Success is a subjective term.
Apply it to any life situation and it is bound to have a plethora of definitions. Success in intramural college athletics is no different.
How do you define success — not to mention obtain it — in an extracurricular activity that’s supposed to be more fun than physically, emotionally and competitively exhausting?
We caught up with some active intramural participants and asked them what makes a successful intramural athlete. This applies to those wanting to test the intramural waters for the first time and seasoned veterans. So put away those playbooks, nutritional supplements and brass knuckles and relax.
Here are their five most important tips to ensure that you achieve individual and team-oriented greatness for this semester’s league.
1. Choose team members whom you know you’ll work well with
Like all team sports (or activities, for that matter), group chemistry is key.
Select people whom you know, like and can collaborate with to ensure that balls get into the hoop or that pucks find the back of the net. Gathering your roommates or close classmates works, but don’t forget about other social networking channels that can connect you to other potential intramural stars.
“I’m in a sorority, so we’d team up with other fraternities during Greek Week,” University of Maryland junior Tara Gerke says. “We’d play sports with them during those weeks, so I learned who was good at what and who would want to participate in a co-ed flag football league during the fall.”
However, for first-time participants who don’t have a web of athletically minded friends, don’t rule out social networking sites. The idea might sound daunting (just asking to join a random team via Facebook, for example), but looking for a team and finding one helped involve University of Massachusetts senior Jay Asser his freshman year.
“I just found a Facebook group with an intramural athletics thread and team that needed players,” he says. “I didn’t know the captain or the people on the team. I just jumped right in and gave it a shot.”
2. Make sure your intramural schedule fits your academic schedule
You’re in college to get a degree — not to see how many triple-doubles you can post over chemistry and business majors. Thus, address your class load and extracurricular activities before committing to an intramural league (or two or three).
Many universities have an allotted time when the majority of their intramural games take place. They’ll usually schedule games to be played in the early evening, so working a league schedule around classes shouldn’t be difficult.
However, if you’re intramural does fall victim to a screwy schedule, don’t fret.
“Just make sure you’re ahead,” Asser says. “If a postponed game or weird schedule has you playing at 6 a.m., make sure you have your homework done and your backpack and everything else ready for your classes afterwards.”
3. Know the rules
Just because there’s an intramural football league doesn’t mean you can release your inner-James Harrison on unsuspecting quarterbacks. The rules for particular intramurals might vary from the leagues many are accustomed to from their youth and high school playing days.
In Asser’s case the UMass flag football experience differed greatly from what he expected. He mentioned that knowing the rules might’ve helped out the first time he played.
“It’s difficult because it’s football and it’s now a non-contact sport, so you have to curb yourself,” he says.
He describes playing flag football like playing tag: the person with the ball is “it,” so all that’s necessary is running up to the person with the ball and yanking off his or her flag.
Ohio University senior Eamonn Reynolds also ran into a similar problem when he played broomball (a sport similar to hockey) recently.
“We played a team that knew none of the rules,” he says. “I was the goalie and had the ball covered up, but this kid kept going at me, screaming, ‘you can’t do that!’ They did stuff like that the entire game and it made a bad experience for everyone involved.”
4. Don’t worry about practice
Practice helps, but it isn’t necessary. It might be hard enough as it is to gather a team one to two times per week to meet for games, so don’t feel the need to carve out additional time to practice receiving routes or lay-up drills.
Most intramural teams are on an even playing field and any difference in talent can be attributed to chemistry more than anything.
“If it’s a big game, we’ll just get there and warm-up for a longer period of time beforehand,” Asser says. “Other than that, we usually don’t worry about practicing.”
Intramural athletics don’t equate to the Super Bowl and an athletic scholarship isn’t on the line. They provide an outlet for students to continue playing the athletics they enjoyed growing up and to play those sports they’ve always wanted.
Keep the moment in perspective and enjoy the competition. For Reynolds, who’s been an Ohio University intramural hockey mainstay since his freshman year, that’s what counts.
“I just want to play,” he says. “I just want to get on the ice twice per week and skate. Go in there with a good attitude because there are too many people who take it way too seriously and ruin the fun part about actually playing.”
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