Industry peers voted Beth Porreca, senior director of strategic operations at USA Football, sports event organizer of the year (nonprofit) at Connect Sports. It’s easy to see why. She’s proven to be an elite event organizer at the U.S. Olympic Committee, US Lacrosse and now USA Football. Porreca—who will attend the Connect Sports Women in Sports Tourism Forum next month—brings a no-nonsense approach to the job, yet there’s always a smile on her face. Connect Sports caught up with the Sports Tourism Excellence Award winner about the move to USA Football and thriving in a male-dominated industry.
What are you most proud of since moving over to USA Football?
I am most proud of the evolution that we have made with our national conference. In the two years that I have been here, we have been able to double the attendance of the event and have exponentially increased the number of vendors and sponsors. Seeing the event become one of our tentpole activities annually has been rewarding.
Have there been any unique challenges to event planning at USA Football vs. US Lacrosse?
Football and lacrosse are both contact sports, but the contract rules in football are much more stringent. To run a tackle event, you must ensure that teams have enough time to acclimate and appropriate age contact rules are followed. We don’t run tournament style events like we did at US Lacrosse. Rather, we run more clinics to ensure that we are within those contact guidelines.
How has youth sports evolved over the years? What’s good? What has you concerned?
Specialization and year-round play is more prevalent now. There used to be seasons for specific sports. Now if you want, you can play an individual sport year-round. Specialization at a young age is concerning because it can lead to injuries and burn out. Other than that, the decline of sports in schools is a concern. The prevalence of travel teams has devalued the scholastic experience. School sports offer an opportunity for more participation and character building. Not that travel teams don’t offer that, but they are geared towards elite athletes where school sports are more scholastic in nature.