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For the Love of the Game

News & Features | October 10, 2010

For many at Tufts, intramural sports offer the opportunity to compete in various athletic ventures without sacrificing the fun of the game. But this less competitive, arguably more enjoyable, athletic forum is facing significant changes as a result of a transformation underway in Tufts athletics.

            Intramurals (IMs) at Tufts are getting serious with new rules including a $30 fee paid to the league if a team forfeits a game. According to Tufts Intramural Director Cheryl Milligan, “Forfeits include not being on time, not having enough players, or not showing up. Fees are due the following day, and half of fees collected will go to ‘Right to Play’ which is a non-profit bringing sports to children in underserved communities worldwide, and the other half will go to administrative fees in changing the schedule after forfeits to keep the league going.”

Although the funds go to a good cause, this change may affect the character of Tufts IMs. From first-hand experience, I know we all have those nights when homework is more pressing than playing a fun game of soccer. My freshman year team, “** Soccer Stars!! ** we r kute,” was obviously not a serious venture, but a fun way to bring friends together and play a sport we enjoyed in our youth. If we had been forced to pay a fee for every forfeit, we would have gone broke.

Other changes follow in the same vein, attempting to legitimize IM sports: all players must check in at the front desk before games to allow for an electronic attendance record, and only players already listed in the roster can play for the team. Although these policies will undoubtedly help organize intramurals this year, they seem to add a level of unprecedented seriousness in this “for-fun” arena.

These new rules and regulations coincide with a shift in Tufts’ athletic scene, which is shining a bigger spotlight on varsity athletics, some sports gaining funding to keep their records strong. This shift, however, comes at the expense of some junior varsity (JV) teams such as girls’ soccer. The girls JV team this year lost its funding and has instead been replaced with a club team.

In the midst of this shuffling of funds and categories, perhaps IM sports are seeking to reinvent themselves. The field still hosts an A level for more competitive, athletically-inclined teams, and a B level for teams looking for something less intense. This year’s new rules stipulate that a player may only be registered for one league and if any individual is registered for both an A and a B team, he or she will automatically move to the A team, a measure is meant to ensure fair competition and skill levels. The more intense categorization is just one more way it seems IM sports are becoming more serious.

This begs the question, is the A league trying to fill the void left as JV and club sports lose funding? What will happen to the B league as this shift occurs? For those looking to have some fun and get a little exercise in the process, IM sports represent a low-commitment, high-fun activity. If a trickle-down effect occurs and A leaguers find themselves playing with former JV or club players, will they move to the B league? Will the B league still boast its silly names and entertaining game attire if play gets more competitive?

While the increased regulation could help keep intramural sports alive and well by encouraging participation and fairness in the games, these changes may also affect the spirit of the game. If IM sports become more competitive, what will take their place? IM sports are the end of the road of organized athletics at Tufts, and if they become more serious, they could neglect a whole facet of Tufts students who want to play for fun, not for the scoreboard.

Perhaps these new rules don’t point to a shift in Tufts’ athletic atmosphere. Maybe Tufts IMs just needed to add them so people would show up for games; that makes sense. Maybe these rules will have no noticeable effect and will just help IM sports to become more legitimate. All I know is that if I forget to show up to one of my IM volleyball games this semester, if for some reason I’m not on that court in my tie-dye shirt and neon spandex, I better not have to pay a fine.