Intramurals are a staple of Oklahoma Christian University’s student culture. Intramurals allow students to build connections, showcase their talents and engage in a healthy sense of competition. Intramurals also provide an avenue for students to gather and band together, which is becoming increasingly harder to find in the middle of a pandemic.
Caleb Elmore, a Kappa Sigma Tau senior who has participated in intramurals since arriving on campus as a freshman and who won Male Intramural MVP last year, says that intramurals have majorly impacted his college experience.
“Me being naturally competitive and playing sports in high school, [intramurals] were a good way to not gain the freshman 15, as well as to get to meet new people and let stress out,” Elmore said. “It’s gotten me closer with everyone in Kappa, too. Getting everyone out to the fields, not just to play but to be around each other, especially with what’s going on with COVID, it’s good having the community out there.”
Intramural sports director Rick Judd, who has run the intramural program at Oklahoma Christian for the last 16 years, believes intramurals add a strong sense of community to campus.
“I think [intramurals] are one of the best ways for students to get together that normally wouldn’t,” Judd said. “Those from different degree programs that would never even meet each other, they get to come out here and play against each other, meet each other, hang out at games, even if they’re not playing. Also, I think it’s just a good break from studies, which is the most important part of school. It’s physical activity, it’s interaction with your fellow students, prayers after the game, spirituality, a lot goes into not just intramurals but sports in general.”
However, intramurals have not remained untouched by the coronavirus, and with students being encouraged to stay six feet apart.
Judd expanded on the intramural mask policy, explaining that the desire is for players, coaches, referees and spectators to be wearing masks.
“I don’t think if you’re running down the field you have to be wearing a mask, but the more people wearing masks the better,” Judd said. “It’s going to keep each other safe and hopefully we’ll continue to play. If nobody’s wearing masks and people start getting sick, the first thing to go is intramurals and I don’t want that to happen.”
According to Judd, the student body has been improving in meeting the requirements of social distancing and mask wearing.
“The first couple nights, [mask wearing and social distancing] wasn’t very good,” Judd said. “Then, I sent out an email, and I know there were conversations with student leaders in clubs and after that, things got a whole lot better. That next night we had games. … Most everyone had a mask on and they were spread out.”
Intramural assistant and former intramural athlete, coach and referee senior Zab Lopez-Pagan lined out the requirements for intramurals this fall.
“Before every sport starts, every student that wants to play intramurals has to get tested for COVID, and they have to send us the results to show they’re negative,” Lopez-Pagan said. “We also need to practice social distancing so we took out all the benches around [the fields]. We make sure to encourage everybody to wear masks, bring their lawn chairs and spread out as well.”
Luckily, Oklahoma Christian starts intramurals with softball, a lower contact sport that allows for more social distancing. However, the intramural season is just getting started, and higher contact sports plus those that are normally inside may be challenging to rearrange in a way that meets COVID-19 requirements.
“For indoor sports, we moved volleyball outside,” Lopez-Pagan said. “It might be cold, but that’s the only way we can make it work. Basketball is our next biggest sport, after football, and that’s one everybody likes, and it’s the longest season we have. So, that might be a lost cause for us because it’s the only one that has to be inside. There’s nothing we can do to make it outside. … It’s going to be in the winter so we can’t really play outside. So, I don’t think we’re going to have any indoor sports for now. We’re just hoping that next semester, 2021, we have a better year than 2020.”
While the future of intramural sports may be uncertain, intramurals staff and students will organize and participate for as long as they can, functioning out of the desire to continue to build Oklahoma Christian’s community and have fun, even in the face of a global pandemic.