Whether you played three sports a year in high school or you’re simply looking to stay in shape during your freshman year, joining intramural sports at your college is the way to go. Actually, there are many benefits to seeking out intramural sports programs in college.
“I started playing intramural sports because I really loved playing ultimate Frisbee as a recreational activity during high school, and I was also looking for a way to play a little more competitively in college,” says Zach Terner, a sophomore at the University of Virginia (www.virginia.edu). “When I played Frisbee last year, I played in the ‘Dorm League,’ where every team is comprised of residents of a certain dorm. I also played on the flag football team for a group at UVA known as the Organization of Young Filipino Americans (OYFA).”
Annie Mulvany has organized the intramural sports program at the Recreation Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder (colorado.edu) for the past seven years. “It’s great for making friends and meeting people. It’s a great stress release. It’s a way for students to take their minds off of school. You could equate it to recess! Our most popular sports would be basketball, soccer and broomball — broomball is like hockey but you’re wearing tennis shoes and you play with a ball instead of a puck.”
“You don’t have to try out,” says Mulvany. “You basically form teams with your friends or people in the dorms. We also have a page on Facebook where people can write on the wall and say, ‘Hey, I’m interested in playing this sport but I don’t know anybody. Does anyone want to form a team with me or does anyone have a spot on their team?’ That’s how many people find their teammates.”
At most universities, students who pay a student activity fee (or their colleges’ equivalent), are eligible to join intramurals; non-matriculated students may be able to participate in intramurals by joining their university’s gym. Intramurals are usually organized by the campus recreation center, the fitness/wellness center, or student life; you can usually find information on intramurals on your college’s website or you could ask the student activities office for pointers on where to find more information.
What’s nice for many students is that intramurals allow them to participate in organized sports in college without the intensity of being on the university team. Stacy Amstadt, a junior at the University of Minnesota (www.umn.edu), has a heart condition that would be exacerbated by the physical demands of playing for the university women’s volleyball team; intramurals are a way for her to keep playing without having to train so hard. “Volleyball has been a passion of mine since the 5th grade. But, I have suffered from a cardiac condition since I was born. My cardiologist told me that I would not be allowed to participate in competitive athletics anymore when I was a sophomore in high school. So, I have been extremely thankful for intramural volleyball, which has allowed me to continue playing the sport that I love!”
“Playing at the intramural level is a great way to play a competitive (but not too serious) game every week,” says Terner. “Most schools have different levels of competition, so you can be as competitive as you want,” says Amstadt. Indeed, Mulvany says that the University of Colorado offers three levels of intramurals: “A competitive league for people who have played for awhile, intermediate for people who know all the rules and then we have a recreational league for people who are just learning how or want a slightly more casual game.” The University of Colorado also has men’s teams, women’s teams and co-ed teams.
Occasionally, joining intramurals can serve as a stepping-stone to playing for the university team. Mulvany says, “Some people have played on more competitive teams and have moved to one of the varsity teams. It’s not frequent, but it happens.”
Above all else, playing intramurals is a great way to meet new friends. Amstadt thinks that joining a new team for intramurals where you don’t know anyone is the way to go. Mulvany concurs; “It’s just a really good way to meet people. People have a lot of fun; it makes a big university seem more intimate. It makes the community feel closer-knit because people are coming together with common interests.”
Terner says, “Intramural sports were terrific for cheering on my teammates and friends, but more importantly, for bringing that group closer together. While the guys on my hallway had different schedules during the week for different things, it was great to have them all come together at the same time to play. My college experience is far from over, but so far I’d say that intramurals have definitely been enriching.”
Liz Funk is the New York-based author of “Supergirls Speak Out”, a non-fiction look at the lives of overachieving girls in high school and college.