The student body is growing, and it wants to play sports.
Since the original fitness center was built in 2003, SVSU’s enrollment has increased by nearly 2,000 students. While other areas of campus adapted to this change, it wasn’t until this year that the Ryder Center was able follow suit.
“(The new fitness center) just needed to be built,” said Aaron Mowen, director of campus recreation.
Although the additions have benefited a wide range of recreational groups and activities, the participation numbers have shown that one program in particular has taken off – intramural sports.
“We’ve been climbing every year, and right now we’re at about 600 students (for the current session),” Mowen said.
With four intramural sessions in a school year, participation has doubled since 2007, with 2,160 students participating last year.
The two sports with the most consistently high numbers are basketball and volleyball.
In 2008, there were 32 teams competing in intramural basketball. This number continued to increase to 34 in 2009, 51 in 2010 and 63 last year. There are 57 teams registered for 2012.
Volleyball has held consistent to around 40 teams each intramural session.
“Every year we always expect volleyball and basketball to be our two biggest hands down,” Mowen said. “A lot of our other sports we can expect eight to 12 or maybe 15 teams.”
Wallyball is up from five teams last year to 16 teams this year, and racquetball has seven teams.
With the increase in participation, campus recreation has made changes to facilities, rules, times and officials in order to create the best intramural environment to accommodate students.
“One other change, aside from increasing the quantity of intramural sports, is that we’ve also increased the quality of them,” Mowen said. “We have better-trained refs, and we’ve also changed the game formats.”
Among the additions that campus recreation has made is the free agency pool. If students don’t have a team to play on, they can sign up to be a free agent and get picked up by a team that needs an extra player.
“In the fall semester, there were a couple of sports that there were so many people that signed up as individuals that we were able to take those students and create whole teams or two teams of all individuals,” Mowen said.
These changes have proven to be positive for one sport in particular – basketball.
Previous to this season, games were only given a half hour slot. Now, game slots are forty-five minutes. This extra time allows for two fifteen-minute halves with stops, versus the eight-minute running clock halves previously in place.
There are also stricter rules about checking in, and officials were carefully selected from more than 150 applicants.
Even with all these changes, the prices for participating in intramural sports are still low. Mowen said that this is a benefit of being a smaller university and having campus recreation fully funded by the university.
“We just want to encourage participation,” he said. “The money is just a way to keep students honest and to keep them committed to following through with it.
“The fee also offsets the costs for the referees, and then all that money that (they) pay for cardinal fitness or intramurals goes into an account that in turn goes back to buying new basketballs, new rec equipment, new fitness center equipment and things of that nature.”
To keep up with the changing nature of intramural sports, campus recreation realizes the importance of making additional changes in the near future, especially on the administrative side.
“We’re looking to put together a student advisory board where students can put in their input,” Mowen said. “The longer I’m here and the older I get, the more distance there will be between what I think is cool and what a new student is going to want to do.”
The second winter season of intramural sports will begin March 19 and end April 20.
Due to the time limitations of shorter season, this season provides students with a chance to compete in tournament play.