A few sunny Saturdays ago, I had just finished giving a campus tour when I was approached by an enormous high-school student. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, this prospective Joe Hoya towered over me. His question was fairly straightforward: How many times a week do intramural teams practice before games?

I was flabbergasted. This was something that no one had ever asked me before. It occurred to me that with his height and build, he should probably be starting for a D1 school in Florida or California, rather than worrying about how often his flag football team might practice. Didn’t this kid know that Georgetown just doesn’t take intramurals that seriously?

I answered honestly and told him that while it was technically possible that teams might get together before games, the framework of the program dictated that practicing would not necessarily be a productive use of a Hoya’s limited free time. It’s rare and disappointing when it becomes apparent that a student’s wants and Georgetown’s capabilities do not make for a perfect match, but I would have been lying to him if I had implied Georgetown’s intramural program was either vibrant or satisfying.

The truth is that after four years of experience with intramural sports, I walk away with many more frustrations than rewarding memories. The overarching problem revolves around the attitude and culture of the Department of Intramural Sports, which is predicated more on moving the games along as quickly as possible than providing a fun or competitive atmosphere for its participants.

This is evident in the construction of the schedules for each sport. We’re in school for two full semesters, but all we’re offered for intramural basketball, for example, is a quick tournament in the fall and a four-game season in the spring? During my junior year, our softball regular season consisted of a single game. Granted it was a hell of an afternoon, but when this Hoya gets spring fever, it takes a little more than seven innings on a solitary Saturday to be satisfied.

The refereeing across the board is also inconsistent and exceedingly inadequate. Too often, those responsible for officiating the games are not even aware of the sport’s rules. On more than one occasion, I’ve watched team captains lecture a bewildered official on a seemingly obvious rule, like a backcourt violation or a self-pass. I’m aware that the intramural office relies on students to officiate its games and that keeping control of two teams focused on winning is often a difficult task, but it has been my experience that student referees tend to focus more on biding their time and collecting a paycheck than actually getting a call correct.

While refereeing the annual powderpuff football game last autumn, I learned that many of the difficulties that come with officiating can be mitigated by huddling with fellow referees at different points during gameplay. This ensures both that consistency is maintained and that each call is handled as well as possible. During my four years of involvement in intramurals, I cannot recall a single time when I saw a group of officials work together as a team; when difficult moments arose, they acted like disparate employees assigned to work the same shift, with no real stake in the outcome of the game.

The disorganization that plagues its officiating is also evident in other areas of the intramural office. Rosters are not well-monitored and can be added to at any point during the regular season. Levels of play are also poorly established, and it is not uncommon for graduate students to find their way into undergraduate leagues. Since my sophomore year, my basketball team has had a healthy rivalry with a group of med students who call themselves “The Clinic.” The contrast between their medical IDs and our GOcards on the scorer’s table after each game was comical; the department didn’t seem to really care about enforcing the age restrictions that they themselves had established.

Further silly rules prevent the games from being truly enjoyable. Even though the dodgeballs are Charmin soft, teams can still win without pegging their opponents; bowling over two cones on the other side’s baseline takes precedence over the game’s traditional emphasis on throwing, catching and dodging. Softball games are Chicago-style, which means that the softballs themselves are 16 inches around and as spongy as Mike Sweetney’s midsection. It’s hard to remain excited after the tenth-consecutive ground ball to third base. Never mind that my high school flag football league allowed more contact than Georgetown’s. We’re big boys now, and if we’re willing to pay a sign-up fee and sign a waiver, we should be allowed to make some minimal degree of contact with our opponents.

In fairness, I tried to come up with some areas in which the intramural office excels. Director Wedge Sullivan is dedicated, passionate and definitely an upgrade over his predecessor, and recent endorsements with Powerade and Champion prove that the department is heading ever so slightly in the right direction. The intramural office is also quite accommodating when scheduling conflicts arise, and it does an adequate job of maximizing its opportunities to use Georgetown’s scant number of athletic facilities.

But even these benefits fail to make up for all of the uninspired, unqualified umpires and the shortened softball seasons. For a school that prides itself on valuing the active side of the “work hard, play hard” equation, Georgetown’s intramural program leaves much to be desired.

In fact, I sort of hope that behemoth of a prospective Hoya chooses to go to college elsewhere. Athletics are clearly a vital part of his life, and the only exercise I’ve gotten out of our intramural program at Georgetown has been one in frustration.

Chris Seneca is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at senecathehoya.com. Slow Motion appears in every other Tuesday issue of THE HOYA.

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