The TEAMS Conference & Expo, presented by SportsTravel and hosted by the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau, will convene the sports-events industry at a time when sports events are leading the travel and tourism comeback. TEAMS ’22 at the Oklahoma City Convention Center will also feature educational programming from leaders in the industry, including explorations of the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the state of youth sports, and deep dives into the latest trends in sports-related travel.
TEAMS ’22 — to be held October 24–27 — will feature programming in partnership with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which will host its NGB Best Practices Seminar for the national governing bodies of Olympic and Paralympic sport, as well as SportsLink, an educational series designed to unite NGBs with the destinations and venues interested in hosting their events. SportsLink topics will include Oklahoma City’s rise as an Olympic and Paralympic training site for paddle sports, the growth of the NCAA Women’s College World Series and the potential for a new sports series with multiple governing bodies competing at combined events.
The conference will also again see the National Congress of State Games locate its annual symposium with TEAMS and recognize its Athletes of the Year and lifetime achievement winners at the SportsTravel Awards luncheon on October 26. Two new partnerships will also be highlighted during the week, including the National Council of Youth Sports, which will recognize National Youth Sports Week during TEAMS, and Compete Sports Diversity, which will honor its person of the year in the sports industry who has dedicated themselves to issues of diversity. The Sports Events and Tourism Association will also offer education that will count as credit toward its Sports Tourism Strategist certification.
“TEAMS ’22 will see attendance even greater than we saw before the pandemic began, which is reflective of the growth and vitality of the sports-events industry,” said Jason Gewirtz, vice president of Northstar Travel Group’s Sports Division and the executive editor and publisher of SportsTravel. “There is reason to believe the industry is more than back, and TEAMS ’22 in Oklahoma City is a prime example.”
The Opening Session for TEAMS ’22 and SportsLink will examine what may be the most consequential piece of legislation to the Olympic and Paralympic movement and the sports landscape in the United States. From its signing in 1972, Title IX has become the backbone for which women’s sports have climbed from decades of inequity and ignorance to the spot they have today.
In a session exploring the anniversary, panelists will discuss the leaps that women’s sports have made in the past 50 years but also what remains to be done in the future for true equality to be achieved. Along with USA Hockey superstar Hilary Knight, also appearing will be Oklahoma City resident Kaleo Maclay, a Paralympian in sitting volleyball; 1984 Olympic gold medalist Benita Fitzgerald Mosley; USRowing Chief Executive Officer Amanda Kraus; and Greater Columbus Sports Commission Executive Director Linda Logan.
One of the best examples of the increased visibility of women’s sports in recent years is the NCAA Women’s College World Series, which has become one of the most-watched softball tournaments in the world. But that growth hasn’t come by accident. Leaders from Oklahoma City, the NCAA and USA Softball, and Olympian Aubree Munro, will discuss how they have partnered for the long term on stadium development, event development, marketing and promotion to take an event that was already a best-in-class tournament to a new level.
Oklahoma City is known for more than just softball. The revitalization of the Oklahoma River has allowed the city to become the center of rowing and canoe/kayak and is a case study in how a destination can rethink its landscape with creative thinking and community goodwill. After hearing from Riversport’s Mike Knopp, Oklahoma City National High Performance Center’s Reilly Dampeer, Paralympian Blake Haxton, Olympic hopeful Gus Cooke and Beth Spilman of the American Canoe Association, attendees will tour some of the city’s Boathouse District and see how a community investment in sports can be a benefit on and off the field of play.
Another SportsLink session will examine how the concept of an Olympic and Paralympic sport series is one where NGBs can combine resources by hosting several of their championships in one location, adding overall prestige to the events and increasing community interest in a variety of sports. Among the panelists will be USA Table Tennis Chief Executive Officer Virginia Sung, Indiana Sports Corp President Patrick Talty and Tom Shephard of Shephard Consulting.
The State of Youth Sports
Along with SportsLink panels, TEAMS educational sessions will include deep dive on the state of youth sports. The conversation will include Wayne Moss, the executive director of the National Council of Youth Sports, and Ju’Riese Colon, CEO of the U.S. Center for SafeSport. Other programming will focus on how gravel cycling events have changed the view of dirt roads in small- and mid-sized destinations that have attracted record numbers of visitors; the Great Race auto festival’s embrace of multi-city events; the challenges in retaining and recruiting volunteers for destinations to organize sports events; and the evolving landscape of youth sports from a participation, athlete safety and technology perspective.
Along with the panelists during the TEAMS programming, a group of Olympians will share their personal journeys and experiences. Brittany Bowe, the 2022 Team USA flag bearer at the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, will give a keynote address on October 26 about her journey in speedskating and the act of sportsmanship that allowed her teammate a spot on the roster that led to a gold medal — one of the celebrated moments surrounding the Games. And the emcees of SportsLink will be Olympic curlers John Shuster and Chris Plys. Shuster led Team USA to gold at the 2018 Winter Games, the first American team to win gold in curling.
Recognizing Award Winners
In addition to education, TEAMS will include the annual SportsTravel Awards, which will be handed out during a special luncheon on October 26. The awards will honor the best events on the amateur, collegiate and professional level over the past 12 months, as well as the best new venue of the year and the best sports host city as voted on by SportsTravel readers. The National Congress of State Games as well as the USOPC and Compete Sports Diversity will also hand out their own awards during the luncheon.