Virginia Wesleyan’s Recreation and Wellness department aims to restart intramural sports in the Spring of 2021. Due to the coronavirus restrictions and social distancing guidelines, all intramural sports were cancelled for the fall 2020. However, as the university enters the final weeks of the semester the department of Recreation and Wellness are hopeful to recommence all the programs next year.
As with everything during this COVID-19 period, there is a large disparity of what people want to happen and what people know is going to happen. Willie Harrell, Director of Recreation and Wellness and head of all intramural sports on campus,stated, “I really don’t know what is going to happen in the spring.”
“I would love to be able to see that intramural flag football with 100 people out there. What I hope will be able to happen will be more activities similar to that, but I think the structure of those activities are going to change.”
“My goal is for that to happen this spring depending on what we can and cannot do according to our government and administration. It will depend but I think we can make it happen so that we can do some of those activities. We just have to be safe, we have to keep everybody healthy.” Harrell emphasizes the main priority of maintaining a ‘COVID free’ campus which is Virginia Wesleyan’s main concern at this time and going forward.
Along with all of Virginia Wesleyan’s Division III teams, intramural sports came to an early conclusion at the end of spring 2020. The school also canceled all events for the fall. This meant the university was unfortunately unable to put on their annual events of 3v3 basketball, ultimate frisbee and the most popular event: flag football. The attention then had to turn to the future. Harrell said, “I started looking at different approaches that other schools were taking and there was a lot of collaboration. Different schools were putting ideas out there and kind of taking it from things and seeing what would work.”
This led to the creation of a new, innovative recreational activity called the “Daily Workout October Wellness challenge.” This event was where students did workouts individually to maintain physical and mental health. This enabled the students to still have the social dynamic but in a different format.
“You’re not running an intramural Flag Football League at 9:00 p.m. at night where we have 50 people in one setting. Instead you still might have 50 people that are all contributing and doing their own thing, saying, ‘Hey did you do your 25 push ups today?’ so they will be still getting social interaction but in a different way.” These types of new challenges will continue to take place while intramural sports, as students have come to know them, are on a hiatus.
Ethan Labelle, a sophomore who participated in Flag Football last year, said “It’s a lot different. I understand why it can’t happen but it’s still frustrating because I know that everybody was looking forward to getting back out there and playing some more.”
Labelle also discussed the importance of intramural sports to a non-athlete. “It’s a nice way to stay active and keep playing sports,” he said. “Even though I’m not playing the sport here at the college it’s a fun environment that’s still competitive but not overly competitive.”
Both Labelle and Harrell believe that intramural sports play a major role in a student’s psychological health as well as physical. Harrell stated, “I want students to be happy, there’s an emotional side of that [playing intramural sports]. Being able to interact with folks and winning and losing, those emotional things are a huge part of an overall wellness for our community and I want to see that again.”
Labelle echoed these ideas from the student perspective. “Regardless of what happens, we come home happy. Everybody just likes to get out there and play; it’s a great way to all hang out together.”
Regardless of whether the campus will see the return of intramural sports in the upcoming spring, the program offers an unique opportunity to socialize with members of the Virginia Wesleyan community while partaking in physical activity. The environment that these events create allows student’s physical and emotional wellbeing to thrive. Once the coronavirus abates, Virginia Wesleyan hopes to see the return of the esteemed intramural sports program as the community once knew it.
By Henry West