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Registration open, filling up fast for oldest and largest annual Olympic-style competition in Alabama

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Athletes of all ages and abilities can register for the 41st Alabama State Games, happening June 7-9 across Birmingham and Jefferson County. The Alabama Sports Festival (ASF) Foundation is a non-profit that hosts the State Games.

According to ASF Foundation, the State Games began in 1983 at the request of the U.S. Olympic Committee as part of a grass roots effort to get more athletes involved and aware of Olympic sports and to encourage them to possibly pursue participating in the Olympic Games.

It is now the state’s oldest and largest Olympic-style competition. Athletes compete for gold, silver and bronze medals. Winning at the Alabama State Games gives athletes entry into the State games of America in Anaheim, California this year.

The first State Games took place in Auburn with over 600 athletes competing in four sports. Today, the State Games feature 24 different sports, both team and individual, hosting thousands of athletes each year. These sports include archery, baseball, diving, swimming, tennis, track and field, and wrestling.

For the first year, powerlifting has been added to the games. Robby Bradford is the Community Outreach Director for the ASF Foundation. He said the tournaments are set up based on platforms. They started with just one platform for powerlifting, quickly reached the registration goal (60-70 registrants) and have now opened a second platform for that sport. Bradford said the State Games currently have 700 athletes registered. The ASF Foundation projects 5,000 athletes this year.

One of the largest parts of the games is the scholarship initiative. Bradford said, “Sports is our vehicle that we use to drive our values of academic success, healthy living and strong community.” He added that the goal is to give kids academic opportunities they may not have otherwise.

According to the ASF Foundation, a total of $363,000 has been awarded to athletes over the last 25 years. A small registration fee, that varies by sport, is required for athletes to participate. These fees are put back into the program to continue building the games and providing scholarship funds.

This year, 32 registered participants have the chance to receive either a $1,000 or $5,000 scholarship at the Opening Ceremony on Friday, June 7. The ceremony will take place in the Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Awards will be given starting at 7 p.m. Public entry for the ceremony is free to everyone.

The games aren’t just about sports. It teaches kids the importance of being good leaders in their communities. The Athletic Leadership Summit, sponsored by State Farm, at the Opening Ceremony allows speakers to talk to kids about the qualities of good leaders.

Along with the academic scholarship initiative, the State Games also have programs such as Adopt an Athlete, Athlete of the Year and Honoring our Heroes. Details can be found here.

According to Bradford, The State Games have also partnered with Jacksonville State University this year to match scholarships awarded to athletes who are committed to attending JSU.

The State Games would not be possible without volunteers. Volunteers can sign up now to assist in event set up and break down, Opening Ceremony and more.

Bradford said this about his experience with the games: “Everybody’s version of success looks different. And we want to provide an opportunity for everyone to be successful in sports and academics. So, personally, I see working at the games and working through the process of getting it developed, I’ve seen the individual experience. That’s the thing that kind of pushes and drives me a lot of the time is that individual experience and seeing the smile on a kid’s face.”

Gracie Powell is a student intern at Alabama Public Radio. She is from the small city of Thomasville, AL, planning to graduate from The University of Alabama in May 2026. She is studying Public Relations with a minor study in General Business. In her free time, Gracie loves to listen to music, watch TV and spend time with friends and family.
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