyball (indoor and beach) and gymnastics.

SDM: Has AAU previously sent teams to ISF events?

D'Orazio: In 2022, AAU sent teams to Normandy France to compete in the ISF Gymnasiade in archery, beach volleyball, dance, fencing, swimming, table tennis, and wrestling. In competition, the AAU/USA delegation (53 total athletes) competed in seven sports and came home with 12 medals total. This was against more than 2,200 athletes, and a combined 3,191 total participants, from 67 countries. (A full account of the experience can be found at this link.)

SDM: Will AAU be hosting events outside the USA?

D'Orazio: We have no plans to host events outside the U.S. at this time. The focus will be on growing ISF programming in the United States.

Note: ISF continues to expand its horizons, having signed an MOU with the International Handball Federation with the goal of bringing more youth into the sport of indoor team handball. (The IHF has launched a training and education program called Handball at School (H@S), for physical education teachers in schools across all continents.)

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