“It’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” the old sports adage tells us, and the thousands of UC Santa Cruz students who participate in intramural athletics each year would likely agree. While they play with a competitive spirit, their main goal is to have fun with their friends.
Kevin “Skippy” Givens, who has supervised the intramural program for 21 years, said that “friendship through competition” is the motto of the program and that participation in intramurals can have long-reaching benefits.
“It’s designed to be a friendly competition amongst friends, and quite often what happens is that lifetime friendships are established as well as some of the fondest memories of college life,” Givens said.
Senior environmental studies major Casey Rummel, who is a captain for one of the intramural basketball teams and has also played intramural volleyball and soccer this year, said that the competitive spirit that comes with playing is also a plus.
“It’s cool to be able to play organized sports because you can go out and shoot around with your friends,” Rummel said, “but to actually compete adds a level of intensity to the games and makes it more fun for me and the people I play with.”
Sophomore Lauren Negrete, who is a lead official for intramurals, said that playing competitively is not the primary focus, however.
“While intramurals can definitely be competitive, it’s not like win or die,” Negrete said. “Sure you may lose, but it’s totally fine to put a team of your friends together [though] you have no experience and just go out there and mess around.”
Rummel said that while there is definitely a competitive drive in intramural sports, it does not compare to that of NCAA teams.
“Intramurals get competitive and people do care,” Rummel said, “but with NCAA you’re talking about scholarships and people practicing five to six days a week with their team, which is a whole other level of dedication.”
Senior environmental studies major Graham Wesolowski said he chose intramural soccer over the UCSC team because of the significant time commitment required of league teams.
“I played soccer in high school, but if you’re not willing to commit to a ton of practice there’s no real way to play competitive soccer besides being on the team or the club team,” Wesolowski said. “So [intramurals] seemed like a good level of investment for me.”
There are, however, drawbacks to the intramural program, particularly when it comes to officiating.
“The refs are a lot more nonchalant about the game,” Wesolowski said. “At times it seems like the refs don’t really care — it seems like they’re just trying to make their $6.50 an hour.”
Rummel said that in intramurals no one enforces the important rule in athletics that referees remain neutral.
“They can do whatever they want,” Rummel said, “and they take advantage of that sometimes.”
As a lead officiator, Negrete recognizes this concern.
“Intramurals is great, although we could have some better-trained officials, myself included,” Negrete said.
Intramurals board supervisor Givens acknowledged that there can be issues with referees sometimes, but said that completely fixing the problem is impossible due to a lack of funding.
“It’s always going to be a constant problem because we have limited resources, so to address that issue is going to be cost-prohibitive,” Givens said. “I’m not trying to marginalize it, but it’s so frustrating dealing with the university, and there are looming budget cuts, so there’s not much we can do.”
Despite these financial issues, UCSC’s intramurals program has had significant staying power since it was first introduced in the fall of 1966.
During that first year, there were a total of roughly 900 members on all intramural teams, a number that more than doubled within five years. Last year the participation total was nearly 4,000, and Givens expects that number to grow even more this year with the reopening of the West Gym.
“We have close to 5,000 students participating this year,” Givens said, “which is a staggering number considering the resources made available to us.”
Rummel agreed that the popularity of intramurals seems to be ever-increasing.
“I’ve just been involved in it this senior year,” Rummel said, “and from what I can tell, its popularity is growing, especially with A-leagues, because people are actually pretty good.”
Wesolowski attributes the appeal of intramurals to the “friendship through competition” motto of the program.
“You can lose every game and still have a good time,” Wesolowski said. “Which is a really cliché sports thing to say, but with intramurals it gets to be true.