While attending AU, all students are afforded the opportunity to be an athlete. Though not all Ravens have the chance to suit up for a school affiliated team, Anderson’s renowned Intramural (IM) program allows students to continue their athletic pursuits during their college career. Faculty and staff can also participate in IMs.
Throughout the school year, the IM program offers 16 sports over the course of four seasons for participation. The first IM season just drew to a close, with champions crowned in wiffleball, pickleball, ultimate frisbee, and men’s and women’s flag football. This was the first year in which pickleball was offered.
Trent Palmer and Rudy Lyon are the heads of the IM Staff. Both look to see the IM program taken to the proverbial “next level” this year. That next level can be reached through the addition of new sports, the adjustment to the digital age and an increased presence on social media.
Palmer explained the process behind adding a new sport. “We gauge the interest of the current student population. If there is a community of people that like a sport that we don’t offer, that is a good enough reason to begin offering the sport.” Badminton was born out of a community of AU students that wanted an opportunity to play the sport in a competitive fashion, and it has since grown into the biggest IM sport at AU.
New sports typically come with the elimination of a sport that is no longer relevant or interesting. “We’re always examining the ebb and flow of the popularity of different sports,” Lyon said. “If we find that an IM sport is below four teams in a season, we reassess whether the sport will be successful moving forward.” Palmer added that some sports have been eliminated simply because they cannot be offered anymore. He was an IM bowling champion during his time as a student, but there is no longer a bowling alley on campus. While eliminating a sport is never easy, Anderson’s IM program needs to be kept fresh and unique to retain student engagement.
The IM program, while remaining under the banner of student activities, has branched out from CAB. While both entities used to be clumped together, the IM program now has its own independent accounts on Twitter and Instagram. The new social media accounts have been one way to usher in a new era of IMs, one in which the program is up-to-date on trends.
The IM staff is pushing heavily for students to begin using IMLeagues, a program designated specifically for college intramurals. Games can be scheduled on the site, rosters can be inputted, game results can be turned in, liability waivers can be signed, as well as a host of other useful tools.
“I’d like to see student independence increase,” Lyon said. “Eliminating the paper trail and doing everything online, like registering for sports, making payments and signing waivers, would really bring us into the digital age.”
The IM program stands on three pillars: providing a space for physical activity, competition and team/relationship building. During the third season of IMs, Palmer explained an imaginative fourth pillar is added: the “social scene.” This is due to the impact of basketball. While badminton and volleyball have a higher participation rate, no IM sport draws a crowd the way basketball does. “Basketball is an IM sport that people come watch. It isn’t just the participants, but there is a fan base that engages in the community and comes to the games to be a part of what is happening,” Palmer said.
The allure of basketball has created one significant change in the program. For the first time, statistics will be tracked for an IM sport. During the playoffs of men’s pro basketball, a statistics class will track stats in each game. Not only will that assist the IM program, but students in the classroom will be helped as their work will count towards a semester project. If the trial goes smoothly, the hope is that future team captains will begin to oversee statistical operations for their team.
One additional possibility that Palmer is keeping an eye on is adding eSports to the program. He explained that they continue to get bigger and he wants the staff to wrap their collective minds around what eSports could look like in the future of IMs.
Although many changes have taken place in the program, the mission of Anderson’s IM program remains the same, “to develop a balanced and Christ-like character in the lives of students, and to strengthen the university community through competition, team building, and involvement.” Partnering a renewed interest in staying plugged in with modern-day trends with a rooted mission will enable the AU IM program to continue growing and reach heights yet unseen. Season two plays begins on Monday, with floor hockey, handball, Kan-Jam and volleyball being offered.