Intramural sports at BYU more than just exercise

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BYU offers a wide variety of activities and clubs for students to participate in from hip hop and break dance clubs to the Ducky Derby where students race rubber ducks, but perhaps the most popular activity is intramural sports.

With 14 different sports (with additional variations) to choose from and divisions based on skill level, there is something for almost everyone.

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Mike Poulson (bottom right) and his dodgeball team, Team Sparta pose for a photo
More than 7,000 students participate in intramural sports every year during spring and summer terms with the yearly total nearing 30,000. That number may be a little skewed, however, said Phil Kelly, Director of Intramural Activities, because it includes students that participate in more than one sport multiple times. One student that he knows of participated in 17 intramural sports in the same year.

Playing multiple intramural sports isn’t uncommon at BYU. Mike Poulson, 23, a coaching major from Loomis, Calif., estimated that he has played on 16 different teams in several sports including basketball, football, softball, tennis, dodgeball and kickball.

“I think that intramurals provide a lot of good competitive fun,” Poulson said. “It’s really fun to compete and be active.”

Poulson’s favorite sport is dodgeball. His dodgeball team, Team Sparta, is known for its creative uniforms which include tear away pants, custom made T-shirts, arm sleeves and do-rags.

Poulson owns the most coveted item in BYU intramural sports culture, the championship T-shirt.

“Winning the basketball championship during the winter semester of 2011 is my favorite memory,” Poulson said.

But winning isn’t everything, explained Kelly. In fact, the purpose of intramural sports at BYU goes far beyond athletic competition. To show the multi-faceted function of intramural sports, the Intramural Activities department has adopted a quote from the founder of BYU, Karl G. Maeser, as its philosophy.

“Play and recreation are more than mere diversions, they are recuperative requisites in the process of physical, intellectual and moral development,” Maeser said in 1893.

Based on that philosophy, Kelly has worked to incorporate the mission of the university into all intramural activities which is to help students develop physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

“I really think that every person needs some sort of recreational outlet to rebuild, renew and recreate themselves,” he said. “We burn ourselves out if we just work, work, work and study, study, study all the time.”

Jay Van Tassell, 24, a landscape management major from Tabiona, is now in his fifth year of working for the Intramural Activities department. Having spent four years as a referee, he said he thinks intramural sports play a big role in the lives of students.

“I think it helps them relax and takes away the stresses of the classes and tests and assignments,” Van Tassell said.

For Joey Stewart, 24, an American studies major from Sandy, playing intramural sports is the way he relieves stress. Stewart hopes to be a professor in BYU’s religion department someday and is applying for graduate school. Staying sane under heavy academic stress is one of the reasons he plays intramural sports.

“It helps balance my life, giving me designated times that I don’t have to think about school,” Stewart said.

Intramural sports for spring term include soccer (both 7 on 7 and 11 on 11), kickball, racquetball singles, ultimate Frisbee, softball, tennis (singles and doubles) and a golf scramble.

For more information on BYU intramural activities, visit intramurals.byu.edu.

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