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The NC Recre8'er - is the Blog for NC Recreation and Parks Professionals. We will feature posts from NCRPA members and staff about all the latest news, insights and tips in our field and around the state. Topics will include but are not limited to: Health and Wellness, Outdoor Recreation, Athletics, Advocacy, Aquatics, Therapeutic Recreation, Special Events, Marketing, Parks and Greenways, Cultural Resources and more! If you are interested in being a guest blogger please contact Matt at NCRPA or 919-832-5868. The opinions of The NC Recre8'er (NCRPA) blog contributors don't necessarily reflect the editorial position of North Carolina Recreation and Park Association as a whole.


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YPN Blog: November 2017

Posted By Joseph Keel, Siler City Parks and Recreation, Thursday, November 9, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, October 18, 2017

From playing the game to leading the game

Parks and Recreation Professionals,

After graduating from Mars Hill University, I had one goal: to become a member of a professional parks and recreation agency.  After a month of interviewing, hard work and determination in finding the right fit for me, I accepted the Athletic Coordinator position with Aberdeen Parks and Recreation. It wasn’t long after being in Parks and Recreation that I decided I wanted to be a Parks and Recreation Director one day. With new career goals set, I took every advantage to learn the ins and outs of the Parks and Recreation field. I took leadership roles in the State Wide Athletics Committee (SWAC) and the NCRPA Athletics Directors Workshop (ADW). I worked closely with Aberdeen's Parks and Recreation Director to see what goes on outside of athletics. 

I attended sessions at NCRPA State Conference and ADW that directly correlated with my goal of being a Parks and Recreation Director. It was at these conferences where I heard this statement that stuck with me “You may have to go out, to go up.” Meaning I may have to leave Aberdeen to reach my goal of becoming a Parks and Recreation Director. I knew that was going to be tough, but if I ever wanted to accomplish my career goals, I had to be okay with this possibility. 

With excitement, I can say that I am now the Siler City Parks and Recreation Director. This new career path has its ups and downs though. I can tell you that it can be lonely at the top. I learned quickly that I’m not going to be everyone’s friend or make everyone happy. I am now the one who makes the big decisions that have multiple impacts. I am the one that is looked to for guidance. My phone rings every weekend and late at night with questions and concerns. I must be accessible 24 hours a day/ 7 days week, where before this wasn’t always the case.  

As an Athletic Coordinator, my primary focus was athletics. It was structured and ran like a well-oiled machine. As Parks and Recreation Director, my main focus is everything. I can’t focus on one aspect and allow others to fall by the way side. With athletics, I dealt primarily with a core group. Now I find myself in meetings and conversations with all different types of groups - all with different primary focus points. This career move was a huge jump in responsibility. I feel that this career move has matured me, not only as a park and recreation professional but as an individual.     

My advice for any parks and recreation professionals that may have a career goal of becoming a Parks and Recreation Director is to lean heavily on your supervisor. Let them know your career goals and ask them if you can take part in some of their day-to-day operations. This will let you really see what being a Parks and Recreation Director is all about. Attend conferences and learn as much as you can. Be okay with the statement “You may have to go out, to go up.” If you can do all these things and feel good about, it then GO FOR IT!!

Meet the Author

Joseph Keel was recruited in 2006 to Mars Hill University, where he became an everyday right-handed reliever out of the bullpen. He received his degree in Parks and Recreation Administration with a Minor in Business Administration in 2010. He graduated with a 3.5 GPA. After graduating, Joseph returned to the Carolina Mudcats, where he completed his internship the previous year. In July 2010, he took the Athletic Coordinator position for the Town of Aberdeen. Joseph was awarded the Young Professional Award by the NCRPA on September 15, 2016 at the Athletic Directors Workshop. In February 2017, Joseph accepted the Director of Parks and Recreation position with the Town of Siler City. Joseph enjoys playing golf, spending time at the beach, helping others and serving his church.

Joseph can be reached at or (919) 742-2699

If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at or 919-832-5868.

Tags:  involvement  professional development  young professionals  ypn 

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YPN Blog: August 2017

Posted By Jennifer Games, Hickory Parks and Recreation, Thursday, August 3, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 31, 2017

How NCRPA Helped Shape My Career

Hey Everyone,

I am Jennifer Games, and I work for Hickory Parks and Recreation Department as a Recreation Programmer and AFAA Certified Group Exercise Instructor. I would like to take the time to express how amazing NCRPA is, and why I am so glad to be a part of an awesome organization. I have been a member of NCRPA since 2012, my freshman year in college. I attended every NCRPA conference I had the opportunity to go to. I made it a point to meet someone new every time I attended a conference. There are so many knowledgeable professionals in Parks and Recreation, and attending conferences is a great way to meet them.

As a student, the conferences were so beneficial to me. I was able to go to sessions I was interested in, as well as learn more about the trends in Parks and Recreation. At each session I was able to learn new things, talk to other students about their experiences, network, and get insight as to how other departments operate. My dad is the Director for Craven County Recreation Department, so recreation became a huge part of my life growing up. I would see how happy my dad was, and I knew then that I wanted to make a positive difference in the community through my own career in Parks and Recreation. With that being said, I am very familiar with how my dad’s department operates, but I was very interested to find out what other departments offered.

