As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect different parts of campus life, intramural sports this year have been for the most part canceled, although some members of the faculty remain hopeful for their return, with a few sports permitted to play.
University of Richmond and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines deem it unsafe for the annual intramural sports seasons to take place this year because of the restrictions on the number of people allowed at gatherings, according to UR’s physical distancing framework. The Red stage allows for a maximum of ten people at a gathering, while the Orange stage accommodates up to 100 people.
“For me personally, it was very difficult,” said Shelby Timberlake, UR’s manager of intramurals and facilities. “I’m programmed to do intramurals.”
Timberlake said that, during a typical year, he would now be in the midst of planning the championship game for intramural football. Because of the pandemic, that is no longer an option, he said.
“I feel really bad for the students,” Timberlake said. “I know how important intramurals are to student life, and it’s a great way to meet friends. Just meeting up with other people and forming a group of ‘Hey, I like this sport. We like it. Let’s get together a couple days a week and just play on our own.’
“It’s been tough, but understandable.”
The impact of losing the intramural seasons has disappointed several students across campus.
Sophomore Vahn Corrothers, a frequent competitor on IM teams, was disappointed by the loss of IMs.
“I feel a loss of connection hanging out with my friends in our limited downtime,” Corrothers said. “On a small campus, it makes it more fun when you know everybody who you’re playing with and everyone on the opposite team.”
One of the values of collegiate intramural sports is the opportunity they present to students on both ends of the athletic spectrum, Timberlake said.
“I got to try a few different sports I had gotten the opportunity to play before [by playing IMs],” sophomore Luiza Cocito said. “I was excited to compete again with my sorority sisters, but because of COVID, that can’t happen.”
Despite the immense challenges holding the intramural sports seasons during a pandemic would bring, there is still hope that intramural sports could make a return.
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“I wouldn’t call it canceled,” Timberlake said. “I’m not a quitter. I don’t say ‘canceled’ until we can’t do it.”
The only intramural season to be successfully played this year is softball.
“It was a sport we felt if we did it safely it would work for a whole season,” Timberlake said.
“We’re working on a five vs. five flag football league that we feel like as a staff we could control. Also, six vs. six soccer could work. Things where we could keep the numbers where they’re supposed to be.”
UR guidelines prohibit gatherings of over 10 people at a given time during Red Stage, according to the physical distancing framework.
Concerns, such as the risk of injuries to students, have been raised by Timberlake about the risks of bringing back intramural sports in the future.
“When you see athletes come back to a sport they haven’t played in a while — a few months, six months, eight months, more — and try to get too competitive, that usually can lead to some injuries,” Timberlake said.
As of right now, there is no official starting date for the return of intramural sports at UR.
Timberlake said he would have to train his staff and game officials before games could be played again, and groundskeeping of the fields for outdoor sports and the courts for indoor sports would also be needed.
“If we did go into the Orange Stage before April, we would be prepared to have something for the students,” Timberlake said. “It’s not all about winning or losing, some students just play to keep the spirit alive for what they’ve been doing since Little League.”
Contact features writer Ben de Lemos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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