Intramural sports thrive


The UI Division of Recreational Services is making changes this year to help improve the intramurals program, adding five new sports and counting every participant for the first time.

The five new sports? A punt, pass, and kick challenge, bean bags, and a bench-press competition, as well as college bowl pick ’em and college basketball bracket contests.

When Recreational Services combined both men and women to form one intramurals program between 1969 and 1970, officials only offered five to six sports.

But with increased student interest and financing throughout the years, intramurals has evolved into a massive extracurricular activity.

Part of that boom can be attributed to Harry Ostrander, whom the university hired to serve as director of Recreational Services in 1969. He said better marketing led to a jump in student participation and the number of sports offered.

“We became more organized,” he said. “Just a better job of getting the word out. As technology improved, so did our marketing ability.”

Mike Widen, a Recreational Services associate director, said every year, the staff members analyze what changes can improve intramurals. One of those decisions included offering five new sports this year.

“A lot of it is based on participant feedback,” he said. “We are doing bean bags this year as one of our sports because it is a tailgate game that kind of everyone plays, so we kind of assume it will be popular. So why not give it a shot and see how many people we can organize for that event?”

Another change coming for Recreational Services is conducting a complete census of intramurals participants.

Intramurals attracted an estimated 8,000 students during the last academic year, said Dan Payne, a second-year intramurals graduate assistant. Implementing an entire count of all students involved will help the staff members keep track of participation trends, allowing them to adapt accordingly if numbers rise or fall, he said.

It will also help keep record of progress.

“With this new counting system, we will be counting all the way down to every person so we can get an accurate picture of how many people we reach at the university,” Payne said.

Widen said he thinks that offering 32 activities gives the program an ability to attract a wide variety of students.

“I think there is more student interest because we have more sports, so we are able to hit a high number of students,” he said.

Students can also fill out comment cards suggesting new ideas or even program changes and can ask questions about anything related to intramurals.

Kerry DuBay, an associate director, said the staff looks at the cards on a consistent basis and makes changes when possible.

She said she thinks officials listen to the participants and try to adapt to their needs and desires.

“Adding sports based on demand … that’s the biggest thing,” DuBay said. “They are really trying to provide the programs that the students really want.”

Widen hopes to continue to improve intramurals.

“My goals for the future are to provide as many sports and opportunities that we can to meet as many needs as we can,” Widen said.

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