by Kara Need | Sports Editor
This year, Whitworth’s intramural sports program has struggled to get a large number of participants. In the fall especially, numbers were significantly lower than they have been. Senior Ethan Pribilsky, intramural sports coordinator, said that there was some concern at first that intramurals were dropping in popularity. However, it seems that Whitworth’s intramural trend this year is not drastically different than intramurals at other schools.
“I would say that definitely on a national scale, intramurals aren’t becoming as popular,” Pribilsky said. “Everywhere is seeing decreased numbers, especially in the traditional sports that we offer. We aren’t an outlier in that way.”
Pribilsky explained that WSU was hosting a flag football tournament for intramural teams from a variety of schools, and they were not able to get enough teams. WSU asked Whitworth if they could send a team to fill out the tournament, but Whitworth’s flag football league did not even have enough teams to run in the fall.
“Pribilsky cannot pinpoint one specific cause of the decrease, but has seen a variety of reasons participation is low, he said.
“Intramurals hasn’t become an integral part of tradition or the beginning of the school year,” Pribilsky said. He explained that while other schools have a week of orientation with opportunities to sign up for activities like intramural sports, Whitworth’s orientation weekend has very few opportunities to sign up for intramurals. Pribilsky also noted that Whitworth students take academics seriously, and often are less inclined to sign up for extracurricular activities at the beginning of the semester.
But intramural numbers increased significantly when winter sports started.
“In the winter, everyone is in a grove. I think people are more comfortable towards the end of the semester, which is why we see more participation” Pribilsky said.
At this point, 479 students are signed up for intramurals, whereas last year there were 512.
The intramural leadership team used several advertising strategies to try to increase participation from the fall to the winter.
“We pushed a lot of stuff on social media,” Pribilsky said. He also worked hard to encourage the existing team captains to sign up for winter sports as well. Intramurals is an interesting environment because they rely on the team captains to bring in most of the participation, he said.
“I rely on the people who I know are going to sign up. No one is going to sign up if no one else is signed up. So it always takes the first person or the first group of people to get it going,” Pribilsky said.
Sophomore Utsal Shrestha said that although he has seen advertising for intramurals, he signed up for them because of word of mouth.
“I play pick-up soccer every Friday and some of them were telling me about intramurals. They were making a team, so I just joined them,” Shrestha said.
This is a consistent trend for intramurals. Team captains initiate starting teams and then bring their friends along with them, however, it can be difficult to recruit new groups of people to be team captains.
“Specifically with competitive basketball, these captains have been the same captains since I was a freshman,” Pribilsky said. Next semester, the intramural team is hoping to expand that pool of captains.
“We need to be a little more present on campus” Pribilsky said “we have a bunch of different ideas on how to make that work.” One thing they are going to try to do is head into the dorms for prime times to advertise and give people an opportunity to sign up.
The Intramural team is constantly looking for ways to get more people involved. People often have great ideas for new sports to add, but then don’t sign up for them when they are offered, Pribilsky said. For instance, in a recent survey, a few people requested that softball be offered as a sport. However, Pribilsky said that although softball was offered this Fall, not enough people signed up for it.
In many ways, that it just the nature of intramurals. They have tried a variety of sports such as spikeball, three-on-three basketball, inner tube water polo, dodgeball and many more.
“There’s stuff like that that we try to implement to mix things up” Pribilsky said. “I’m always open for ideas. I always test ideas out and ask people what they think.”
Shrestha said that the variety of sports that are offered by intramurals has been a fun experience for him.
“I grew up playing soccer. I’m really into it. But I had never played floor hockey before, I just decided to try it because a bunch of people of my dorm were playing. And turns out I like it! I might join a basketball intramural team soon just to try it out,” Shrestha said.
Part of the reason that some of these sports don’t get enough sign ups is just the nature of Whitworth’s small student body population. Pribilsky said that at WSU, about 20 percent of their student body participates in intramurals. But 20 percent of Whitworth’s student population is pretty small. “We have to be smart about who we target and what we offer. That’s definitely the biggest hurdle for us as a small school.”
Pribilsky plans to continue experimenting with different types of intramural opportunities. While finances are a hurdle with some suggestions that people have made, such as paintball and lacrosse, there are many different options that could be tried. Over Jan Term, the intramural coordinators are hoping to run an intramural esports tournament in addition to their regular sports. The NCAA is talking about adopting esports as a varsity sport and while it’s nowhere near as popular as regular sports, it does have some benefits such as the significantly lower cost. “It’s just another way to reach Whitworth students” Pribilsky said. He hopes that it will attract people who are not traditionally interested in intramurals.