Intramural sports are coming back


Picture taken from a story posted on the Observer website in 2020, when students were required to wear masks while participating in IM sports.

Jannate Raddadi

When stepping on the outdoor courts next to PepsiCo Recreation Center or the fields near Erickson Residential Hall, the Augie community will notice that some things look different than they did a year ago. Students played in masks, circles were painted six feet apart in the grass and canisters of disinfectant wipes were around every corner. Now everything is back to normal.

In the evenings, students can be seen running around on the fields. Whether it’s playing soccer, flag football or rugby, these students have rediscovered an important community space on campus: Intramural Activities.

When the gravity of the coronavirus set in a few years ago, it was particularly daunting for Don Umland, the director of intramural sports. 

Umland, who plans and oversees all intramural activities, had to come up with ways to adapt and redesign activities that used to rely completely on the physical participation of students. But Umland wasn’t alone. He turned to his intramural staff members. Intramural sports at Augustana are finally back to normal after a long and mixed-up hiatus.

“You know, to just think about all the other events that we’ve offered to this point to get into a routine where people can show up and participate and feel like there’s no impulse that my safety or my health is compromised is great because now kids can just come and enjoy and don’t feel like they have anything hanging over them,” Umland said.

The PepsiCo Recreation center facilitates games, provides a space for each sport and arranges officials to orchestrate the scheduled games once a week.

“Augie’s intramural sports have a really good mix of what I think considered traditional team sports. Some people still want that as part of their daily lifestyle,” Umland said. “I think what we offer is a very wide gamut of selections where you can have fun. Campus Recreation should be fun.”

With the only requirement being up to a 50 dollar refundable participation fee, students can access a variety of opportunities such as soccer, flag football, softball, volleyball, basketball, dodgeball and tennis, as well as a variety of special events including cornhole or spike ball.

Intramurals also open the door for those who have never played a sport to try it out in a low-stakes environment where the only requirement is a desire to participate.

“Students have come out of high school, they’ve played on teams all their life. So, the chance to play one of our five core team sports gives them a certain measure of satisfaction,” Umland said. “There are others who maybe weren’t as competitive in high school, but still like the idea of playing a game that maybe was part of their childhood.”

Managing time as a new student can be hard, but joining an intramural sport has the ability to break up the monotony of a school day, helping students deliver their best work.

The philosophy of recreational sports is to offer every student, regardless of ability or motivation, a chance to participate in athletic events. Intramural sports have traditionally been fun. However, some students claim that it’s a little intimidating and intramural staff have noticed a decline in participants. 

Intramural staff member Kylie Radz works to improve the experiences of those who choose to participate.

“I know that a lot of the times people get a little bit too intense, and it could just scare off some people; that’s happened a lot in the past,” Radz said. “My goal is to get people more comfortable and make them feel that this is a safe zone to just explore. Even if you’re not good, we still encourage everybody to join.”

Sport activities find their origin in the basic human need for the spirit of play. Winning and losing are mere outcomes of this play spirit. What is part of the game is the pure satisfaction of participation (fun, fitness, friendship, stress release, etc.) 

Without an opponent, there’s no game, no contest and no fun. The spirit of play is then based on cooperation. Upholding high standards of integrity and fair play acknowledges this idea of cooperative competition.

Staying active, relieving stress and meeting people are some of the benefits of participating in intramural sports.

‘’It goes beyond just intramural sports that makes the student happy,” Umland said. “If they’re finding a particular facet that we can draw them into these spaces, that’s the win for me.”