Intramurals need reform

Charlie Lahud-Zahner


It has been more than a year since Adam Finch stepped down from his position as Seattle Pacific University’s intramural and equipment manager last Feb. 21, 2018, his official last day on the job. He was professional, friendly and, most importantly, communicative.

In his absence, SPU intramurals have changed.

As Skylar Vez, a second-year majoring in computer science, said that, while he enjoys SPU intramurals, this year things have “fallen short.”

Despite the importance of intramurals to campus life, and despite the fact that it is paid for by the student body, intramurals have been poorly funded and poorly organized by SPU.

According to Gracie Hoidal, a biology major who has worked for intramurals for the four years she has attended SPU, it wasn’t until this year that intramurals finally gained a replacement supervisor, Amy Hildebrandt, who also works as the assistant women’s rowing coach. However, intramurals are largely run by students Hoidal and Jordan Bettencourt.

“Jordan and I do run a lot of intramurals and report back to Amy and other administration in the athletic department regarding gym space and dates of events. But Jordan and I are always hands on and working with students directly and quite often,” Hoidal said.

Hoidal also shared that shortly after Finch left, budget cuts affected the number of sports available to students and made for a “bumpy” transition.

Funding reductions are extremely unfortunate, considering the important role intramurals play in campus life. In an environment where thousands of young adults are expected to figure out the rest of their life in four years, there is something valuable about being able to engage in non-academic, on-campus activity.

Intramurals are vital to the collective health of the student body, both physically and mentally. Organized sports offer an opportunity to be social and active, an opportunity that will not be available after leaving campus.

On a more personal level, intramurals offer an outlet for competition that I otherwise would not have access too. Intensity and competitive spirit of intramurals give me an opportunity to release stress in a healthy environment,  a reprieve from less sustainable forms of stress relief such as eating fatty foods and YouTube.

With that being said, intramurals can be as non-competitive as participants want. The act of play should be intrinsically enjoyable, it should be fun in and of itself.

But recently, intramurals have not been separated into recreational and competitive leagues. Instead, students have unceremoniously clumped together into a single group, something that is destined to be unenjoyable, because neither group is getting what they want from the program.

Additionally, the communication between intramurals coordinators and students has been spotty to say the least.

Last April, I walked down with my team to Wallace Field for intramural soccer only to discover a youth soccer team using the field. We looked blankly at each other, and then looked blankly at our phones for an explanation. At 5:55 p.m. an email had been sent out to notify us that the 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. games had been cancelled due to the field having been double booked.

This is not what we paid for.

I say “we” because the majority of on-campus students use intramurals. According to the SPU Intramurals’ Facebook page, 70 percent of on-campus students participate in an the intramural program, students who pay a lot for the program.

For full-time students, SPU’s tuition is $14,160 per quarter or $42,480 a year, about the same price as 2019 Model 3 Tesla. Shouldn’t the high cost of tuition cover an organized intramural program?

What’s more, as Vez pointed out, there has been a lack of diversity in the intramurals offered to students this year. While last year’s intramurals featured Ping-Pong, Spikeball, kickball and flag football, this year has been stripped down to more common sports.

According to Hoidal, field sports are the most affected, since select sports teams pay to rent out the field.

Vez pointed to the lack of promotion for intramural sports as one of the reasons for intramurals’ insufficiencies.

“If you advertise intramurals and get people to sign up, we can have enough teams to fill a competitive and recreational league. When I say advertise, I mean posters around campus, stating what sports are available and whatever that may be,” Vez said.

It should not be the responsibility of students, or even an assistant rowing coach, to oversee intramurals. Students pay top dollar, not just for an education, but for all the programs that SPU offers.

SPU needs to hire an employee whose sole job should be to coordinate intramurals. Students, such as Hoidal and Bettancourt, who by no doubt have a significant course load, should not have to guide the reigns of intramurals: this is akin to using interns to fill the job of a paid employee.

Is it too much to ask that organized sport be organized?