Courtesy of Saybrook IMs

As students flood back to campus for the winter semester, intramural sports are revving back up — with changes to entice the student body.

This week, intramural sports emerged back onto the scene after a hiatus for the winter break. In the coming weeks, each of the 14 residential colleges will round up its troops in an effort to secure the esteemed Tyng Cup. Currently, Saybrook College leads the pack with 322 points, closely followed by Timothy Dwight, Hopper and Morse colleges. Meanwhile, newcomer Benjamin Franklin College rounds out the pack at the bottom with only 42 points.

“Participation in IMs is all about culture,” Hopper IM Secretary Eli Swab ’20 said. “Colleges who want any chance at success need a culture of people who aren’t just willing, aren’t just motivated, but are desperate to get out to games, desperate to win. That starts with leaders. In some colleges that comes directly from the Head or others, but in Hopper, it’s the IM secretaries who drive everything. We’re there for every game, we’re bombarding inboxes, we’re throwing championship parties. We’re making sure everyone who does come out to a game has a chance to play, to have a little fun.”

As always, participation remains a big factor in who takes home the cup. Each residential college is equipped with four or five IM secretaries, who organize and rally their members to come out and participate in IMs, inspiring both athleticism and competition in the student body.

This winter, the colleges will battle for the top spot in a collection of diverse sports: men’s basketball, women’s basketball, coed volleyball, inner tube water polo, bowling, broomball and swimming.

While basketball remains incredibly popular, consistently packing the Lanman center, inner tube water polo and broomball are relatively new sports. In inner tube water polo, students travel around the pool in inner tubes playing polo, a unique way to introduce beginners to the game. Broomball is also stirring interest, as students use broomsticks on the varsity ice rink to play a modified version of hockey.

“In broomball you get to go out in your shoes out onto the varsity ice rink,” Head IM Secretary Max Yuhas ’20 said. “You actually get to play where all of the varsity hockey players get to play, so it’s really a cool opportunity to use a state-of-the-art varsity ice rink. And that’s just a really fun and exciting sport. Personally, that’s one of my favorites.”

Last fall, intramural sports got off to a good start. The IM secretaries consolidated the number of sports offered in the fall so that students did not have to juggle overlapping start times, which reduced turnout.

In addition, changes in the football rules meant switching from Yale’s typical coed razzle-dazzle-style football to coed flag football, the style played at all other Ivies. The change was met with enthusiasm and came in time for the annual Yale-Harvard IM football contest played the evening before the varsity football game on the turf and under the lights at Harvard Stadium last November.

Despite these successes, various problems continue to plague the IM program.

Weather poses a big yet relatively unsolvable problem for IM sports, particularly in the spring when rain occurs more often than sun. In addition, travel distance and time pose their own issues, as many of the games are located at the varsity fields — a bus ride from campus. To complete the trifecta of challenges, when daylight saving time hit in November, it started becoming darker earlier in the day, forcing some IM sports to end early or not be played at all.

While winter sports avoid some of the problems that dog IMs because most games are played in Payne Whitney Gymnasium, securing time and space in the gym during the crowded winter months remains its own challenge.

“For the winter sports, everything is on central campus, which removes the commute time and need to hop on a shuttle bus each way,” Director of IM Sports Tom Migdalski said. “For the future, we plan to continue to look at all sports offerings to see where we can come up with new ideas for sports, and try to do more on campus.”

Despite these obstacles, Yuhas and Migdalski have worked to implement various logistical changes to increase participation and safety. To tackle weather concerns, they moved many IM sports indoors to the Lanman Center to avoid delays or cancellations from inclement weather. In the spring, outdoor soccer will be moved indoors while last fall, volleyball was moved from outdoors in the fields to indoors on campus in Payne Whitney. Indoor competition also helps reduce travel and inconvenience as Payne Whitney is located right on campus.

For IMs that are played out on the fields, the shuttle bus system has been recently improved to reduce commute time and safety concerns. The shuttle now picks up and drops off students directly at the IM fields on Central Avenue as opposed to the varsity field house on Derby Avenue.

Furthermore, to improve participation as a whole, Yuhas and Migdalski raised the prize for winning. Winners will now receive new performance-style, quick-dry Champions T-shirts featuring a new, modern IM logo. Not to mention, this year, basketball participants will compete in a March Madness–style tournament directly after spring break.

Other changes to the IM program include new required student supervisor and referee training to improve safety and quality of refereeing, updated sport rules in collaboration with a University of New Haven Sports Management intern, updates to the website now featuring the new, modern logo and online captain and sport registration to increase communication.

The effects of these changes will be evident as IMs kick off this week, looking to reinvigorate a student body in the dark days of winter.

“We’re trying to work with what the students want,” Yuhas said. “We have a big student body here, and we want intramurals to remain a big part of student life on campus … I just hope that going forward people remember that it’s just a really good time to have some fun, relax from the stress of classes and get to meet new people and have a good time.”

Cate Sawkins | cate.sawkins@yale.edu