Over 60 percent of Gustavus students participate in intramural sports. It’s a way for peers to form teams, create friendly competition, and just have a good time playing a sport they aren’t necessarily the best at. Or at least that’s what I thought.
I play on an intramural volleyball team. To put it generously, we aren’t the best. Currently, we’ve posted three wins on the season, two as a result of forfeit. I guarantee if you watched us play, you would swear you’ve never seen six girls more excited to lose a volleyball game.
There are two girls on my team who haven’t touched a volleyball in their entire life, watching them learn to play and improve weekly is cause for celebration amongst our team. I thought that was the intention of offering intramurals, to have fun and to learn. But then I went to cheer on a few friends at their intramural hockey game.
How badly does a team have to be losing before they give up? How many goals does a team need to score until they decide to show a little sympathy? The only relief my friends found was in the buzzer that signaled an end to their 47-3 loss.
Now, I’m not saying that my friends are horrible athletes, nor Olympic bound. They’re a group of soccer players, cross country runners, skiiers, rugby players, and football players who decided to get together and learn how to play hockey from two of their teammates.
They knew from their first game that they weren’t destined to win the league, but they were still competitors. Many of the other teams in the league were on the same page—they weren’t experienced hockey players, but they signed up to play because it sounded like a good way to spend a few Sunday afternoons.
Some teams seemed to have a mutual understanding that they’re all in this together. Opposing teams were willing to help each other out for the sake of a good game. There are other teams who take intramurals to a whole other level, acting as though they’re competing for a gold medal. These are the teams that discourage students from forming new teams or from trying a new sport.
Gustavus offers opportunities for varsity, club, and intramural athletics, with intramurals being the least competitive. That implies that intramurals were designed to be a low-key way to compete. With a definition that includes words such as “recreation,” it drives home the idea that intramurals are supposed to be fun. I don’t see anything fun about losing by 44 goals.
I don’t blame that one intramural hockey team. I see it in every intramural sport I’ve watched on campus. There’s a few volleyball teams who play with stone-cold expressions and are out to spike the ball as hard as possible. Basketball teams that run up the score just because they can. It’s not a certain gender either. Hockey is coed, but volleyball and basketball are split into men’s and women’s.
Intramurals are athletic events, and I agree that those who sign up should plan to actually try, but no one wants to play against or watch a team that isn’t the least bit invested in the outcome. There becomes a point when enough is enough.
I have no complaint against the teams that are good and win by a pretty hefty margin as long as they do it graciously. As long as they are able to joke around and at least attempt to help the other teams or even just ease up when the score seems to be reaching obscenity.
For the teams that like to continue to show off once they’ve already secured a victory, my natural inclination is to ask: How is this even fun for you? Forget the teams that are being annihilated. What do the victors gain by slaughtering a team past the point of humor and into the realm of disheartenment?
What happened to good sportsmanship? It’s common courtesy to ease up once a lead has been safely secured. I’m not the only one who feels this way either. Teammates, friends, and even opponents from other teams have expressed agitation with the teams who take intramurals too seriously because it takes away from the lighthearted environment.
Intramurals should be about those moments when a soccer player who has never played hockey in his life scores his first goal and his teammates go crazy. Or moments like when my roommate successfully serves the volleyball over the net for the first time, causing so much enthusiasm and cheering that we forget to pay attention to the other team returning the ball. Intramurals should be about the moments of improvement, excitement, and memories that we’re sure to joke about later.
So, fellow intramural athletes, let’s return some of the pure fun back to our games. Let’s be competitive, regardless of how awful or talented we are. Let’s laugh at our silly mistakes and get pumped up when a great play is made. Let’s encourage each other to try something new without the threat of embarrassment or frustration. Let’s make intramurals one of the most enjoyable parts about being a Gustie.