Whether you are a graduating senior or a freshman looking to find your place within the UTD community, it remains important for everyone to possess and embrace a certain level of competitiveness. Intramurals are an excellent way to do that.
With a constantly-growing campus, UTD has countless sources of competitive activities, from hack-a-thons to business presentations. Once found, this competitiveness can potentially translate into greater internship and job opportunities, as well as a network comprised of similarly goal-oriented people capable of harnessing and implementing change. Yet, sports remain an important avenue that students can utilize outside of a classroom environment to become leaders and build confidence in themselves.
Across campus, it is not uncommon to see people playing basketball or tennis near the Activity Center throughout the day. And despite not being a football school, UTD athletics continues to grow and expand into new areas, the latest of which has been esports. But for the remaining majority of students who do not play on a NCAA athletic team, UREC-led intramural sports provides the same competitive environment that allows students have the opportunity to prepare, lead, and perform in recreational activities across multiple areas. With activities ranging from one-night tournaments to extended sport leagues, UREC offers students the chance to form teams and perform individually or collectively in athletic events ranging from basketball to cricket, as well as gaming events such as Overwatch and FIFA.
Although intramural sports are standard across most campuses in the nation, a campus as diverse and unique as ours should continue to embrace a competitive spirit both in the classroom and on the field for a number of reasons. All it can take is one simple question – “can I play?” – for students to become invested in a common goal or activity. Particularly for underclassmen, participating in intramural sports allows students to expand their social network and have a cohesive group of friends they can rely on to engage with throughout their time at UTD. In addition, for some students, playing sports can be viewed as a leisure activity to get away from the stress of exams and projects. The more time students are able to dedicate towards competitive activities they enjoy, the less likely it is that they will struggle in handling the overall the college experience and the difficult periods that every student undergoes. In fact, several studies suggest that participation in intramurals can boost student satisfaction, retention and even GPAs.
As for the competitive events themselves, the process of forming a team, identifying strengths and weaknesses and implementing strategies allows for students to continue to embrace being a team player and focus on adapting to overcome a challenge – regardless of their individual major or career path. Despite all participants going to the same school, the idea of competing head-to-head against people you may not know is both exciting and nerve-wracking. It is one thing to have your own individual or team-based strengths, but it is another to play against someone or a team of which you have little knowledge regarding their approach or strategy. In essence, this concept is what makes intramural sports unique.
For NCAA sports, there exists extensive stat-tracking and team film athletes utilize when preparing for games and series. But for intramural captains, most of whom are full-time students with classes and projects, it can be difficult to assess the quality of competition and tailor game strategy to each opponent. With this in mind, the competitive nature of the various events remains variable; participating students are forced to focus on their own effort in preparation, as opposed to concentrating on the play of others.
While some may argue that winning an IM tournament does not compare to winning on the NCAA level, it is the overall experience of diverse groups coming together and competing on a larger scale that remains the focal point of any UREC-initiated event. Even in crushing losses or heartbreaking last-minute defeats, through these tournaments and events students can create memories that will last them throughout their tenure at UTD and beyond. It is these memories that can spark conversations with old friends or reignite past sporting passions without requiring a full-time role. Even if in this semester you were unable to compete, look to your friends and network and start considering forming a team for intramural sports this fall – it just might enhance your overall college experience.