Just for kicks: inside Occidental's Intramural Sports

77

Although they do not host the huge crowds that varsity sports games have been known to draw, Occidental’s intramural sports (IM) teams have become a way for students to alleviate stress and play the games they love in a casual, friendly setting.

This year, Occidental offered basketball, volleyball, soccer and flag football. IM also had a faculty/staff soccer team, giving students the chance to interact with their professors outside of the classroom. All of the intramural sports are coed and the athletes primarily play games on Sundays. Students can form a team and register to play an intramural sport on the Occidental Athletics website.

According to various participants, intramural sports at Occidental have been relatively disorganized in the past, but students say that both organization and participation have increased greatly since Anthony Avila ’14 became intramural sports coordinator for the 2014-15 school year.

With the help of students, Avila is responsible for organizing all of the intramural games. Avila, who also serves as assistant sports information director, said that while taking over the IM program at Occidental has been a challenge, he so far considers it a success. In particular, he said that he has seen an increase in student participation in IM sports this year.

According to Avila, the sports selected for this year’s IM program were based on student participation from past years and student demand. He also thinks that IM is an incredibly beneficial program to have available to Occidental students.

“Intramurals offer students who want to play sports but don’t have the time or want to commit to a varsity or club team a venue to do so,” Avila said. “They serve as a release for students to vent after a stressful week or to simply get their minds off of class work.”

Avila noted that, while intramural sports allow students to spend more time with their friends doing something out of the ordinary, they are also a great way for players to develop new relationships.

Whether students choose to participate because of the casual setting, the low time commitment or the simply the love of the sport, many student participants agree that the IM program has something to offer.

Basketball

Intramural basketball is one of the more popular intramural sports at Occidental. This year, Occidental offered 3v3 basketball during fall semester and 5v5 basketball during spring semester. Occidental has 12 intramural basketball teams, and they play games once a week in Rush Gymnasium.

Jeremy Klein (junior) is the captain of the Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi) fraternity intramural basketball team. He said that, although he played in a few basketball games during his first two years, this is the first year he has played seriously for the team. He said he has loved basketball since he was in elementary school and is grateful that he gets the opportunity to play at Occidental without being on the varsity team.

“If you’re not on a varsity sport, it’s a really fun, competitive way to play sports that you enjoy,” Klein said. “It’s also a good way to alleviate stress from school.”

The Phi Psi team played the Sigma Alpha Epsilon team in one of three intramural basketball championship games Tuesday. Klein said he appreciates that intramurals allow him to play basketball without having to commit a lot of time to the sport.

“We practiced for about 35 minutes the other day,” Klein said. “That was the only practice of the season.”

Lauren Salvage (junior), who is an exchange student from England, works as a scorekeeper for IM basketball games. She also thinks that the laid-back nature of IM games is part of what makes them so appealing.

“[Intramurals are] basically just having a kick-about,” Salvage said. “I’ve found since coming to America that sports are such a big deal here, and so I feel like its nice to have a place that people can play where they don’t have to be amazing. It’s not really intense or rigid. It’s nice for people who just enjoy the game.”

Keane Tarrosa (senior) has played intramural basketball since he first came to Occidental and formed a team with his first-year dorm mates. Since then, he has played for a team every semester. Tarrosa enjoys playing intramural basketball at Occidental, but he said there is little oversight over who plays for which team, so some students end up playing for multiple teams. He also finds it problematic that some teams play in more games than others, which can skew the end-of-season playoff seeding.

While some of these problems have yet to be overcome, Tarrosa said he has seen significant improvement to Occidental’s IM program this year.

“Last year was really disorganized because there wasn’t a person in charge,” Tarrosa said. “This year has been much better … It has been a well-organized season for the most part.”

According to Salvage, basketball is the most serious of the intramural sports offered at Occidental.

“My impression is that the standard of play is a lot higher for basketball [than the other IM sports],” Salvage said. “The basketball players are all very good, and the teams are a lot more put together. Everyone takes it more seriously. It’s actually really fun to watch.”

