SportsEvents Magazine

JAN 2017

SportsEvents is edited for those who plan tournaments or other sports events.

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Page 15 of 67

January 2017 16 SPECIAL FEATURE: Awards & Recognition Issue ALABAMA Foley Sports Tourism Complex Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission See Ad On Page 19 Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau See Ad On Page 49 Mobile Sports Authority ARIZONA Tempe Tourism Office Visit Glendale Visit Mesa ARKANSAS Conway Convention & Visitors Bureau See Ad On Page 67 Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau Visit Rogers continued on page 18 Catulatis! 2017 Readers' Choice Award Winners The organizations and venues listed below and on the following pages rep- resent the 2017 class of SportsEvents Readers' Choice Award winners. These organizations were nominated by SportsEvents readers based on a high standard of professionalism and quality service in hosting sports events. Plenty of individuals get bit by the sports bug when they are young but that typically comes from playing, not necessarily organizing. Not so for Valerie Podczasy. "I actually started with events when I was 16 years old," said Podczasy, who founded Dy- namic Eventz while still in college. "My mother worked for the Keystone Volleyball Association and I was a site director for one of their tourna- ments and that's how it all started. "Each year, I got a little more responsibilities as far as managing an event and tournament. In 2012, I volunteered with USA Volleyball at their adult open championships and I got the opportunity to work with them and learn more about events." Just like a volleyball rally, once Podczasy got momentum on her side, there was no stopping her. "The next year, I worked adults again and then I worked the Girls Junior National Championships, which is a huge event for girls volleyball," Podczasy said. "In 2014, we started hosting an event in Mobile, which I grew from 46 teams to 95 teams. That's when I really got working on my own events." Podczasy organizes three large volleyball tourna- ments: Southern Blast AAU Grand Prix in Biloxi, MS; Rail City Rumble in Johnson City, TN; and Smoky Mountain Blast in Pigeon Forge, TN. Podczasy grew up in Pennsylvania and played at the University of South Alabama. She graduated in 2013 with a degree in chemical engineering but has found her love as an event planner. While living in Alabama, she saw a need and filled it. "I discovered there were a lot of areas that wanted a large volleyball tournament to come to them but just didn't know how to do that," she said. "That's why I started in Mobile, then moved the volleyball tournament to Biloxi, to give them a large tournament down there. From Florida to New Orleans, you really don't have a large tournament. So those kids can have a large-tournament experience without having to drive or fly across country." Now living in northeastern Tennessee, Podczasy added tournaments in her neighbor- hood with the Smoky Mountain Blast and the Rail City Rumble. "We have again the event in Pigeon Forge, and that's close to Gatlinburg where they had all the fires," she said. "Something that is really awesome: my officials for that event called me about a week after the fires and they want to give back to the community by donating their pay to the relief effort. That's an exciting connection we have with the event this year. I'm really excited to help out. The community there is just awesome." Still young and growing, Podczasy sees potential in her future. "One of the unique challenges is the way we do events," she said. "We are always the first volleyball event they had there. We are always starting from scratch and looking to build that long-term relationship with the community we are working with. We are not a one year and done. We're looking to create long-term relationships. "I don't see us going to any major city like Atlanta or Las Vegas. They already have their major tournaments there. Right now we might stay with three and grow them. I'd love to grow these to be on the national scale." n Valerie Podczasy Founder Dynamic Eventz

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