BY JOHN GALLAGHER
Almost three decades ago, there was no Finnegan Fieldhouse at Franciscan University. There were no NCAA-sanctioned sports programs, and all athletic activity happened in the Gentile Gallery. However, 27 years ago, the intramural sports program was thriving.
Today, ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, basketball and flag football are each offered during different athletic seasons over the course of the academic year. The most recent edition is futsal, a form of indoor soccer. It was a success when instituted last spring during the flag football intramural season, even though students were forced to choose only one in which to partake.
In addition to a diversity of sports, the intramural sports program is responsible for various intramural events. Three-on-three basketball tournaments, sand volleyball and the upcoming racquetball ladder league all represent a collective effort to provide students with an opportunity for competition without excessive commitment; this type of opportunity is something Kelly Herrmann, coordinator of the intramural sports program, said is critically important to some athletes.
“Intramurals are not an everyday thing or a huge time commitment,” said Herrmann. “You can schedule them around your classes and other commitments. Some students are capable of playing varsity sports, but for many different reasons they can’t commit to that amount of time; intramurals are a competitive outlet that is relational, one that builds existing bonds.”
Often, that competitiveness makes Herrmann aware of one of the critical similarities between NCAA-sanctioned sports and intramurals, namely, the betterment of athletic competition as a collective body of students.
“We aren’t just working on getting better in our skills, but on managing our emotions, on communicating clearly, on remaining calm in the heat of the moment,” said Herrmann. “Sometimes we fail. That’s OK, as long as we’re trying to get better.”
One benefit unique to the intramural sports program stems from the faith-filled environment of Franciscan University.
“Faith adds an intensity to everything we do,” said Herrmann. “Intramurals provides an outlet for that seriousness, and in managing our emotions, we get rid of some of that intensity in appropriate ways.”
Herrmann sees the Catholic influence extending to the intramural sports program.
“Franciscan is a different place,” said Herrmann. “Everything about it is different. We have three liturgies a day, and they’re all full. We have long lines for confession. Shouldn’t our athletic competition be different? We strive for that in intramural sports, to learn how to be more faithful, different from what the culture has taught us.”
Intramural sports fulfill several roles on campus, some not readily obvious. They provide an outlet for students to relieve some of the natural intensity resulting from active faith lives. They also allow for safe amounts of competition between those on campus. They even create opportunities for athletes to learn the correct definition of the term “gracious loser.”