As the first snow flurries coat Cornell’s sports fields, students bid goodbye to the fall intramural sports season, voicing their appreciation for its social and mental health benefits.
Cornell offers more than 30 intramural sports leagues, including leagues for soccer, basketball, flag football, volleyball, softball, golf and bowling. According to Scott Flickinger, director of intramural sports and Noyes Recreation Center, Assistant Football Coach Charles Van Patten Young established Cornell intramural sports in 1905.
Any Cornellian can form an intramural team during different registration periods by signing up through the Cornell intramural league website. Teams are required to fill the minimum number of players necessary for each sport and pay the required fee, which varies by sports.
According to Flickinger, 2,100 unique participants played at least one game during this fall season. The participants include graduate students, undergraduates, staff and faculty.
Outdoor soccer drew more than 1,000 participants this season, Flickinger wrote in an email to The Sun. But compared to the pre-pandemic numbers, the current intramural participation lags, according to Flickinger.
However, Flickinger said participation rates are starting to go back up, partly due to advertisement efforts and word of mouth, saying he hopes intramural sports will rebound to pre-COVID activity numbers in the spring.
As students enter the last few weeks of the semester, many participants said their experience with intramural sports has alleviated stress and helped them manage their mental health.
Amitai Cammy ’25 plays for intramural soccer team Soulja Boy FC, the 2021 fall season champions. Cammy said participating in intramural sports was essential to managing his mental wellbeing throughout a stressful semester.
“Cornell workload can be demanding. I think sitting around in your room or a library all day looking at your computer screen will take a toll on your body,” Cammy said. “Your body needs that hour or two of physical exercise. Bringing people together outside of an academic or a work setting, intramural sports is a great way to relieve stress.”
Jackson Andrews ’25 is part of four intramural teams: a sand volleyball team, a basketball team and two soccer teams.
Andrews said joining the intramural sports program was easy, with no deadline to sign up to join an existing team and no skill level required to enter.
According to the participants, intramural sports also provide a competitive environment that pick-up games lack. Cammy said the competition makes playing sports much more fun for him.
“The stakes are high. If you win the league, you win a free T-shirt, and I am just all over free T-shirts,” Cammy said. “Having that competitive edge gives me something to play for, and I think that is what keeps people going.”
Many students also take part in the intramural sports community as referees and fans.
Nathan Francis ’25 works as a referee for soccer games held at Jessup Field. Francis said he enjoys working with other student referees, getting paid for watching sports he likes — $12.50 per game — and feeling appreciated by the community.
“Everyone is comfortable with each other,” Francis said. “The good part about it is that I love watching soccer. These games won’t be played without referees, and I feel very appreciated for being there by the players.”
Eleanor Richard ’25 is an intramural soccer fan who attended the most of Soulja Boy FC games this fall season. Richard said she enjoyed spending time with the other students in the intramural sports community, even from the stands.
“Even as a fan, being outside with a lot of good people, you still get that benefit of being a part of this community,” Richard said. “It’s a healthy distraction from studying. No one is talking about school or work. It is truly a fun environment to enjoy and be in the moment.”
Many participants encouraged students who are currently not involved in any intramural sports to consider joining the community.
“Just do it,” Andrews said. “It’s not a huge time commitment as it is an hour or two per week. Usually, the games are during the time at night you have nothing else going on.”
Moving forward, intramural sports at Cornell are looking to continue expanding its offerings — including competitions that aren’t sports at all.
“We have worked hard to help redefine what ‘recreation’ can mean, so we try to offer more non-traditional activities such as canoe battleships, stock market trading, the Cornell Bake-Off and other activities, ” Flickinger said. “I have seen how difficult campus life can be and feel, and I want to offer activities to help connect individuals to others and to the university to make campus life feel more manageable.”