Winners of 2021 SportsTravel Awards announced at TEAMS ’21.

Atlantic City, NJ (September 29, 2021)SportsTravel announced the winners of the 2021 SportsTravel Awards during the TEAMS ‘21 Conference & Expo in Atlantic City, New Jersey, honoring the organizations, events and individuals who have gone above and beyond during a challenging and historic year and found ways to move the industry forward despite the global pandemic.

TEAMS: Travel, Events And Management in Sports, is the world’s largest gathering of event organizers and travel planners from the sports industry. Held at the Atlantic City Convention Center, the awards ceremony was emceed by three-time Olympian and four-time Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross.

The 2021 winners were the National Women’s Soccer League, USA Boxing, the World Transplant Games 5K Anyway and Connecticut venue operator David Rocha.

The National Women’s Soccer League hired Lisa Baird as commissioner in February 2020 and within six weeks, she had to shut the league down because of COVID-19 before the season could even start. The NWSL then set up a Medical Task Force to establish a set of medical protocols to minimize risk to players and staff, with an eye on allowing the league to return to sport before any other team sport in America. The league also signed landmark content distribution agreements with both CBS and Twitch. And to support the move of an entire league to one destination for six weeks or more, the league secured new national partnerships with Google; P&G and Secret; and Verizon. The NWSL restarted two months into the pandemic with the NWSL Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret, held in Utah in partnership with the Utah Sports Commission. NWSL viewership totals on CBS shattered previous records and the tournament was held without any positive COVID-19 tests.

The 2020 USA Boxing National Championships were scheduled to be in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in December before Hurricane Laura struck in August. Damage from the hurricane caused the national governing body to postpone the event until early 2021, eventually relocating to Shreveport to keep the event in Louisiana. USA Boxing then implemented COVID-19 protocols designed to ensure the safety of the boxers, coaches, officials and members of the community. USA Boxing staff worked diligently with the Shreveport Bossier Sports Commission and the Shreveport Downtown Development Authority to live stream bouts at local restaurants to encourage visitors to spend money in the local community. Local businesses also helped with marketing materials, created custom embroidered patches for the boxing officials, commissioned trophies, and other needs, to help make the event a success for the Shreveport-Bossier City community.

Houston was set to host the World Transplant Games but when the pandemic caused the cancellation of the event. Faced with that situation, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority turned the event virtual and received participation from all 50 states and many countries around the world for the World Transplant Games 5K Anyway, in which participants could complete the equivalent of a 5K run in almost any fashion. The event took virtual runners and walkers around the world with a series of daily updates to encourage more participation, bringing attention to Houston and to the cause of transplant recipients even though the event couldn’t be held in person.

David Rocha of Simsbury, Connecticut, is largest fastpitch tournament provider in New England, running local, regional, and national tournaments at Fastpitch Nation Park in Windsor, Connecticut, which he built and opened in 2018. Throughout 2020, Rocha developed a detailed Safe Return to Play Plan that he then used when working with the State Senate and House of Representative to restart youth sports across the state. Any tournament provider, league or team was free to use his plan to safely run their events as Fastpitch Nation Park reopened in Fall 2020 under approved guidelines that included no spectators. Rocha then shared his strategies with the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau and with numerous sports organizers of all types across the nation to help them structure their own reopening plans.

“The SportsTravel Awards recognize the stars of the sports-event industry,” said Timothy Schneider, founder and chairman of the Sports Division of Northstar Travel Group, which publishes SportsTravel magazine and organizes the TEAMS Conference & Expo. “While countless events during 2020 and 2021 were canceled, those that were able to continue found ways to adapt and inspire those in the industry with their creativity and energy. This year’s honorees found new ways to approach their business and helped their communities and their industry prosper despite the pandemic.”

Criteria for nomination and voting for the 2021 SportsTravel Awards program included organizations, events or individuals who demonstrated not only resolve in the face of the current challenges but also reflected what is best about the people and the organizations in the sports-event industry.

The National Congress of State Games also announced the winners of its Athlete of the Year awards during the awards ceremony. The winners were Rachel Lee, adult female athlete of the year; Brady O’Donnell, adult male athlete of the year; Olivia Goodwin, youth female athlete of the year; Cooper Conner, youth male athlete of the year.

The International Fair Play Committee — also known as Fair Play — also announced that it has selected the TEAMS Conference to announce the introduction of a new award that will focus on athletes deserving of recognition from North, Central and South America called the Fair Play Americas Award. Sunil Sabharawl, the IFPC secretary general, made the announcement.