by Harold Rivera / Sports editor | Larry Saggese, Nate Bishop, Peter Smolianov, Steven Dion, Christopher Schoen / Staff writers
Salem State University departments celebrated the spring by winning prizes for mass participation, rather than elite performance, at the Wellness U Multisport Festival.
The Multisport Festival took place over three consecutive Thursdays and included a softball homerun derby, a run/walk, and swimming/water games. Nearly 100 participants took part in each of the three events of the festival, representing almost all university departments.
The departments with the highest percentage of students, faculty and staff who participated were awarded with prizes at each of the events. First place won $300, second place $200 and third place earned $100.
Plaques, trophies and sport bags were also handed out to individual participants for a broad variety of fun-stimulating achievements, from best themed costume to the loudest team-supporting cheer.
The festival was organized by Sport Management students from Salem State’s Sport and Movement Sciences department. This was part of the Event and Facility Management and Sport Marketing classes taught by Dr. Peter Smolianov, sport development and management professor at SSU.
The Multisport Festival idea, mass competitions among organizations and their departments, has been used successfully by many European countries for most of the 20th century as an effective tool for improving health, educational practices, and work productivity. This and other healthy sport practices increasingly being adopted across the U.S. are featured in a new sport development textbook authored by Dr. Smolianov for his course of the same name that is currently offered to all SSU students.
Salem State’s festival showed that mass participation can be achieved efficiently by asking students to practice civic engagement and community building by organizing activity based events, which promoted inclusiveness.
Having achieved seemingly impressive participation numbers, the event drew less than 5 percent of the university’s community. This turnout is similar to the recent 5K running events at Boston College, the University of New Hampshire and at SSU. Health researchers also stress that only 5 percent of people exercise, leading to 65-85 percent of Americans being overweight and needing more movement and active fun.
Arlene Pero, who participated in the home run derby for the university’s Information Technologies department, said she enjoyed seeing students and faculty come together in friendly competition.
“What I liked [about the softball home run derby] was teams from different departments coming together and cheering each other on,” Pero said. “There were groups of students and faculty and staff coming together to participate in the home run derby in the middle of a busy work day.”
Students organized all aspects of the festival such as planning sporting activities, food and entertainment, managing financial resources, scheduling facilities, developing risk management plans and marketing the festival through word of mouth, radio, print and social media.
Students also conducted research and analyzed results from a survey given to event participants which indicated, for example, that more advertising was desired, together with more individualized timing and a more organized plans for the events. Participants suggested they particularly enjoyed being active, eating the food and taking a break from work and classes. These findings suggest clear improvements for future events.
Although intense and stressful, these experiences taught sport management students to become more competent facility and event managers and marketers. By having independent managerial tasks and working in teams, the students received comprehensive individualized coaching to guide them through what amounts to intense exposure they can expect to encounter in the complex world of sport business.
Angelina Favaloro, who took on the role of managing the festival’s three events, said she and her fellow students were focused on attracting participants.
“The fundamental goal of our festival was to attract the maximum number of participants,” Favaloro said. “Our group believed the focus should be on getting everyone involved, which proved to be successful with about 100 participants at each event.”
Favaloro also mentioned that the freedom students were given in running the festival made the experience unique. “This festival was promoted, organized, and run primarily by students, which made it one-of-a-kind,” Favaloro said. “Professor Smolianov gave us direction throughout the process but also gave us the freedom to take control and learn for ourselves.”
Not only did this experimental festival showcase how to expand sporting events to different community and professional groups, but it also sparked conversations about providing new opportunities for active mass participation. In conjunction with revenue generated from taxpayers, passive spectator attendance to sporting events and consumers of sponsored products, universities and professional sport teams could partner to organize such inclusive events in every community across the country. It will help high performance teams and their organizations by demonstrating social responsibility and make their public relations investments contribute to the health of our nation.