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The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Intramural sports cultivate competition and wellness


By Merlin Mathews

For students who want to enjoy the physical activity and camaraderie of sports without the stress of varsity leagues, the College’s Intramurals program may have the solution. The program draws students from a wide range of athletic backgrounds, who come together out of a common desire to participate in sports that range from indoor soccer to billiards.

Sam Galanek ’18, one of the student directors of intramural sports, says that participating in intramurals has positive ramifications for many aspects of life at Grinnell.

“We talked about it at the beginning of this year [and said] that if we had to brand the intramurals, we’d say that they provide an outlet to be competitive, but also cultivate physical and in some cases mental wellness,” he says. “It creates an atmosphere in which people can have fun and be outside and engage in physical activity,” he added.

Maisie Lewis ’19, another student director, added that the positive environment of intramurals also makes them a great wellness activity.

“Everyone comes and they just sort of let go a little bit after classes and it’s a nice way to chill out a little bit before dinner, spend some time not thinking about school,” Lewis said. “Everyone’s happy to be here.”

Intramural leagues, unlike varsity leagues, do not involve off campus competition. This removes some of the stressors that can prevent people from participating in athletics. Intramurals don’t require the same time commitment — or generate the same pressure to excel. With intramurals, skill level is less important than willingness to participate.

“A lot of people I know feel like they don’t want to participate in sports because they have a sense of anxiety about being bad at the sport or the activity,” says Ben Binversie ’17, the third student director of intramurals. “In a lot of cases, people are excited for more people to show up,” Binversie said, because the more people show up, the more fun the games are.

This isn’t to say that competition is nonexistent. All three student directors mentioned that indoor soccer is highly competitive and Binversie and Galanek also cited basketball as a particularly competitive league. But in intramurals, the stakes of the competition are much lower.

“It’s fun to be competitive in things that don’t have as many consequences as the classroom or a varsity sport,” Galanek said. The competition can be a way to blow off steam, rather than an additional source of stress.

“It’s nice to have a different arena where you can choose to be as competitive as you like or as relaxed as you like,” Binversie said.

The unique blend of competition and relaxation can be part of the draw for students who have previous experience with playing sports and for current varsity athletes. Intramural leagues aren’t a lesser form of varsity sports — they are a league of their own.

Intramurals also have the potential to foster all kinds of relationships between people who might otherwise never have met.

“I met a lot of my friends from [participating in] sand volleyball my first year. And I think that it’s just been a great way for me to connect with people from other parts of campus, students in other class years and just people who I wouldn’t otherwise have met,” Lewis said.

This potential for cross-campus connections between people of different majors, social circles, class years and other all too dividing groups is one of the great benefits of intramural sports. Of course, this only works if people sign up.

“We’re really trying to increase our participation this year,” Lewis says. “The more people get involved, the more fun intramurals are for everyone.”

“I’m a big believer and proponent of play and sports, generally, as a positive part of everyone’s lives. Even if they don’t believe that they’re the most athletic person in the world, they can still participate in intramurals and garner the benefits,” Binversie says.

Currently, the only intramural leagues running are golf and sand volleyball. Indoor soccer and racquetball will begin after fall break, to be followed by billiards, badminton and ping-pong. To participate in intramurals, visit and find Grinnell or download the REC*IT app.

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