Intramural Sports Adapt to a Viral and Virtual World

by, Gabriella DePinho, Editor-In-Chief

In a previous semester, you could find ragtag teams of friends competing against each other in a wide range of sports with hopes of being crowned champions and winning the grand prize of a tee-shirt that boasted their title. As a result of COVID-19, the Office of Recreation has halted in-person sports this semester. Nevertheless, the current realities have not stopped them from planning a comeback.

Deanna Hewlett, the college’s recreation coordinator, has had to get creative in order to keep her office running and keep spirits up. While dedicated intramural athletes are waiting to hear what options they have, Hewlett has been working hard.

“Being with COVID-19 and having to social distance, it’s completely different trying to find ways to keep students engaged but also give them the opportunity to have fun and complete like normal,” she said. 

Starting in January, her office began to offer esports, which saw over 60 participants by April. Additionally, when the college went remote, the office began to offer virtual trivia nights. Esports at the school have ranged from competitions in Fruit Ninja to Madden NFL 20, and now will include League of Legends and FIFA. The new offerings students can expect to see include the virtual 5K the office ran during the first week of classes, and options such as KanJam, cornhole and an upcoming scavenger hunt. 

Hewlett wants to make it known that there will be prizes, and that both on-campus and remote learners have the same opportunity to win them. 

“We’ll still have champions of each thing we’ll do and they’ll still be able to win intramural shirts and we actually have a really cool design,” she said. “It’ll be kind of like a quarantine edition. So you’ll remember out of all the intramural championships someone may have, they’re going to remember when they played fall 2020, fall 2021.” 

However, despite the MAAC canceling fall sports, Hewlett’s office will be offering softball, a sport that will allow players to get moving but still be comfortable with their masks on, as well as social distance to a reasonable extent. The Office of Recreation has already offered a “pick-up” softball game to test it out and saw a handful of participants. 

“Because sometimes when we’re in a mask, it can restrict your ability in running and doing athletic type things so I thought that [softball] was the perfect activity so it’s not too strenuous on your cardiovascular system,” she said. 

Students participate in the pick-up softball game the office of recreation hosted on Sept. 5, the first in-person event the office has hosted since early March.

Additionally, her office bought 300 softballs. Each ball used will be put into a separate bucket and receive thorough sanitizing before the next game. 

The promise of the softball season is brewing excitement in some regular intramural sports players. 

“I have high hopes for the recreation department this year,” Zach Olivan, a junior exercise science major and former Office of Recreation department work study student said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what student engagement and recreation will collaborate on to produce creative, interactive, and new activities for students to become involved in during the pandemic. I, along with many others who I’ve spoken with on campus, are extremely excited to start the softball season as we feel we are inching closer and closer to returning to somewhat normal activity.’

If COVID-19 becomes less of a threat, the Office of Recreation will attempt to bring back some of its traditional offerings, such as flag football, volleyball, basketball and soccer. 

“If we’re in a safe zone, some of our regular – barring what the school allows us to do – we’ll try to resume some of our regular sports,” she said. 

John Kocaman, a junior civil engineering student and high school wrestler, has participated in intramural sports since freshman year, playing nearly everything they’ve offered at least once. For Kocaman, playing sports has been a positive outlet. 

“I like participating in intramural sports because it gets my mind off of school and work,” Kocaman said. “It helps me clear my mind. The best part about it is playing with my friends and having a fun time.”

Olivan feels similarly about participating in intramural sports. He also cited it as a great way to make new friends and connections on campus. 

“The best part about participating in intramural sports, in my opinion, is the pure enjoyment of competing with my friends,” Olivan said. “No matter the sport, no matter the skill level, no matter the amount of school work that was procrastinated on game-night, I can always count on escaping from all my responsibilities for one hour at night to enjoy the competition of sport.”

While Kocaman has yet to participate in esports, he thinks it is a good option to have in the meantime. 

“I do think it’s a good idea while there won’t be many sports to play, they are still trying to connect students with esports,” Kocaman said. “I think it’s good to have that option. I do hope they bring back most of the sports next semester.” 

Olivan sees it as a good option for students who may not be interested in competing or be up for the physical challenge.

“Having an esports and sports trivia option for students to engage in provides a lot of versatility in terms of getting and staying involved on campus,” he said. 

For Hewlett, it’s all about keeping students excited, even if they aren’t star athletes. 

“We’re definitely open to suggestions,” she said. “We want everyone to feel involved and if anyone feels like they don’t relate to any of the sports that we’re doing and they want to see something, then by all means let us know and if it’s in our power to do it, we don’t mind adding it. We want every student to feel included.”