How intramural sports at OU are adapting to lower participation


Ryan Pini

Joe DiFranco and April Peera warm up before a soccer game.

Intramural (IM) sports leagues have long been offered for students and staff through Oakland University Recreation and Well-Being, but in the last few years, IM participation has been on the decline in a few main sports.

Dodgeball and softball have been among the hardest hit sports, with many leagues barely meeting minimum team requirements, according to Dan DeSimone, intramural and club sports graduate assistant.

“Some of our less popular sports, like dodgeball and softball took a little bit of a hit, so we’re working with participants to figure out ways to better serve them and to make intramurals as conducive to the students as possible,” DeSimone said.

According to DeSimone, more popular sports among intramurals, such as football and volleyball, continue to have healthy numbers, but they have begun experimenting with different formats to better suit a new generation of college students.

“Kids these days are different than students even five years ago,” he said. “People are always changing. We’re looking at possibly doing more tournaments instead of leagues, we’re looking at expanding our esports program that we recently started this semester that we had really great turnout for.”

Another surprise success this semester was the creation of a wiffle ball event, with students asking for an entire league to be set up for next year. DeSimone and RecWell are also looking at one-day tournaments with more casual games, like KanJam and cornhole.

Student participant and intramurals referee Marcus Dyson seems to think intramurals are imposing to some, especially new students on campus.

“People might be new to the school, and they don’t have as many friends, and being a free agent can be a little weird,” he said.

Despite his positive feedback after playing in intramural basketball last semester, he sees that joining a team blindly through the free agency system can be frightening. Dyson also thinks a lack of widespread advertising makes it hard for people to know when sports are happening and how to sign up.

According to DeSimone, though, RecWell is working hard to get information about intramurals to the student body.

“We have a wonderful street team full of student volunteers who work at the recreation center who do a great job tabling and getting out around campus plugging intramural sports,” DeSimone said. “We’re also active on social media.”

With all of these new implementations in mind, DeSimone expects participation numbers to continue growing into next semester.

“We’re most definitely going to anticipate more growth, with our new ways to reach students,” he said. “Because ultimately, at the end of the day, we want people to have ways to be healthy, have fun, make friends and enjoy their experience at Oakland University. That’s the number one priority, the number one goal.”

DeSimone greatly encourages intramurals as a way to feel more connected to the campus community, while still staying active and healthy.

“It’s really easy to join teams as free agents, to meet new people, to make friends hopefully that you will have for the rest of your life,” DeSimone said.

For more information, visit IMLeagues or follow the RecWell on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More frequent updates about the status of intramural sports on campus can be found on IMLeagues.