Intramural sportsʼ summer leagues officially started June 17th, and for staff members and participants alike, summer co-ed volleyball and menʼs basketball represents a major departure from the spring and fall programs.
“During the year we offer 35-40 different leagues and tournaments, but in the summer we offer just two,” said Darci Doll, senior assistant director for RecSports, in an email.
Two major factors in student feedback motivated the Division of Recreational Sports to trim down the usual program: a reduced interest in playing outdoor sports in the scorching Texas summer heat and studentsʼ desire to have more flexibility to be able to participate in spontaneous events around the Austin area.
More students taking classes online and being off-campus during the summer months was also a contributing factor.
“Summer IM is much smaller than the long semesters,” Doll continued. “There are 10 volleyball and 12 basketball teams playing this summer, but during the long semester, there are close to 250 volleyball teams and almost 400 basketball teams.”
The summer season runs through the first session of classes, and while the streamlined program means a reduced amount of variety overall, both volleyball and basketball players believe the atmosphere is similar to regular semesters: relaxed and casual, with few spectators aside from friends of players but not necessarily devoid of a competitive edge.
“I think the biggest thing is participation, which makes competition very different. In the summer you get maybe one good team versus the fall or spring, where there are several,” said Kaci Erwin, a biochemistry graduate student who has been participating in IM sports for six years.
Her volleyball team, Spiketown, won its first game on June 17th, and Erwin says she is hoping more teams become more competitive in the time leading up to the playoffs. But she cautions the atmosphere really depends on which team youʼre on.
“Iʼve been on several teams where itʼs really competitive, with lots of practices and drills and set plays, and then there are other teams where itʼs just for fun.” Erwin said.
The level of competition within games is also dictated by which sport participants choose to pursue.
“Basketball can be a little more intense,” said Nicholas Hodges, an exercise science senior who plays for Wrist Motion and is also in his 10th semester of refereeing other IM sports, including volleyball, this summer. “But, at the same time, itʼs still pretty relaxed. You have a couple teams that picked and chose all the best players that were available this summer, which makes for really stacked teams. Theyʼre more intense, but the majority of the 12 teams are pretty relaxed.”
Hodges believes the reduced pressure and workload of summer classes is what helps foster a more laid-back environment for summer staff and players. Fewer teams and players leads to a more personal experience; a lot of the same people return year after year, and, while they tend to play on the same teams as their friends, itʼs easier for referees to get to know players and for students to get to know each other.
The basketball playoffs begin Thursday evening, but Hodgesʼ extensive experience within intramurals quickly puts that in perspective.
“This summer is going well so far,” Hodges said. “I feel that both the referees and the players are having fun. Which is the most important part.”