At the peak of nearly all high school hierarchies are the competitive sports. It seems that everyone is either directly involved, or unathletic.
Now what if there was an alternative — more specifically, what if high schools in the Tooele Valley offered what colleges refer to as intramural sports?
The term “intramural sport” is used to describe a recreational sport competed only within the student body. This means students wouldn’t have to train excessively and stress over a competition, or compete against another school.
Thus, an option like this would provide a safe, low- pressure environment where students could learn about the sport and simply have fun, without a state competition looming over their heads. Not that schools should do away with competitive sports; plenty of students find those to be great outlets. But for students who have less confidence in their abilities, or simply would rather avoid high-stakes activities, an option like this would indeed reap benefits.
First, this would help the students who wanted to compete in a sport, but failed to make it past tryouts. Instead of sulking, or settling for a sport they did not want to do, they now have people to practice with, and a place to learn tips and improve their technique for next year.
Next, and most obvious, intramural sports would promote more physical activity.
Between grueling competitions, and paying for a gym membership outside of class, many students may think that exercise is not for them. This is not only a problematic conclusion to jump to, but also a common one.
“Over 90% of U.S high school students don’t get enough exercise to stay fit and healthy, and the pattern persists after they graduate, a new study finds,” wrote Amy Norton, from CBS News.
Students desperately need another option to promote fitness.
“Exercise is associated with a longer health span, delaying the onset of over 40 chronic conditions/diseases, ” said Gregory N Ruegsegger, and Frank W Booth in a 2018 article, “Health Benefits of Exercise.”
Countless other sources, including Harvard Medical School, point out the connection between exercise and lowering symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The third and final advantage of high schools offering intramural sports is the decrease in stress.
“Swimming improves my mood, and makes me feel better about myself, [but] swimmeets stress me out,” said Rebecca Albright, a sophomore at Grantsville High School.
Rebecca’s sister, Jessica Albright, enjoys competitive sports as they are, but agrees that playing games just for fun would also be enjoyable.
Exercise produces endorphins, which cause you to feel happy, and improves sleep, therefore reducing stress or anxiety, according to adaa.org.
This idea of fighting mental tension with exercise will also help with other student activities, mainly their core classes.
In the article “Does Athletic Success Come at the Expense of Academic Success?” published in the University of Arkansas’ Journal of Research in Education, researchers Daniel Bowen and Jay Greene said, “Based on data we examined from Ohio high schools, an emphasis on athletic success and participation is associated with higher test scores on standardized tests and higher graduation rates.”
Thus, as mentioned earlier, if any expense does come to the school itself due to these extra sports, the benefits may outweigh them.
Of course, every endeavour will involve challenges and obstacles.
In this case, how will they share gym space with the competitive teams? Let us consider; Grantsville High School has two gyms plus a field, not including the separate room for dance classes. Not to mention, with nearly each sport having a season of its own, the chances of the entirety of school spaces being filled to the brim with extra curriculars is slim.
From the research gathered, and conclusions drawn, it is clear that high schools — namely high schools in the Tooele Valley — could reap rewards and see improvements in their student health, both mental and physical, as well as increased academic performance by investing in non-competitive intramural sport options.
Intramural sports would allow athletic students to come for extra practice, less experienced ones could come to learn, and students on the fence about joining a sport could come to see if the sport they are considering is truly what they are looking for.
Not only that, but coaches looking to recruit new team members could come to find kids that just might discover a new hobby to make their high school journey a bit easier.
Serena Smith is a 2020 graduate of Grantsville High School