Intramural sports options match GCU’s growth
Story by Mark Heller
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
Championship games were played at a championship venue. For the first time, intramural flag football was played recently at Grand Canyon University’s newest athletic facility, GCU Stadium.
Real grass and screaming fans waving signs made it like a high school football atmosphere inside and outside the lines. There were food and prize giveaways plus a “Punt, Pass and Kick” competition during halftime of each game.
“It’s beautiful,” said senior Tamara Boyer, who watched her friends play in one of the games.
The on-the-field sentiment was equally strong.
“It reminded me of ‘Friday Night Lights’ again,” said junior Greg Jenkins, a former high school football player who played for one of the precious “It’s all about the shirt” T-shirts given out to intramural champions.
“It’s created a new atmosphere for championships,” said junior Michael Egeberg, who has played and supervised a variety of IM sports in his three years at GCU. “It felt worthy of being a championship game.”
This year’s additional availability of fields and gyms for recreation and intramural sports has not only fostered a stark increase of available sports to play – both leagues and one-day tournaments; it allows for potential makeup nights previously lost because of inclement weather.
Tour the campus’ athletics and recreation hotspots most weekday nights, and four different sports could be happening on a given field or court for 4-5 hours per night. And since there’s no additional charge for students to play, barriers to entry are few and far between.
Per GCU Intramural and Recreation Manager Matt Lamb, the numbers concur:
- 90 flag football teams (men, women and co-rec)
- 95 spikeball teams
- Additional leagues and tournaments during this school year include bowling, ping-pong, basketball, one-pitch softball, flag football (using college football’s overtime rules), pickleball and kickball
- Five volleyball/spikeball courts (men, women and co-rec) plus access to an additional basketball courts (which could be used for dodgeball)
- 40 combined student workers, recreation leaders and supervisors
“You could literally play sports all night, every night,” junior Justin Thomas said. “It’d be hard with school and homework, but I’m sure someone is trying it.”
Make that weekends, too. In addition to the inaugural bowling, dodgeball and ping-pong tournaments in September, additional flag football, basketball, volleyball, softball (both regular and one-pitch tournaments) and pickleball tournaments are coming this year.
Besides always popular sports such as football, volleyball and basketball (same sex and co-rec), the increase in tournament options is partly the result of increased demands for up-and-coming sports such as kickball and pickleball. These tournaments double as a “nice dress rehearsal and trial run,” in Lamb’s view, by gauging student participation and reaction.
“We’re trying to balance what our students like and want, based on feedback we get and looking elsewhere (around the country) to see what’s being played,” said Zach Erdmann, intramural and recreation coordinator.
Similar to last year, there are tryouts for the men’s and women’s intramural basketball teams that will represent GCU in the tournament next spring. Both teams took second place in the National Intramural Recreation Sports Association (NIRSA) tournaments last May in Columbus, Ohio.
For everyone else, GCU’s growing on-campus student population and expanded facilities result in more options within each sport and allow anyone to find a sport and team, regardless of ability. Lamb said the plan is to have intramural soccer championship matches in GCU Stadium this spring along with an additional available basketball court in the Lopes Performance Center when the new basketball practice facility is completed this winter.
“I think we have built the culture where students are genuinely excited to play sports,” he said.
Inside the LPC, senior Zach Rohrer entered dodgeball scores and results into the IMLeagues.com program that GCU uses to help compile registration, schedules, results and more. The day’s schedules used to be posted on the office window in Prescott Hall after two hours of handwritten or Microsoft Excel inputs, and a rainout meant a cancellation.
These days, additional venues mean having an option to reschedule makeup days, a victory unto itself.
“Having the Colter fields (east of campus) are such a big deal. Same with the new courts,” Rohrer said. “We used to not know if we’d play or have makeup games. With all the new fields and upgrades, it feels like everyone can have fun.”
Such is another perk of GCU’s growing campus.
“I made a ton of friends doing this stuff, and it helps burn off some steam,” Erdmann said. “We’ve done well to build these programs, and it seems to be noticed based on students participating. They see their friends and peers excited about playing.
“You can’t beat something that’s free, especially in college.”
Contact Mark Heller at (480) 639-7516 or email@example.com