Do you enjoy playing sports? Were you an avid athlete in high school? Do you want to continue pursuing your athletic hobbies in college? Then, assuming that you’re not a recruited athlete (in which case, congratulations!), collegiate club and/or intramural sports might be just right for you! After all, they say that college is where you’re supposed to discover yourself; and as far as athleticism goes, even if you’re not quite good enough for the NCAA, schools usually have organizations set up so that you’d still have decent opportunities to pursue your athletic aspirations.
So all that’s left for you is to decide whether to pursue your sport(s) at an intramural(IM) or a club level. This choice takes into account a whole host of factors, including: your available time, your dedication/passion for your sport, your ability to commit time, etc. Granted, for some sports at some schools this choice will have essentially been made for you (some schools may not offer a sport at an IM level, but this is not the case for the vast majority of sports at the vast majority of schools).
With the hope of helping you choose, I’ve gone ahead and provided a brief overview of the general characteristics and expectations of sports at IM and club levels below:
Intramural (IM) sports programs provide students with opportunities to participate in a variety of recreational and, to varying degrees, competitive sport activities. Pretty much anyone and everyone can join and form whatever team with whomever they want. To provide this degree of flexibility, IM usually have leagues for men, women, or mixed (co-recreational, or CoRec) teams.
Generally speaking, IM leagues are seen as being more recreational and less competitive than their club counterparts. As such, practices are rarely structured and expected time commitment usually does not amount to more than a few hours per week (if that). Indeed, IM leagues often have trouble keeping participants committed; it’s actually not uncommon for games to be cancelled because teams fail to show up!
While it’s true that most IM teams are laid-back to a fault, some IM teams are more than competitive enough. Any number of campus organizations, be it your residential community, your religious fellowship or even your school newspaper can form teams and compete against “rival” organizations. Indeed, on numerous campuses, IM teams organized by fraternities and sororities are notorious for their competitiveness, which, through regularly scheduled and structured practices, approaches club level.
Club sports are, in a word, intense. Being largely composed of seasoned high school athletes, most club sports teams boast regular, structured practices and high levels of commitment among its members. Being technically club organizations, collegiate sports clubs are run by students and usually have executive boards and other structured leadership positions, as well as varying amounts of money to fund their activities.
That being said, many clubs provide instruction for skill development, and no prior experience with a particular sport is absolutely necessary. This mostly applies to sports to which students have not had opportunities to participate in (i.e. cycling, martial arts, rowing, etc.).
Although some clubs are solely recreational, the fact remains that most remain highly competitive. It is not unusual for club teams compete against clubs from other colleges. Indeed, many clubs even participate in regional conferences and play for national championships. In fact, it would be apt to think of sports clubs as a college’s “junior varsity” team in comparison to a college’s “varsity”teams. Thus, collegiate club sports effectively bridge the gap between intramural and intercollegiate athletics by providing competition at specialized levels, participation in tournaments, and opportunities to practice with seasoned athletes.
On most campuses, the recreation departments provides administrative support, access to facilities, equipment, marketing, and office services in supporting club and intramural sports. So whether you feel like joining IM or club, rest assured that there will be plenty of resources set aside to help you out!