Every year, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other dedicated professionals from various public safety agencies come together to participate in the U.S. Police and Fire Championships . This annual event, now in its 57th year, offers a unique opportunity for law enforcement and first responders to showcase their athletic talents, strengthen bonds of camaraderie, and compete in a wide range of sports.
Edmund Russell, executive director of the California Police Athletic Federation, provided insights about this year's games, slated for June 8 to June 15, and the benefits of participating.
Russell calls the core theme of the championships the "Three Cs: Commitment, Camaraderie, and Competition. “Participants are encouraged to commit themselves to their teams and sports, fostering camaraderie with fellow athletes along the way,” he says. “While the competition can be intense, the bonds formed transcend the rivalry, resulting in enduring friendships.”
A Journey of Commitment
Russell’s journey with the championships began during his 31-year career with the Los Angeles Police Department. He started playing in the games in 1988, primarily as a tennis player, and emphasizes that the championships provide public safety officials with a vital avenue for staying in shape, both physically and mentally.
It's also a great way for law enforcement officers and first responders to maintain their well-being amidst the stresses of their professions, he adds. “It is very stressful to deal with every facet of police work, from people on the street, to the community and the politics. Participating in the games helped me tremendously.”
The event also serves as a valuable outlet for individuals coping with PTSD, providing them with support and a sense of belonging, he says. The camaraderie fostered at the championships is unparalleled, Russell says, as participants meet fellow athletes not only from their own region but also from around the world. Friendships established at these games endure for years, transcending boundaries.
“I've met people from all over the world playing in the games,” he says. “I am still friends with people I met in 1995 at my very first world games in Melbourne, Australia.”
The annual games draw thousands of athletes from law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and correctional officers, as well as full-time employees (active and retired) at any eligible agency or organization in the capacity of 9-1-1 dispatchers, detention-custodial officers, crime scene investigators, or lifeguards.
In recent years, the championships have expanded their eligibility criteria to include a broader range of participants. Last year, the games expanded its eligibility requirements to include volunteer and part-time firefighters, reserve law enforcement officers and peace officers, in good standing, of an eligible agency with a minimum of two years’ service.
This expansion recognizes the vital roles these individuals play in supporting public safety, Russell notes. “These are our partners in crime and rescue,” he says. “We have been talking about adding a couple more job titles. We want to include the people who work with us day in and day out because they're always there for us.”
A Diverse Array of Sports
The championships offer a diverse array of sports to choose from, making it accessible to individuals with varying athletic abilities and interests. This year’s event will feature a selection of sports including bench press, dodgeball, air pistol, pickleball, rowing, baseball, bowling, golf, tennis, CrossFit, and more.
“The championships accommodate both new and seasoned athletes and those returning to sports after years away,” Russell says, noting he has hung up his tennis racket in favor of a pickleball racket.
He adds they have upgraded venues for all sports. “They are more centrally located, so people are able to see each other. We've been told by participants and the crowd that the event is the best and most professionally run event they have ever played in. That's good to hear.”
Wanted: Volunteers and Sponsors
The success of the championships relies on the support of volunteers and sponsors, Russell stresses.
With approximately 300 volunteers needed for various roles, the event thrives on the dedication of individuals who help ensure its smooth operation. Corporate sponsors also play a crucial role in funding the event and ensuring its affordability for athletes.
Russell says the championships offer various sponsorship opportunities, and those interested can inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sponsorships are offered at different levels, providing specific deliverables. For example, if a company sponsors basketball, and it's a $5,000 sponsorship, they might receive opportunities to give out medals, have a booth at the hotel, their company's name and logo on the official games website and on social media.
“We have many tiered sponsorships, depending on the sport and popularity of the sport,” he says. “Our sponsorships help us keep the price down for the competitors, who pay an entry fee and a sports fee.”
Registration and Upcoming Events
Registration for the 57th annual U.S. Police and Fire Championships are now open.
The event will take place in San Diego and participants can expect upgraded venues and exceptional officiating. The social aspect of the championships is also a highlight, with events such as the athlete's reception and a special baseball night with the San Diego Padres, planned.
Whether you're a police officer, firefighter, dispatcher, or a professional from a related field, the U.S. Police and Fire Championships offer a unique opportunity to showcase your athletic abilities, build lasting friendships, and be part of a supportive community. With registration now open, consider joining this celebration of commitment, camaraderie, and competition.
For more information or to register, click here.