The keys to running a successful intramural program involve innovative and engaging programming, creative fundraising, meeting equipment needs and of course hiring the best officials. The University of Houston Department of Campus Recreation runs a robust intramural program, offering anywhere from 15 to 20 different events each semester.
“Those events range from individual events, which are mostly one day events, to small team sports like 4v4 Ultimate Frisbee, sand volleyball or dodgeball, which can be one week to four week seasons, to the large traditional team sports like flag football, soccer and basketball,” explained Brian Mills, the assistant director for recreation sports and family programming at the university.
Since hiring and training intramural officials is such an essential element to the success of any intramural program, Mills shared a few pieces of advice about the process.
According the Mills, the No. 1 things is working on retention of officials. “It is always a great thing to get new officials from semester to semester and sport to sport, but if those officials don’t stay and work other sports or stay from year to year, your program will also be in the beginner stage of officiating competency,” said Mills. “You have to be able to dedicate the time and energy to get new officials to a higher level and then keep them coming back. Being heavily involved in regional and national events for flag football and basketball, you can see the difference in ability, knowledge and presence from officials that work multiple sports for multiple years.”
When training new officials, Mills suggests loosening up on the rules just a little. “When we bring in new officials, we don’t focus on 100 pages of rules anymore,” added Mills. “We focus on their development from a holistic approach. We dedicated time to discuss the benefits of becoming an official outside of money, we discuss how officiating can provide them the experiential opportunities to better themselves down the road, and we discuss the importance of soft skills like communication, management, emotional intelligence and teamwork. We expand on that with veterans and add new components like self-management, relationship building and relationship management as they develop skills to be aware of themselves and others.”
“When we do find those officials who show tremendous promise, we spend additional time with them specifically discussing more in-depth rules, philosophy and officiating techniques,” he said. “We add in components of being a crew leader, a supervisor and possibly even evaluator or educator for trainings. We start to provide information about getting involved in officiating outside of campus with local associations and organizations at multiple levels. We try to find funding for them to attend some high school clinics for sports and assist them with advancing in those organizations. We try to utilize their skills to provide additional resources for the rest of our student leadership team and officials as much as possible so we can continue to create our student-run program with a professional leadership mentality.”