The 36th annual Bay State Games have been underway periodically since June, but the crux of the event has yet to be played.
While competitions in badminton, table tennis, field hockey, and other sports have already been held, most of the over 7,000 participants are set to begin their play in one of over two dozen summer sports from Monday, July 9 through July 29.
The Globe recently spoke with Kevin Cummings, who has been executive director of the Bay State Games for the past 19 years and has been part of it for 34 years overall, about this summer’s event. This is an edited version of that conversation.
How have you seen the Games grow and develop over the last 34 years?
Cummings: I remember when we started we had like three or four sports, and now we’re up to almost 28 sports. When we first started, team sports were really the strong point of the Games. What we’re seeing now is a shift with our individual sports, sports like swimming, track and field, wrestling. We’re seeing really strong growth there. We just had a badminton competition that had 230 registered participants in it, so the individual sports are really starting to grow.
What do you enjoy about offering competitions in less popular sports like badminton or judo?
Cummings: Look at the event we had with badminton, or in a couple weeks we’ll have a baton twirling competition. We have judo, we have synchronized swimming in a couple of weeks; we have over 70 participants in that. Table tennis was reinstated this year. It’s great to be able to provide mainstream exposure to some of those sports. At UMass Boston, we’ll have our volleyball competition in the same facility as our wrestling and judo competitions, so it’s an opportunity to have the athletes be able to experience other sports. And the athletes in those sports that normally don’t get big crowds really appreciate the exposure.
What’s new with the Games this year?
Cummings: We’re continuing to expand our rugby competition, that’s one of the fastest-growing sports we have at the Games this year. We’ve added a female division to that competition, so there’ll be opportunities for athletes there. We also have expanded our offerings for paralympic sports. In the past we’ve had paralympic swimming and paralympic track and field; we’ve added paralympic archery and plans are in the works to have an exhibition for wheelchair basketball. We’ve also picked up a couple of new facilities this year. I think our participants in rugby are really going to enjoy the venue at Union Point [Sports Complex]. It’s a brand new facility with fields specifically built for rugby out in Weymouth that we’re going to be using this year.
How do the Games get organized and come together in time for the competitions?
Cummings: We are operating this year’s with one full-time staff person, myself, then we’re working with eight college interns that come from schools throughout Massachusetts. . . . That group is supplemented by over 1,000 volunteers. One of the unique things about the Bay State Game is that every coach, every game official, every medical staffer — they’re all volunteers. It’s really a volunteer army that oversees all the events.
How do the Games bond the community of the state?
Cummings: Our regional concept of having our athletes represent the various parts of the state that then come together into the Boston area, I think that really does bring the whole state together. We see teams from western Mass take a lot of pride in coming into Boston to show their abilities against other parts of the state. Over the past few years, . . . we do allow athletes from neighboring states such as Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island to be a part of the Bay State Games in certain sports.For comments, contact Craig Larson at email@example.com