Intramural Experience: Woman in Intramurals

As an energetic child, I cycled through all the sports, from basketball and volleyball all the way to hockey and golf. I enjoyed each, taking a special liking to soccer, so I continued my soccer career. As time came for college, I had to decide if I wanted to attend a school based off sports’ recruitment or academics. I chose academics, unlike many of my soccer buddies, and decided to solely pursue my academics, not saying that student athletes aren’t academically focused as well. With this as my mindset and the continued enjoyment I had playing the sport, I gave intramurals a try.

Little did I know, those 13 years of consistent hard work and tireless practices, characteristics of club soccer, would prepare me to stand, idle, ball-less, on the turf for the solid 45 minutes the intramural game lasted.

For the duration of the game I, maybe, touched the ball twice. While I am no Lionel Messi, I am adequately skilled enough that I can pass the soccer ball. So, I was quite surprised when I realized that unless I win the ball in a defensive battle, I would not have the “privilege” of touching the ball. I wanted to play soccer, not track. I didn’t expect to jump over gender hurdles in low-level recreations like intramurals, yet that seemed to be the conflict I was facing.

Of course, this isn’t applicable for all the players I had the opportunity to interact with, but a fair amount. Interestingly, when I play pick-up soccer on Fridays at 5pm, I don’t seem to face this wall. While during Monday and Wednesday intramural soccer I feel somewhat invisible, the pick-up players on Friday play like I’m just “one of the guys” which I greatly appreciate. Perhaps the explanation of this behavior is due to the competitive environment, as opposed to playing simply for fun.

This experience is one I’ve always heard of – girls being treated differently in male-dominated activities.I expected this with women in STEM or the military, but not Riddle activities, especially intramurals. Perhaps, it will just take time for other players to grow accustomed to a female presence on the field, but I am not very patient and am willing to make the necessary effort.

It is important to note that this cannot be said for all intramural sports. I have had many different experiences when playing volleyball, an ERAU sport with many female players. However, I noticed a soccer-like environment in kickball and flashball. While I was also never passed the ball in flashball, I attribute that to my lack of skill and knowledge of football. In kickball, the issue wasn’t necessarily a ‘not passing’ to me issue, but more of a ‘Kick it over there! The girl won’t catch it’ sort of reaction. 

Despite my frustrations on the field, I do believe intramurals provide community and facilitate new relationships. Many good friends have debuted their roles in my life through intramural participation. These are the types of friends that I call to get a game of some sport going. They are the people that show up when I accidently challenge a club or fraternity to a match. These are the well-rounded people I like to have in my circle. So, as a woman in intramurals, I have experienced both gender friction and the new friendships. I intend to persevere because I have decided the benefits of participation outweigh the challenges.