Volleyball

Occidental offered 2v2 intramural volleyball this year and has also offered 6v6 in past years. Hannah Kessel (senior) joined a volleyball team her sophomore year with one of her volleyball teammates from high school and played for two semesters. She said she enjoyed playing IM volleyball because it gave her the chance to play the sport again after high school.

“I’d been looking for a place to continue playing because I love volleyball so much, and I missed it from high school,” Kessel said.

She said that 2v2 volleyball is much more difficult than regular 6v6 volleyball and that people have less experience with it because it is not offered as a high school sport. According to Kessel, the lack of experience made for a more relaxed, low-key environment that she liked.

She did not play IM volleyball this year because of her busy schedule and the lack of publicity surrounding intramurals.

“The fact that I haven’t really heard about [intramurals] happening this year, and might have participated had I heard, speaks to the lack of publicity and visibility [of intramural sports],” Kessel said.

Despite this issue, Kessel said she appreciates having received the opportunity to play intramural volleyball at Occidental. In particular, Kessel enjoyed that intramural sports are a good way for Occidental students to branch out and meet new people.

“Even though our campus is small, sometimes we still get stuck in our little groups and don’t branch out,” Kessel said. “Sports are something that so many people have prior experience with … and that can bring people together.”

Soccer

5v5 soccer is a popular intramural at Occidental, with both student teams and a faculty/staff team.

Marshall Meyer (first year) began playing intramural soccer with a team from his residence hall this year. He said that forming a soccer team has helped him get to know the people he lives with better. Meyer played soccer in high school and said he considered playing varsity soccer at Occidental but decided against it because of the time commitment.

“Sports, even at the DIII level in NCAA, are very competitive and require a huge time commitment,” Meyer said. “It was really beneficial to be able to play [intramural soccer], because we all bonded over the game, without having to commit to practice every single day.”

According to Seth Miller (first year), who referees intramural soccer, the games are relatively laid-back, and it is common for players to miss games.

“There’s no real incentive for people to show up,” Miller said. “We probably get about half the games in, but then the other half one of the teams doesn’t show up, or both. It’s so hard organize [intramural] sports at Occidental.”

Miller said that, despite the lack of organization, he thinks that intramural sports are a good opportunity for Occidental students.

“Getting people to show up is tough, but it’s definitely one of the only times that you can guarantee an opportunity to play a game,” Miller said. “I think that’s super helpful for most of the people, and most of the people, I think, have a lot of fun with it, because it’s not really that intense, it’s not that strenuous. You can put in as much effort as you want.”

Although some students have criticized IM sports for their lack of organization, Meyer said that the relaxed nature of intramural soccer is why he loves it.

“I think the informality is part of the experience,” Meyer said. “We’re just getting together and getting active, and that’s sort of the point. If we were to make it more serious and strict, then we would have to limit the people who could play, and I think it’s really cool that we are so inclusive as is.”

Flag Football

Occidental offered intramural flag football last semester. Nicholas Mayer (first-year) said he became involved with intramural flag football because he loves football and was very excited to have the chance to play it in college without having to be on the varsity team.

Mayer said that it was difficult for him to find a team to play on, and he ended up on a random team that happened to have an open spot. He did not know any of his teammates, and some of the games were poorly organized.

“There were times when one team wouldn’t show, and we wouldn’t be able to play that night,” Mayer said. “We got a decent amount of games in. I definitely wanted more though.”

Despite these problems, Mayer said he thinks that IM is a good program to have on campus.

“There are a lot of people who enjoy playing sports competitively, but aren’t good enough to play at a varsity or club level,” Mayer said. “Intramurals give them a chance to still play the sports they like in college.”

Nirjhar Mundkur (senior) agreed, citing the larger team size—as compared to other IM options—as one of the primary reasons he chose to play.

“I really enjoyed playing flag football with Oxy’s IM program throughout the years,” Mundkur said. “It was the only sport that was seven on seven, allowing me to be competitive with a bunch of friends.”

Also, like Mayer, Mundkur enjoys that intramurals are less physically demanding than their varsity counterparts.

“Flag football is less physical than actual football, but everyone plays hard and with adrenaline, so it’s always a great time.”