Story by Abby Siegel, Contributing writer
Male and female intramural sport involvement at Murray State has continued to increase since 2011, according to the 2014-15 Murray State University Fact Book.
Between 2011 and 2015, the number of participants has increased by about 1,000 individuals. In 2011, there were 1,870 male participants and 1,187 female participants. For the 2014-15 academic year, 2,352 males participated and 1,707 females participated in intramural sports.
Of the total intramural sport participants, about 58 percent are male and 42 percent are female. Of the entire Murray State student and faculty population, 59 percent are female and 41 percent are male.
Andrew Jaynes, senior from Oswego, Illinois, said he thinks male and female participants are treated equally and neither is favored through intramural sports. He said it is a way everyone can enjoy playing sports.
Fewer total females are involved than males, despite the majority of the university’s student and faculty population being female. Steven Leitch, director of Campus Recreation, said other institutions’ intramural sports departments would be envious of the women’s participation at Murray State.
Leitch credits the residential college systems and the effort of athletic directors for the promotion of and participation within intramurals as well as Greek life organizations.
“The sororities also deserve a lot of credit for also fielding multiple teams per sport instead of being content with just one competitive team,” Leitch said.
Jessica Newton, junior from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, has been involved in intramural sports during her three years at Murray State, especially basketball, because she played all through high school and said the sport brings her happiness. She also has participated in flag football.
Although Newton found intramural basketball to be enjoyable, not all female students are attracted to the sports offered like she is.
Bryanna Handley, sophomore from Louisville, Kentucky, signed up on imleagues.com to participate but found the timing of the games to conflict with her schedule and priorities, and wasn’t of great interest to her.
“I could be studying rather than playing football at nine o’clock at night,” she said.
Handley said since it is not a priority for her it would bring her more stress to be involved rather than act as a stress reliever. She said she relieves her stress by crying, crafting or talking to her friends – something she doesn’t think men are as likely to do for stress relief compared to playing sports.
“Sometimes you are kind of just thrown in and that adds stress,” said Vanessa Barrientos, junior from Boston. “Rather than reducing my stress it could be embarrassing if I’m not comfortable playing the sport.”
Barrientos plays intramural soccer because she played in high school. She said she decided not to participate in other intramural sports because she wasn’t sure of the rules and didn’t want games and practices to interfere with her academics.
Ray Hecht, senior from Jackson, Missouri, said he plays intramural sports to “recharge his batteries.” He has played softball, football, basketball and soccer during his four years as an undergraduate. He has played for Lee Clark Residential College, been a coach for ADPi and played for independent teams.
“I use it as my enjoyment, my escape from school,” he said.
He said he believes men tend to enjoy competing physically more than women, resulting in greater male involvement. For Newton, this isn’t the case.
“I just love every sport,” she said. “I am competitive and I am comfortable with my skills.”
Physical activity has shown to provide health benefits for both “the head and the heart,” according to Harvard Health Publications. For the mind, it can counter depression and anxiety and reduce stress; for the body, exercise fights obesity, increases flexibility and strengthens the muscles in the heart.
“It can improve a student’s wellness in multiple dimensions,” Leitch said. “Being active in sports improves your physical wellness, working with teammates and building a camaraderie improves your social wellness and dealing with adversity and not always getting the outcome that you were expecting improves your emotional wellness.”
Eight new sports have been added to the intramural calendar this year, including swimming, bowling, ping pong and racquetball.
“We are always looking for ways to increase participation numbers,” Leitch said. “Not in response to any deficiencies in participation, but because we felt it would improve the opportunities for even more people to participate.”
Leitch said those who want to get involved should contact the intramural office or go to imleagues.com to get started.