November 9, 2023 | SPORTS | By Nolan Diffley
Intramural sports, activities usually reserved for so-called non-athletic regular people, has found an unlikely home in the hearts of the varsity athletes here at Colorado College.
Some may question what IMs offer that varsity athletics don’t? Why is it that 80% of CC students participate in IM or club sports? For some varsity athletes, like basketball player Willa McLaughlin ’27, IMs provide a way to branch out and meet new friends outside of their teammates.
“I would say that IM sports has really expanded my social group,” McLaughlin says. “For us varsity athletes it’s really easy to stay in our little group we spend a lot of time together and there’s a level of comfort in that, and so IM sports has really pushed me to be a better person, a better athlete, a better friend.”
McLaughlin isn’t the only one who feels this way. Hudson Chris ’27, a varsity tennis player and participant in IM flag football, ping pong and hockey, explains that IMs are about, “meeting new friends meeting new people, shaking hands, it’s good.”
Oliv Janerico ’27, a varsity lacrosse, club soccer and IM hockey player, says, “I’ve made a lot of new friends and different grades join these IM and club teams.” Beyond this social aspect, multiple athletes report that IM sports have helped them reshape the way they view athletics.
“What I love about IM sports is there’s no expectation, and honestly has maybe been healing for my probably too-competitive spirit, as I have learned to really enjoy athletics for athletics,” McLaughlin says.
In a culture that puts so much pressure on young collegiate athletes to not only excel, but constantly improve in their sport, an opportunity for them to engage in competitive physical activity in an environment in which the primary goal is enjoyment is crucial for their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Justin Boder ’27, feels that coaches should not bar their players from participating in IM sports. “I think that IMs should actually be required for all student-athletes,” he says. “It allows you to be loose in whatever you’re doing and allows you to not have to be so serious and kind of enjoy it in a different way.”
As the issue of mental health in collegiate athletics becomes a topic of national discussion, creative solutions must be found, and schools and coaches must learn to value the individual just as much as the athlete. These individuals must not only be allowed but encouraged to find interests that allow them to take their minds off the constant pressure of their sport. For many, IM sports is this outlet.
To make it to the level of college athletics takes a special type of individual, one who is dedicated, competitive, and willing to sacrifice for their sport. These traits can at times manifest in unhealthy ways.
A common sentiment among the athletes was that they didn’t typically like to do things they weren’t good at. IM sports have been able to act as a first step for many. Varsity soccer player Veronica Bianco ’27 says that playing IM volleyball this year was “a big thing” for her while Chris says IM hockey helped him realize he doesn’t, “have to be competitive in everything, just have a good time.”
Intramural sports have come to represent so much more than a playful pastime to many; they are a connection to non-varsity athletes, and an escape from the anxiety that has become so ingrained in many collegiate athletes.