Scott Tunnell, Austin Fullbright and Kevon Rivers all told different stories, but the themes were the same.
Tunnell, who graduated last May in business analytics, participated in 10 intramural sports at UT. His friend, Fullbright, a senior majoring in Electrical Engineering, amassed 14 intramural championships. Rivers is a student worker for intramurals, overseeing the scorebook during games and occasionally officiating.
All agreed on the same point: intramurals are essential to the college experience.
Intramurals provide many benefits to students. They help students avoid the dreaded “freshman 15.” They give students the chance to play the sports they love after high school. They offer students a reprieve from their studies. They occupy students’ free time. And they assist in developing communication skills.
“It kind of establishes a work environment,” Rivers said. “Like what you would do in a workforce: you got to compete and try to cooperate with people you are working with. Sometimes you may not even know those people at all. In every sport, pretty much all intramurals is a team sport. It builds those cooperation skills and communication skills.”
Perhaps the most important benefit of participating in intramurals: they present the chance to forge friendships.
UT may have over 27,000 students, but it can still be difficult to find friends. Students too immersed in their studies might not find time to discover friends. Other college students might have trouble finding a niche or a group of people who share their interests.
Intramurals are a solution to both conundrums.
“I interacted or met with people I otherwise wouldn’t have seen,” Rivers said. “(Intramurals) is a leeway to friendships. I have made a lot of close friends here.”
Fullbright describes intramurals as an outlet that relieves stress from his grueling electrical engineering studies — an opportunity to forget about exams and homework and compete with friends who share his love for sports.
“Being an engineer, a lot of times my social network is so different outside of that,” Fullbright said in a phone interview. “There are people that I met in intramurals that I would never have come into contact with otherwise if I hadn’t fostered that relationship through intramural sports.
“When you compete with someone, you get all these stories that you can share together. It really helps build that friendship and helps maintain those friendships as well because you can go back and play sports together.”
The friendships in intramurals naturally result in memorable moments, recollections Fullbright claims friends will discuss 10 years after college.
Fullbright and Tunnell recall competing in the inner tube water polo championship as one of their favorite memories. Tunnell scored both the game-tying and game-winning goal in the final minute to help his team secure back-to-back championships.
There are also times in intramurals when friends have to console their comrade after a mistake.
Tunnell remembered one basketball game when his friend missed two free throws that would have won the game. He also recalled his companion’s disappointment after the contest.
“He was really disappointed, but he played a really great game,” Tunnell said in a phone interview. “It just gives you an opportunity to be like, ‘Hey it’s alright,’ and support your friend when they are disappointed. Situations like that, you wouldn’t have been in otherwise.”
Tunnell’s memory underscores a cruel lesson learned from intramurals: how to handle failure and disappointment.
“I probably lost more championships than I won,” Fullbright said.
Fullbright admitted that he is competitive. He scouts future opponents on the intramurals website. He gives his full effort during games. He has won 14 championships, but still reflects on the games he has lost.
“With Austin Fullbright, adjectives do not suffice,” Tunnell said. “He is the ultimate competitor. He plays with a spirit of intensity that is unmatched by any of his peers. He just exudes greatness like Lebron (James).”
But both Fullbright and Tunnell recognize that sportsmanship is more important than the result of a game.
“It’s not worth winning an intramural game to be a total jerk to someone,” Tunnell said.
But the defeat is only one of the lessons intramurals teaches. Fullbright, Tunnell, and Rivers provided different lessons they encountered during intramurals — how to balance time between homework and sports, how to develop game strategy, and how to contribute to a team.
But they all arrived at the same conclusion: their college experience would not be the same without intramurals.
“A big part of my memories in college have been playing intramurals,” Fullbright said. “A lot of the memories I will look back upon from college will be associated with intramural sports. I can’t really imagine what my college experience would be without it.
“Intramurals have touched every part of my college experience.”