To continue our section dedicated to the conferences of the USA College sports leagues, today we offer you an in-depth explanation of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The members of this league are generally small to medium sized colleges and universities, most of them private and many religious, split into 2 divisions and 21 conferences. This league extends mainly in the central east and west coast, excluding some states of central America (as it can be seen from the map). Following the alphabetic order we have: American Midwest Conference (AMC), Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC), California Pacific Conference (CAL-PAC), Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC), Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC), Crossroads League (CL), Frontier Conference, Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC), Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC), Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC), Association of Independent Institutions (AII), Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC), Mid-South Conference (MSC), North Star Athletic Association (NSAA), Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC), River State Conference (RSC), Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC), Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC), Sun Conference (TSC) and Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC). The NAIA recognizes 14 sports, including 13 men's and 12 women's, and holds 26 annual championships. In the category of "emerging sports", disciplines that have not yet been officially recognized by the league, we find women's beach volleyball and women's football. Given the continous growing popularity of beach volleyball in colleges and the steadily increasing numbers of institutions that are adding it, we hope that it will be permanently admitted to the NAIA sponsored sports soon.
Among the NAIA's most competitive sports we have men's basketball after which many athletes manage to continue their professional carreer both in America and Europe. Another example of NAIA basketball elite is Toronto Raptors (reigning NBA champions) coach Nick Nurse, freshly named 2019/20 coach of the year, hailing from Grand View University (Des Moines, Iowa) institution that belongs to the Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC). Not only basketball, but also baseball, soccer, wrestling, track & field and volleyball are sports that do not have much to envy to the level of the more acclaimed NCAA. In fact, it is often thought that the level of the NAIA is not as good as the other leagues, but in many sports the top 20 teams can easily compete with some of the NCAA Division 1 and most of the NCAA Division 2. Our Sportlinx360 athletes that compete in the NAIA championship with excellent results are a living proof of that. First of all we have Margherita Marconi who after growing up with Lardini Filottrano was lucky enough to win the 2018 NAIA National Championship with Park University: as she confesses in several interviews, it represented one of the best moments of her life. From this year Margherita will be able to count on another Italian, Vera Beltrame, who has also become a Pirate and together with Marconi will try to get another National Title. Andrea Maggio's path (he wore the Park University's jersey as well) is another testimony of the excellent level of the NAIA. In fact, after a year at Newcastle University in England where he earned a Master's degree, Andrea now plays for the IBB Poland London team that competes in the top league of England and also participates in the CEV Cup (second highest continental club event), where he will play against teams of the caliber of Trentino Volley. Trying to follow Andrea's footsteps, our Leonardo Annichini, after being contested by the best NAIA teams, he decided to wear the Grand View University's jersey with which he will try to win the National Title for the next few years. Among the other top universities both for male and female we find Missouri Baptist University, which has seen our Caterina Cigarini stand out both academically and athletically, obtaining the All-American recognition all four years. Now Caterina has returned to Italy and plays in the Serie A2 championship with Exacer Montale as well as joining the Sportlinx360 staff.
As demonstrated by our athletes, the NAIA can offer great opportunities as well for those who want to continue their sports career after college and we can't wait to make you discover this wonderful reality,