Inside Events: International Senior Softball Association
22 Jan, 2015By: R.B. Thomas
An Interview with R.B. Thomas, Executive Director
Headquartered in: Manassas, Virginia
The International Senior Softball Association (ISSA) is: is a not-for-profit corporation organized in 1994 by experienced softball administrators to provide the senior players a voice in the sport and the opportunity to participate in and experience the highest quality world-class tournaments. The ISSA is an Allied Member of the Amateur Softball Association or America, the National Governing Body for the sport of softball.
Sports Destination Management: What are the numbers like for ISSA?
R.B. Thomas: Any team in the U.S. can play in our programs. We probably have around 3,000 teams that play senior softball in tournaments. Of those, roughly 1,000 teams will make it to one of the national tournaments.
SDM: What are the demographics of the organization's members? Are there both men and women?
Thomas: We have both men's and women's teams, but we still get mostly men's teams in our tournaments.
SDM: To what do you attribute the popularity of the sport in this age group?
Thomas: The senior division of this sport really enjoys traveling, particularly those who in the 60 or 65 age divisions, and we offer a lot of tournaments that give people the chance to visit new places. The younger ones, in the 50 and 55 divisions, might have trouble getting off work, but the people who are older are usually retired and have more time. A lot of our tournaments are held in resort areas, and everyone loves those places for the amenities they provide.
SDM: So tournaments are usually in resort areas?
Thomas: We’re primarily in the east. We have several tournaments in the Midwest and we’re looking into other locations; in fact, we’re always looking for new destinations. Our goal is to be coast to coast. This is our 21st year, and we’re just about there.
SDM: ISSA offers a number of tournaments. How have they proliferated over the years?
Thomas: Our first world championship was in 1995 in Northern Virginia. That event was organized at the request of the local government; they were looking for a sports tourism event. It became very popular. In 2002, I was asked by the International Softball Federation to hold a world cup event. We’ve now held 14 of those. The first six were in Northern Virginia, and then we moved to Roanoke Valley, where we’ve been ever since. In 2008, we worked with the convention and visitors bureau in Virginia Beach, and we started holding our Winter Nationals there. The events were very popular, but we were still doing only three events a year for a while. We kept hearing people say, ‘Come have an event in my city.’ As a result, we started branching out. Right now, we offer 22 events, starting in January and running through October. They’re all on our website.
SDM: Do you think softball will continue to be a popular sport?
Thomas: Yes; our program has been growing by 20 percent for the last four years. Some of that is because of adding new teams, and some of it is because we have added new events in new areas; as a result, we’ve seen increased in participation. The future of the senior division of this sport is good. Sometimes, you’ll hear people say they think softball is a dying sport. Maybe it is for young people, but not here.