By DAVID MERCER
The everyday schedule of a college student can be a strenuous one, so it is always good to have a form of stress relief. At the University of Mary Washington, one of the best ways for students to release stress is to play intramural sports, and one of the most popular intramural sports at UMW is flag football.
“The number one way that flag football contributes to a student’s college life is by being a stress reliever,” said assistant director of campus recreation for IM sports and sport clubs Daniel Gardner.
Gardner said he is always excited for intramural sports and does his best to regulate them. He is especially enthusiastic about flag football at UMW.
“It’s a great opportunity to make friends and get plugged into the community right away,” Gardner said. “Because there is no varsity football team, there is a population of students and other varsity athletes that want a competitive football experience.”
Flag football has become popular across the campus, and the number of participants has been fluctuating over the past couple of years.
“I love getting out there and showing other students that I have talent,” sophomore prospective communication major Mark Noel said. “It makes me reminisce about my high school days when I played wide receiver.”
Surprisingly, this year the number of participants decreased from last year, which was a record-breaking year.
“The number of teams has dropped from 35 to 26 this year,” Gardner said.
According to Gardner, the biggest complaint from students last year was that it was too cold when it was time to play.
“I’m worried that starting the season in September and playing through October has had a negative impact on the number of participants,” Gardner said.
Even though there was a drop-off in the number of teams this year, it did not stop students who did participate from being as enthusiastic as usual.
“I don’t care if there aren’t a lot of people, I just love that it’s laid back and I can spend time with my friends,” sophomore business major Dieon Raney said. Raney also plays on UMW’s lacrosse team.
Even though the numbers dropped, the intramural sports staff did not stop advertising their sports. Students at UMW have to opportunity to get connected with IM sports and Campus Recreation through Facebook and Twitter.
“We advertise in a variety of ways,” Gardner said. “There’s a combination of social media and in-person marketing. Our IM supervisors put door hangers on every door on campus and try to talk to people also.”
There is also a ‘UMW Campus Rec’ page on Facebook that has information about intramural sports that students can follow.
“We’ve gone from 300 to about 850 followers over the last year,” Gardner said. “We’re trying to ramp it up.”
Once students get registered for a team, they are given the season schedule. There is a four-week regular season, and each team plays at least one game per week. Teams are scheduled for one weekend game and one game during the week. This way the games are spaced out, and students can work them into their schedules.
Just like any other sport, the games can get very competitive.
“You see the same teams over and over again, and you begin to form a rivalry,” Gardner said.
The championship prize is the coveted IM championship t-shirt. “The championship t-shirts are designed by our IM supervisors, and I take their opinion on which design they think is the best,” Gardner said.
“Flag football incentivizes and makes physical fitness fun,” Gardner said.
Intramural teams, not just flag football, are great ways to get involved and be active on campus while also staying healthy and getting fit.