Everyone knows that sports are a huge part of college culture in America. The depth of a school’s sports tradition can even be an attractive prospect for many applicants. It’s easy to get swept up in the pageantry of a college football Saturday or the excitement of a buzzer-beater basketball game. But what about getting into the game yourself? While “varsity” sports (top-level competition between schools) are open only to student-athletes, almost all US universities maintain a wide range of “club” and “intramural” sports programs that are open to all students.
Club vs. Intramural
Club teams are student-run sports teams that compete against teams from other schools. However, unlike an official, school-funded varsity team, club teams do not receive financial support from their schools and they must be supported by the students themselves. These teams are a great place for students who can’t participate in varsity sports but would still like to experience a high level of competition. Joining a club team may require a try-out, but these teams are still open to all students. Usually, more time is spent at practices and games. Club teams may also frequently travel to other colleges. Many sports are represented at the club level at most US universities, including aikido, ice hockey, basketball, sailing, soccer, and more.
Intramural sports (Latin for “within walls”) refers to competitions between the students at a single school. Intramural teams are open to all, cheap to participate in, and focused on having as much fun as possible. You may join a recreation league that gathers students from across the whole university. Other schools, such as Harvard, may organize each house or dormitory into teams to compete against each other. Intramural sports usually include all the traditional sports, along with several inventive new ones such as broomball, teqball, spikeball, or inner-tube water polo. There are even intramural leagues for esports!
Benefits of Club and Intramural Sports
Participation in intramural or club sports can be very beneficial for first-year college students. The physical health benefits that come with consistent exercise are obvious, but there are even more important benefits. First, sports provide an easy outlet for school-related stress. Adjusting to a new environment at college can be emotionally taxing, but students who participate in sports recreation programs report improved mental health and lower overall levels of stress. Students who don’t have any experience playing sports can practice in an easygoing, welcoming atmosphere. For students who felt the mental pressure of high-level athletics during high school, club and intramural sports can offer a wonderful opportunity to just have fun playing their sport.
Many students may also have trouble finding opportunities to socialize during their first months at a US university, but sports programs offer an easy way to get to know new people. Team sports naturally build communication and strong relationships. Many students find that they form bonds with their teammates that last throughout their time at college. While the overall percentage of students participating in intramural sports at US colleges remains under 20%, numbers have been rising after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic as more students actively seek to build new friendships.
Lastly, students who participate in sports programs may end up being more academically successful during their time in university. A 2014 study found that members of recreational sports programs consistently had a higher GPA than non-members. The stress-release and heathy sense of community that come with intramurals can help a student feel more engaged in their studies.
If you are dreaming of attending a certain university in the US, consider taking some time to research its recreation opportunities online!
参考資料Nathan Paul Penland，2017, 「Exploring the Impact of Undergraduate Intramural Sports on Undergraduate Students’ Perceived Sense of Community: a Multiple Regression Analysis」, Liberty University (参照日：2023年9月12日)
Tyler P. Ward, 2015, 「The Effects of Intramural Sports on College Students」, Grand Valley State University (参照日：2023年9月12日)
Ila Schrecker, 2022, 「Badgers take to intramural sports in record numbers」, University of Wisconsin–Madison (参照日：2023年9月12日)