3 Key Takeaways from the NIRSA 2024 Conference

· by Ben Michalak

Last week, RecRe was in Phoenix, AZ for the 2024 NIRSA conference: an annual gathering where professionals can share their experiences working in collegiate recreation. As much as it is the ideal environment for making connections, NIRSA is a perfect place to learn about the pain points and emergent trends in campus rec. This year, we did a lot of listening and are happy to share with you our 3 key takeaways from the 2024 NIRSA conference. 

1. Tracking Inventory Tops List of Issues Facing Campus Rec

In a survey we conducted at NIRSA, we asked campus rec professionals to identify the largest issues facing their inventory management operations. Tracking topped the list for professionals at 70%, with rental accountability at a close second with 50%. 

Bar graph displaying "What is the largest issue with your current inventory management operations?"
Figure 1. What is the largest issue with your current inventory management operations?

Tracking and accountability issues can go hand-in-hand. For one, a rec center may loan out a basketball for a group of students to use outside. Once that basketball is in the students’ hands, how can the rec center properly track it? How do they know it’ll come back at the end of the day? 

These types of questions are difficult to answer, especially as nicer weather begins allowing for outdoor recreational activities. 

“Tracking equipment is already not a fulfilling job for students within rec centers, and campus rec leaders don’t want to post staff outside for just a couple of hours,” Skye Hagood, a RecRe account executive, said in reflection on her conversations at NIRSA 2024. “Outdoor spaces are popular, but it’s hard to track inventory when there isn’t an effective means of doing so.” 

Staffing strain, identified alongside previous issues by 40% of respondents, can lead to turnover in campus rec departments. It isn’t feasible to send student staff to track down a single basketball at the end of the day, especially when that basketball could be in the middle of a field or entirely missing. 

Issues facing campus rec like these are emblematic of a shift toward better inventory management strategies, such as automated rental systems that remove the burden of accountability from student staff members. RecRe’s automated solution provides just this, with the added benefit of installation that can fit any campus’ needs. An outdoor RecRe box can help mitigate worries arising from losing outdoor inventory by offering a singular point of return for all outdoor rec returns. This particular use is one that blends into our next key takeaway from NIRSA. 

2. Most Respondents are Responsible for More Than One Recreation Space

The impact of the four issues noted in our survey can have an increasingly negative impact on Campus Rec departments spread across campus. And, by our data, 70% of respondents manage recreation spaces outside their primary recreation building.

Pie chart displaying "Do you manage any recreation space on campus outside of your primary recreation building?"
Figure 2. Do you manage any recreation space on campus outside of your primary recreation building?

Not all campuses are alike, but there are many that suffer from an inconvenient layout, placing rec centers far apart from each other or entirely disconnected from green spaces. If you’re a campus rec professional who manages multiple recreation spaces, it can be difficult tracking inventory across spaces–especially if you start seeing that inventory show up in other rec spaces, or if it disappears altogether. 

“[At NIRSA], we saw people really expand their opportunities in their heads about how RecRe can help when they think about all of the recreation spaces far away from their central primary recreation building, and how they almost never have a good way to manage inventory in those far away recreation spaces,” remarked RecRe CEO Griffin Harrington. “We call those ‘outpost recreation spaces.’” 

RecRe is a tool to help connect those “outpost recreation spaces” together. When students check out an item from one facility, RecRe’s application holds them accountable to return it back to that location. As mentioned in the previous section, lost inventory can lead to lost money. There is no efficient way to hold students accountable for lost inventory if you have no means of getting in touch with the students who rent from your facilities. 

As more campus rec professionals begin taking on more spaces around campus, the need for an all-in-one fix to inventory management issues is absolutely necessary. 

3. RecRe is a Great Opportunity for Campus Rec  

In our final question, we asked NIRSA attendees if they had heard of RecRe before meeting us at the conference. 

Pie chart displaying "Did you know about RecRe before attending NIRSA?"
Figure 3. Did you know about RecRe before attending NIRSA?

At NIRSA, we were excited to learn about the trends facing Campus Recreation. With 42.1% of respondents aware of RecRe, we were equally excited to present RecRe as an opportunity for Campus Recreation at NIRSA. 

The issues facing campus rec require a solution that makes tracking simple, adds accountability measures, and removes the burdens on staff: RecRe is that solution. 

“Better inventory management equals better operations and efficiency of process,” Skye adds, “so student staff can take on other, more fulfilling responsibilities.” 

Across our campus partners at Auburn, Boises State, and Texas A&M-Commerce, we’ve seen outstanding growth in how students utilize recreational spaces–especially historically underused green spaces. Not only are they engaging more, but they’re returning rented inventory and coming back for more. On the staffing front, student staff members are taking on less stressful tasks and given the ability to manage RecRe box rentals, rather than tracking down lost inventory. 

If you want to learn more about an application of RecRe, Boise State’s experience is a compelling example of how RecRe’s automated platform helps campus recreation professionals reimagine inventory management. Download their full campus success story to learn more.