At most universities, intramural sports are primarily about competition, and it’s considered an extra win if qualities like sportsmanship and respect are fostered along the way. Clemson University, however, has made a concentrated effort to promote unity and inclusion in intramural sports. The result was the Be A STAR program.
“Our Be A STAR initiative provides programming that seeks to bring together students from diverse backgrounds and highlight their ability to act with sportsmanship, teamwork, and respect [which leads to the acronym of S.T.A.R.],” said Chris Cox, the associate director of intramural sports and student development at Clemson University.
Teaming up with ClemsonLIFE, a program designed for students with intellectual disabilities, the Clemson campus rec department has hosted several athletic events, such as basketball tournaments, that place Clemson students on teams with ClemsonLIFE students.
“The goals of our Be A STAR program are helping reduce barriers that may exist between various student populations on campus, building an increased sense of unity on campus, and promoting the significance of how sports can influence culture and values,” said Cox.
In the time since its inception, Be A STAR has already brought together several students from a variety of backgrounds. “This program is growing in popularity, and currently sees roughly 60 to 70 participants per event,” said Cox. “Our student participants have provided very positive feedback.”
This focus on unity through sports has allowed ClemsonLIFE students to form lasting relationships and memories with their peers. It’s developed into an opportunity for meaningful growth and experience for students, as well as being the impactful program the Clemson campus rec staff hoped it would be.
“The Be A STAR initiative is something we have been putting a lot of effort into, and is certainly unique,” said Cox. “Through the common bond of sports, we have helped integrate our typical intramural participants with international students, students with intellectual disabilities and students with physical disabilities. We’re looking to incorporate more populations in the future.”
As Be A STAR grows and includes more sports, Cox hopes Clemson can maximize the inclusiveness of its campus rec programming. But most importantly, the goal of the initiative will continue to be giving every single student on campus the same opportunities in intramurals.
“We created this program and began integrating it within our intramural offerings in an effort to expand our scope and role within the division and university,” said Cox. “While we enjoy being able to provide an outlet for competition with traditional sport, we also wanted to create programs that help educate participants on the power of sports in uniting people, demonstrating sportsmanship and respecting others.”