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IM sports return from COVID-adjusted year

Charlie Wells / Thresher

By Chloe Singer     11/9/21 11:51pm

Student participation in intramural sports remains strong despite the challenge of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, IMs have been forced to adjust due to health and safety protocols. According to Chris Watkins, the assistant director of competitive sports and coordinator of intramural sports, he and his team have had to get creative in order to provide students with an opportunity to compete. 

“[Last year] we only had about 30 to 40% of the campus occupied by students,” Watkins said. “A lot of our offerings went virtual. We started doing more eSports and online events, where you had your traditional, Madden Football or FIFA soccer online. But then we also [had] to find creative ways to play. We had a basketball skills competition, where it was an individual doing things rather than a team... to make sure that we were sticking with COVID protocols.”

Last year, very few traditional team sports were offered. As restrictions begin to ease this semester team sports, including flag football and indoor soccer, are back. Austin Fix, a senior at Wiess College, has been involved in intramural sports since his freshman year and is very excited about the return of team sports. 

“The main thing that I've enjoyed is the camaraderie and the friendships that have arisen,” Fix said. “I am in softball [and] a lot of the time you're just like sitting next to the field with your teammates, talking and cheering on your teammates, so I think that's a lot of fun. There is also the competitive aspect. To win a big game with your teammates is a great feeling.”

But even as IMs are starting to look more like they did before the pandemic, some of these adjustments have been incorporated into the competitive offerings for this fall. Watkins said that after looking at participation data to assess which IMs are most popular with students and what activities should be offered, he decided to bring back successful initiatives from last year such as online trivia competitions, esports and intramural track meets. 

Another effect that the pandemic had on IMs was that last year’s freshmen missed the opportunity to compete on freshmen-only IM teams. According to Watkins, sophomores have been given special opportunities to compete in traditionally freshmen-only leagues this year. 

“The freshmen that were here last year that didn't get to experience [intramurals] are still able to do it this year, and still kind of get that same joy of getting to play with your classmates for the first time before jumping into the college leagues,” Watkins said. “We wanted to make sure that we gave them the same opportunities and the same chances that they missed out on last year.”

Outside of playing sports, students can get involved in intramurals as coaches and referees. This fall, Fix began coaching the Wiess powderpuff team. The Rec offers positions as intramural officials where students can attend training to prepare for the league and tournament games. However, Watkins said that due to COVID-19 there is a shortage of referees. 

“Because of COVID, a lot of our veterans graduated, and we weren't able to reload with new officials from previous years,” Watkins said. “So this year, we have about half as many [as] we usually do.”

With the return of a more complete IM schedule, Watkins said that he takes joy in providing students with activities that help bolster their college experience.

“[College is] about the friendships you make and the activities that you do,” Watkins said. “Things that aren't necessarily why you're there, but you happen to do along the way... I want to provide excellent resources as well as activities for people to make their time right here as enjoyable as possible.”

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