For the University of North Florida, both intramurals and club sports were on a prolonged hold based on the university’s COVID-19 safety plans. With no programming between March 2020 and July 2021, we were unable to retain intramural student program staff.
When restrictions were lifted for the fall 2021 semester, the challenge was two-fold: offer engaging student programs while also building back an intramural staff.
To compound this programming challenge, we also had a vacancy for the assistant director of Intramurals. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. To meet the sport programming interests of our students while working with minimal staff, the themed open rec nights program was born.
Program Features, Outreach and Staffing
The Field House is our indoor, three-court gymnasium supporting student recreational programs. Two student staff manage the check-in desk and equipment checkout. The themed open rec nights program consisted of programming two courts from 6 to 9 p.m. for the “sport of the night.” This left one court open for general drop-in rec which usually draws basketball interest.
Students could sign up for hour slots — from 6 to 7 p.m., 7 to 8 p.m. or 8 to 9 p.m. — and could be individuals or as a group. Sports offered initially were indoor soccer, volleyball, basketball and dodgeball. Dodgeball wound up being a rotating sport as we put feelers out for what was interesting students.
Promoting these open-rec sports on a routine schedule allowed for courts to be set up and equipment available for students. Promotion was done through flyers, tabling and Instagram. Eventually, word of mouth began to pick up. The Field House staff were initially the minimal support needed for the sign ups, facility set up and equipment for the themed sports schedule.
EXTRA CREDIT: Florida State University’s Kari Scott DiDonato shares strategies for showcasing campus rec on social media.
Simultaneous to program promotion was staff recruitment. Without an assistant director of Intramurals, the director of Operations — myself — facilitated the program and staff recruitment. Students were hired based off sport interest and with a basic job description to oversee and support an engaging and safe playing environment. Students knew once the assistant director position was filled, they would be trained as intramural staff in the additional roles of referee and sport officials.
As luck would have it, one of the new hires came as a transfer-in from a sister school with extensive officiating experience. He was able to take our themed open rec night program even further with training the new staff team to support outdoor sports by the end of the semester.
Growth and the Future
Program growth in the first semester was steady and set the stage for an intramural program for Spring 2022 — both by building a base of student participants and by building a staff core. With just five student staff, over 10 weeks we:
- Offered 10 sports and 120 game times.
- Hosted three tournament sports — volleyball, outdoor soccer and basketball.
- In Week Nine we peaked attendance at 472 — with an average of 118 per night.
Where does the open rec night program fit now that intramurals are back? Having a ready-to-go open rec night formula allows us to program the Field House between intramural seasons — like the beginning of the semester and in between semester periods, including summer months.