SportsEvents is edited for those who plan tournaments or other sports events.
Issue link: http://sportsevents.epubxp.com/i/780942
www.sportseventsmagazine.com January 2017 21 SPECIAL FEATURE: Awards & Recognition Issue To say that the International Senior Softball Association (ISSA) is a family affair might be a bit of an understatement. "We held our first tournament in 1995 and basically most of our family has been involved since the beginning in some aspect," said Greg Thomas, deputy executive director of ISSA. "My dad [RB Thomas] had seven children and at some events we had all seven children there. But from the beginning, he and I did most of the organizing." What began with one tournament a year in northern Virginia eventually blossomed into one of the major senior softball organizations; it ran 24 events in 2016. "Back in 2002, we added a second tournament," Thomas said. "In 2006, we added a third tournament — all in the state of Virginia. A few years after that, we saw the impact of the other two senior organizations. They started pushing more on the East Coast. We had many teams begging us to come and host tournaments." What sets ISSA apart, according to Thomas, is the personal, family touch. "We are the only organization that every tournament we do, RB or me are at the event," Thomas said. "What's changed over the years is that instead of a few weeks a year working on events, it's grown to basically a full-time job." What cranked up the business was RB Thomas's first trip to a conference that brings together rights holders and destinations, like SportsEvents' S.P.O.R.T.S. The Relationship Conference. "That's a key factor for us, going to those conferences and meeting with and establishing partnerships with these cities," Thomas said. Thomas said they sold 22,000 hotel nights in 2016 and are working to add more events in 2017 as the ISSA growth continues. "We've averaged 20 to 25 percent growth in the past three years," Thomas said. "One of the tough parts for me is not only promoting the events but I do all the scheduling also. That's more than 4,000 schedules last year." Thomas said a key factor in ISSA's success is the organization's commit- ment to offer teams competitive games. "You have to have the teams and right placement so it is a good com- petitive game," Thomas said. "That's one of the toughest aspects, how teams are rated, what they should be rated so you end up with a good game." n Greg Thomas Deputy Executive Director International Senior Softball Association