Unless you’ve somehow managed to avoid Forum Hill and its steady stream of yoga pants, lacrosse sticks and biceps bigger than your actual head, you’re probably aware that Exeter has a pretty strong sporting scene. As the Sunday Times’ Sports University of the Year, we are, quite rightly, proud of our achievements in competitive sports and consistent success in the BUCS tables. Frankly, in terms of Exeter sport, it’s all anybody seems to talk about.
putting my name down for intramurals has been one of my better impulse decisions
However, there is another side to sport here at university; a side which doesn’t get talked about as much; a side which, is perhaps (wrongly) considered ‘less glamourous’. I am of course talking about intramural sport.
I play in an intramural netball team, which, because we only formed it this year, sits in the very lowest league. It’s really only on a whim that I got myself involved- it was the result of the classic ‘new year new me’ mentality (which, helpfully, always seems to desert me approximately half an hour into the first seminar of term). This, and the fact that I felt I could justify signing myself up after managing to demonstrate some level of self-restraint at the Fresher’s Fair, coming away without having signed up to about 30 societies (which I definitely didn’t do in first year, because I am deeply responsible with both money and commitment). Thankfully however, putting my name down for intramurals has been one of my better impulse decisions.
For me, the most exciting thing about intramural sport is that it widens the opportunity to get involved with sport enormously. Not only does it cost significantly less to join an intramural team, it is infinitely more relaxed. So much so that *whispers* you don’t actually have to be incredibly skilled at what you play. Most of us in my netball team hadn’t picked up a ball since plimsolls were considered the pinnacle of practical sportswear. We’ve also played against teams with people who’ve never played the game before, who are running about the court learning as they go. Embarrassingly, they’ve still beaten us, but that’s beside the point. In an increasingly pressure-fuelled ‘adult world’, it’s so refreshing to be able to throw yourself into something that you’ll really enjoy, but which you might not be very good at.
However, that is not to dismiss players at intramural level simply as those that didn’t make the cut for the university squads, or those who are simply bad at sports. This is not the case at all. Even in the very lowest leagues the level of skill shouldn’t be downplayed – some of the teams we’ve played have been truly excellent, and indeed, some include BUCS players. It’s just that there isn’t the same pressure to be top of your game (hence why I’m allowed to play).
the most exciting thing about intramural sport is that it widens the opportunity to get involved with sport enormously
With this, all the best bits of team sports pervade intramural tournaments. The laid-back attitude underpinning intramurals means that it’s really easy to bond with your teammates, making for great camaraderie. But just because the pressure is off, that’s not to say that we don’t all get furiously competitive. If anything, the sharp blow of suffering a defeat on the court is made worse by the fact that the team you played had some sort of pun-tastic name.
So yes, I know we’re talking about a super casual game once a week, but when intramurals are so much fun – to watch and to play- it’s hard to see why they remain relatively downplayed within the student community. What it comes down to, I think, is our perceptions of sport at Exeter, which focus more on the toned and stash-clad than the sweaty and red-faced. I think it’s about time this changed.