Although FFA is best known for the role it plays in agricultural education, the organization also emphasizes the importance of leadership, camaraderie and healthy habits. As a result, it makes sense that chapters across the nation often participate in sporting events that bring them together in an unexpected way, while giving them a chance to enjoy a little friendly competition with other FFA members.
For example, the Merced FFA in Merced, Calif., participates in an annual basketball tournament during National FFA Week (pictured above) that comprises several chapters in the Merced-Mariposa FFA Section. The tournament has taken place for 10 years, and according to Nicole Cecil, one of the Merced FFA Chapter advisors, 2019 was the first year her chapter won the event. It even went undefeated, which was a significant victory that Cecil says will be included on their next National Chapter Award application.
“Our section’s basketball tournament is something many of our members look forward to all year, and it even brings FFA alumni and supporters back to serve as referees,” Cecil says. “This kind of event is important because FFA is about more than showing livestock and competing in ag-based contests. It’s also about friendship and community, and sports are a great way to get more kids involved in our organization.”
The Edgar FFA Chapter in Edgar, Wis., also competes in a basketball tournament each year – better known as “barn ball” to locals – that’s been a favorite annual tradition for about 40 years.
“The barn ball tournament is a daylong activity that’s just for fun, and it’s the perfect way to demonstrate that FFA truly offers something for everyone,” says Edgar FFA Advisor Matt Reinders. “Not every member wants to participate in speaking contests or work with animals. Sporting events can be a perfect opportunity to get involved and find a place in the chapter. Plus, athletics give young people a chance to develop leadership and sportsmanship skills.”
The Willapa Valley FFA in Menlo, Wash., gives members ample opportunities to compete in sporting events, too. The chapter participates in a volleyball tournament in the fall and a basketball tournament in the spring, both of which are open to all of the area’s District 3 FFA chapters. During National FFA Week, members host a dodgeball tournament for Willapa Valley High School students that serves as a fundraiser for the chapter.
“It’s a really fun opportunity to build camaraderie and to get the members together in a way that’s a little different than what they’re accustomed to in FFA,” says Willapa Valley FFA Advisor Molly Majors. “They work together as a team and feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment, which is incredible to witness. Sporting events also diversify our FFA programming and can draw students who might not think we’re a good fit for them.”