NJCAA Moves Ahead

November 29, 2017

Originally formed in 1938, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) continually strives to promote and foster two-year college athletics. Appointed in May as Executive Director and CEO, Dr. Christopher Parker is excited to help extend the positive impact of the NJCAA through connecting member colleges and promoting their student-athletes and teams.

“The vision for the future of the NJCAA is to continue being a leader in the field of intercollegiate athletics,” says Parker. “Our motto is ‘Opportunities Start Here.’ We are committed to building upon those opportunities, whether it’s for our student-athletes, coaches, or even administrators.”

Carrying out this vision began with initiating a conversation on the history and successes of the NJCAA. In order to help start this conversation, the first ever “NJCAA Day” was held through social media on October 19. And it made an impact, as it became one of the top 20 trends in the world that day—showing how important this organization has been to so many people worldwide.

“All of our 512 member institutions participated,” says Parker. “They shared highlights of student-athletes, coaches, and administrators. Even NJCAA alumni joined in. We tried to get anybody with a connection to share what the NJCAA meant to them and why.”

Shaping the story of the NJCAA means not only introducing the positive impact it’s had on former and current athletes, but also challenging inaccurate perceptions. Many times, the Association is labeled as a small population. In reality, it has grown immensely, with nearly 60,000 student-athletes competing and finding both athletic and academic success year after year.

“A lot of people look at us as an alternative or a secondary choice to the NCAA or NAIA,” says Parker. “But we believe we are a primary opportunity for students to continue their education and athletic careers. We want students to understand that going to a two-year college can be their first choice for a better future.”

NJCAA member schools not only offer a multitude of athletic and academic opportunities, they are also affordable—an important aspect for many high school student-athletes. Whether it’s through institutional, financial, or athletic merit aid, the NJCAA makes sure that every student has the chance at a rewarding college career.

Parker is also spreading knowledge by visiting each of the NJCAA’s 24 regions and meeting with athletic directors and college presidents to talk about the various problems, opportunities, and success stories at their respective schools. Through these visits, the association strives to learn proactive methods for helping each of its member schools excel.

“These conversations help make sure we are all on the same leadership page and solving problems collectively,” says Parker. “We are creating strategies and unity to solve national issues that will better our entire association, not just one particular school or area.”

Through the listening tour, Parker and the NJCAA can also step back and use the information to continue shaping the association’s vision. And having an open ear is something that Parker strives for in each of his duties as Executive Director.

“I’m very much a servant leader,” he says. “And as a leader, I have the obligation to hear everybody and make sure that I’m positioning the entire association to be the best that it can be. In order to move things forward, you have to know what values and interests are important to everyone involved."

Member schools can also be a part of sharing the NJCAA story. Many two-year colleges lean on the general public for support. Parker’s number one suggestion is for each college to be the advocate and initiator for community relations, through actions like seeking volunteer opportunities with local businesses and non-profits.

“Reciprocal opportunities and relationships begin to develop when the community sees these individuals are happy to help and want what’s best for the entire community, not just themselves,” says Parker. “It’s an education piece that shows the integrity and value of NJCAA programs. Once that conversation starts, positive communication will continue to develop.”

And the hope is that these conversations will help spread understanding of the benefits and mission of the NJCAA. “We are a robust, innovative association,” says Parker. “And we will continue to invest in the abilities of our student-athletes and their opportunities to move forward in any way possible.” 

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