The Finnegan Fieldhouse echoes with sounds in the evenings, and the fields are full of students who are not competing in the NCAA brackets. Why? Because it’s intramural season.
Intramural athletics is an individual experience to each athlete that participates. For one athlete who does not feel fit enough for a college level sport, he can experience a sport more on his level with a community feels the same way that he does. For another athlete who is experienced at the sport that he participates in, it can be a challenge to encourage others and teach them what he knows in a humble way. The final athlete is the one who feels well-rounded but who wants to try out another sport, branching out of his comfort zone, striving for a different community. The Franciscan University intramural program offers the individual experience to each athlete who is looking to participate.
Kelly Herrmann, Intramural Sports Coordinator, said, “last year over 1,452 students, faculty, and staff participated in intramural programs.”
Herrmann has been the director of the program for over 20 years and knows just about every statistic about it, which she shared with a vibrant enthusiasm.
Volleyball is by far the most popular intramural sport in terms of number of teams and participants with basketball being second, said Herrmann.
For a while, Frisbee was the most popular sport but with the sudden rise of NCAA Division III sports, intramurals took a hit. Simply put, a college student participating in varsity sport and an intramural is not the best-case scenario at a college that puts a vibrant faith life and thriving academics before the participation in sports.
The real reason that many students join a team is the community. When they bow their heads together before a match or game, asking God to bless what is about to occur, one cannot help but let go of competitive anger and transform that anger into competitive participation. Each team works together to win, which is different from professional sports, where one player often stands out.
One aspect that Herrmann spoke about regarding the program is how actively households participate in it. Sports are a natural way to build relationships and grow friendships, so naturally, a household gravitates towards the idea of the intramural program.
“Through sports,” Herrmann said, “we are tested in the heat of the battle. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail, but if we approach those experiences in a faithful way, the opportunity for growth is limitless.”
To have household sisters and brothers by an athlete’s side while growing in one’s confidence and faith is an individual experience to each person, said Herrmann. However, the resulting relationships and memories are precious beyond belief.
The most important and unique Franciscan tradition that occurs before each match or game is the prayer tradition. Each team comes together, bows their head and prays.
“I remember when I was a freshman in 1983,” Herrmann said. “I had never experienced this (prayer tradition) prior to coming to Franciscan. Many people ask me why our teams do such a thing and if it is something the coaches force the teammates to do. Of course, I respond that it is not a forced experience but that it reflects on the character of each player on the team.”
Herrmann said each player is held to a high standard when it comes to behavior, which reflects on the playing field. Respect is crucial, and it is important that each student competes in honor and honesty.
“We want to rise to the occasion when it comes to our behavior,” said Hermann. “We want to set a high standard and strive to achieve it.”