Feris to represent NAIA at World Collegiate Games in Beijing

Dr. Greg Feris, athletic director at Wayland Baptist University and chairperson of the Division of Physical Education and Recreation, will be attending the 21st World University Games in Beijing, China.

The Games, which take place every two years, begin August 21 and run through September 2. Competitions will be held in sports venues that have been built and refurbished in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games, which were awarded to Beijing in July.

Feris will be one of more than 7,000 attending the event, which has been described as a prelude to the Olympics. He will be representing the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), in which Wayland competes, and will be one of two representatives from the United States Collegiate Sports Council. Feris has served on the council for five years and is a member of the executive committee.

Feris said these competitions are reserved for the very finest student athletes, most of whom play for Division I schools in the National Collegiate Athletics Association. The United States delegation will consist of approximately 350 people, 300 of those athletes and the remainder being trainers, physicians, media teams and staff from the United States Olympic Committee. American student athletes will compete in basketball, swimming, track and field, volleyball, fencing, judo and gymnastics.

The World University Games is one of only a handful of international events available for American university athletes, Feris said. That experience is very beneficial, he said, for athletes who aspire to compete in the Olympics down the road.

"For many, this will be the first time to compete internationally," he said. "Because we are who we are, it is considered great to beat a U.S. athlete. This caliber of competition is some cases would be like a second tier to the Olympics."

Feris, who served on the Council of Athletic Administrators for ten years, attended the World University Games two years ago in Spain as a working delegate. His primary responsibility then was helping to coordinate transportation for the U.S. athletes. This year, he'll be serving in more of an official role, attending some meetings relative to the event administration and being available for advisory roles during the competition. The benefits are still valuable.

"Professionally, attending the Games gives a perspective of sporting outside of our small NAIA school," he said. "Also, I was able to bring back a better understanding of international competition for our students and coaches."

Much like the Olympics spur on a sense of patriotism among Americans, the University Games have the same effect on Feris.

"We hear people talk about the uniqueness of our culture, but until you see it firsthand (compared to other cultures), you don't have an appreciation for who we are as Americans," he said.

While in Beijing, Feris will also be attending the world conference hosted by the Commission for the Study of University Sport. The three-day event features lectures, seminars and break-out sessions by internationally known professionals in the field of sport and education. The theme for the conference is "Unity, Friends and the Progress of Humanity Through University Sport."