Beginning on April 5, intramural sports are returning to campus for the first time in the 2020-2021 academic year after a months-long pause on all club and most intramural sport programming due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
This past fall, the University’s Intramural Department offered yard games, including Football Punt-Pass-Kick competition, bocce, washers, horseshoes and Kan Jam, but the usual intramural team sports were on hiatus in an effort to prioritize safety. However, following a period of low positive cases on campus and careful planning, the department now feels confident in hosting a more typical intramural season this spring.
In the eyes of Intramurals Director Michael Hay, reintroducing the program is essential to the atmosphere on campus.
“Intramurals has provided campus a healthy and positive outlet for that competitiveness for decades, and is maybe the most popular activity outside of attending men’s basketball games on campus,” Hay said.
For this shortened spring season ending May 2, students have the opportunity to participate in four sports—tennis, sand volleyball, outdoor basketball and softball—which is a more condensed selection than the typical intramural spring offerings. The Intramural Department chose these activities with COVID-19 guidelines as a prime consideration, making social distancing, outdoor competition and mask wearing fairly easy to integrate into each activity.
“These sports were decided on because we can facilitate them outside, are traditionally held in the Spring semester and because they are among our most popular sports in a typical academic year,” Hay said.
Emphasizing the importance of complying with the Caritas Commitment and maintaining the relatively low case count, the Campus Recreation and Intramural Department released detailed rules regarding health and safety ahead of April 5.
Specifically, all teams and individual competitors are required to wear face masks at all times during intramural activities and use hand sanitizer before all competitions. Game balls, in the case of sports like volleyball and basketball, along with any other equipment that may be touched by multiple players will also be disinfected between games.
In order to maintain health, safety and the Caritas Commitment, players will receive only one warning concerning compliance with the COVID-19 regulations, with ejections from games or potentially the season as a whole to follow if noncompliance continues.
Even if aspects of the programming look slightly different this spring, student reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, with most looking forward to any chance to participate in intramurals under current circumstances.
Freshman Chris Jendra, captain of his intramural volleyball team, articulated that the opportunity to gather at all in this context is hugely valuable.
“I’m just glad we can get together as a community to play outside safely,” Jendra said.
Jake Luciani, participating in both outdoor basketball and sand volleyball this season, echoed Jendra’s thankfulness that the University is finding a safe, feasible way to host intramurals, adding that the programming will provide an outlet that has been sorely missed throughout the pandemic.
“This pandemic has been tough on all of us and sports is something that I really enjoy and I missed over the last year,” Luciani said. “It seems to me that everything will be safe, and I’m confident in that.”
Freshmen in particular are reacting enthusiastically to the return of intramurals, with many expressing that COVID-19 protocols in the past two semesters have made meeting new people difficult, and that the intramural programming may be a new opportunity to do so.
Alongside the more exceptional, pandemic-related responses, many student reactions are rooted in the spirit that intramural sports bring regardless of the year or circumstance.
“I’m getting involved because I miss playing and want to find a way to enjoy the nice weather that we’re having soon,” said sand volleyball player Madeline Plumer.
Indeed, the positive feedback is reflected in the numbers of registered players and teams despite the more condensed program and shortened season, as Hay detailed.
“I’m very excited at how positive the response has been,” Hay said. “We had over 200 teams register for basketball, softball and volleyball, plus a number of additional doubles teams and singles participants in tennis. This is significantly closer to the numbers we would expect to get in a normal year.”
With the kickoff of a new intramural season, students and University administration are coming together to create meaningful, semi-normal campus experiences despite necessary pandemic restrictions and precautions. More information about safety measures, activity regulations and the program in general are available through the Intramural and Recreation Department website.