I will never forget the NCRPA Joint Conference in Myrtle Beach that I attended during my senior year in college. Tom O’Rourke was the Key Note speaker for the college students. He was so inspirational and taught me so much about becoming a young professional. Tom O’Rourke gave us tools to use when applying for jobs as well as how to differentiate ourselves in a professional manner. As a young professional, these conferences have helped me implement new program ideas as well as provide opportunities for me to talk to other professionals on the programs they offer.

Another great opportunity I took advantage of as a student was being a part of the NCRPA Professional Development Committee. The committee was created to discuss, and design the description for the new Professional Development board position for NCRPA. It was a great experience being a part of a NCRPA Committee. I really felt like I was making a difference. I was able to gain a lot of knowledge and experience I may not have acquired in the classroom. Being on the Professional Development committee also helped me network and gain more experience in team work. 

Overall, I owe a huge thank you to all of the staff members of NCRPA, committee members, session leaders, keynote speakers, and all of the helpful professionals in our field. NCRPA, my professors from East Carolina University, and my parents helped shape me to the young professional I am today. I was very fortunate to be able to get a job in recreation two weeks after graduation. I really feel that if I was not a part of NCRPA it would have been more difficult to find a great job so quickly. My advice to all other young professionals is to take every opportunity to be involved in NCRPA and strive to make a positive difference within your community.

Meet the Author

Jennifer Games works for Hickory Parks and Recreation Department as a Recreation Programmer and AFAA Certified Group Exercise Instructor. Her father, Eddie Games, is the director of Craven County Parks and Recreation Department, so she grew up with knowledge of recreation. Jennifer attended college at East Carolina University and recently graduated in May of 2016 with a B.S Degree in Parks and Recreation with a concentration in Sports Leadership. She rode on the Equestrian team for ECU, played intramural volleyball, and was involved in the Recreation and Park Management club. She enjoys being outside, riding horses, hiking, playing volleyball, meeting new people, going to the beach, spending time with friends and family, and loves helping people.

Jennifer can be reached at or 828-261-2258.

 If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at or 919-832-5868.

Tags:  involvement  NCRPA  student  young professionals  ypn 

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YPN Blog: November 2016

Posted By Jared Mull, Transylvania County Parks and Recreation, Thursday, November 3, 2016
Updated: Friday, October 21, 2016

Hello, Young Professionals!

My name is Jared Mull, and I am a Recreation Manager with Transylvania County. I am the guest blogger for the November installment of the Young Professionals Blog. My post will discuss getting involved with the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association (NCRPA).

NCRPA has been a part of my life since I entered the parks and recreation field full-time in 2010.  I was fortunate to begin my work with the City of Kannapolis, which had leadership that believed in the value of NCRPA and being involved as much as possible.  I talk about me being fortunate because finding a department that believes in professional development and NCRPA will help make gaining their support of you being involved with the Association much easier.

Why Be Involved?

1.  You get to learn and network with the best.  Take a look at who is on the board and who holds different leadership roles within NCRPA, and you’ll quickly see that these are typically executive management professionals with a genuine passion for what they do.  They are the best at what they do and getting to spend time working with them will only make you better.

2.  Let’s be honest…your resume likely looks like every other young professional's resume.  You have a Bachelor’s degree, possibly a Master’s degree, an internship, and you’re likely just starting your first full-time job.  What are you doing that will separate you from other young professionals that may apply for the next job that you want?  Adding NCRPA volunteer experience to your resume and holding different leadership positions will not only enhance your resume but will give you an edge over your peers.  NCRPA allows you to take on leadership roles that you likely aren’t getting with your current job if you are not yet at a supervisor level.

How to Be Involved

There are several ways to get involved with NCRPA.  I started out just attending region meetings and other NCRPA functions, so I could get a feel for what it is all about and see if it was something that I was interested in.  I’ll definitely forget some ways to be involved, but below are some ideas for young professionals that are looking to get their feet wet with NCRPA:

  • Present at a state conference.  I realize that for some of you this may take you out of your comfort zone, but you get to speak on an area of parks and recreation that you are passionate and knowledgeable about.  I presented on fantasy football impacting parks and recreation back in 2012, and I didn’t get booted off the stage so you have nothing to worry about!
  • Be a room host at state conference. 
  • Join NRPA and NCRPA Young Professional Network.  If it is something that you enjoy, try to then take a leadership position within the network.
  • Volunteer and nominate yourself to be on a NCRPA committee.
  • Region involvement.  I’m a big proponent of work that can be done within your geographic region.  Strive to be an active member in the region through attending meetings, networking events, and improving communication.
  • Contact NCRPA.  Let Michelle, Matt, and Wanda know some of your interests and time availability, and they will likely have some type of way for you to be involved.

Ultimately, you are the only one that chooses your personal and professional goals for your career.  If you are looking for ways to grow as a young professional and separate yourself from your peers, I can think of no better way to do so than to start getting involved with NCRPA.

 Meet the Author

Jared Mull is a Recreation Manager with Transylvania County Parks and Recreation. Jared was born and raised in Brevard, NC and received his B.S. degree in Recreation from Southern Wesleyan University and M.S. degree in Recreation Management from High Point University. Jared has previously worked for the City of Kannapolis and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation in various roles. Jared is responsible for the management of the recreation division including budget, athletics, special events, recreation programs, contracted instructors, and strategic planning. Some of Jared’s favorite things are: Food – Mexican, Hobby - Fantasy football and lifting weights, and spending time with his wife Jennifer and two boxers Max & Molly.

 Jared can be reached at 828-884-3156 or

If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at or 919-832-5868

Tags:  involvement  NCRPA  young professionals 

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