If you were to search “benefits of competitive sports” online, you would find dozens of articles on child development, perhaps a few on high school athletics. The issue I’m addressing, however, involves a question that was asked during last semester’s Student Association Town Hall: “Why doesn’t Southern have a competitive sports team?”
President Shaw gave an excellent answer. Southern, he said, has a great intramurals program. True. I’ve been participating in the program for two years; it’s organized, offers a wide variety of sports and, most importantly, is a lot of fun. Shaw added that over half of Southern’s students are involved in the program, allowing them to grow physically and mentally.
Finally, Shaw said introducing extramural sports to a college campus often decreases the quality of the school’s intramurals program and focuses attention on the few students on the competitive team instead of spreading the attention among everyone involved in athletics. Thus, Southern’s current sports program is most beneficial to the university.
I, however, believe our campus would benefit even more from a sports program including intramurals and extramurals, increasing the university’s community interaction and school spirit.
I have long thought that sports have been underutilized by the Seventh-day Adventist Church as ways to witness. I grew up Adventist, which meant, as many readers will likely understand, music has always been a part of my life, sometimes against my will. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve made a plethora of great memories in music groups and gotten my fair share of goosebumps from praising God through music, one of His most unique creations.
At certain times, however, I felt like all my church and school really wanted from me, the only thing they valued, was music. They didn’t care that I connected more with people on the field than I did on a stage, or that praying with and challenging my teammates on the court brought me closer to God than band practice.
I am not saying that Southern values its music program more than its sports program, but perhaps it is this mindset so prevalent in Adventist society, the opinion that sports cannot play a role in shining our light before others, that is holding the university back from starting extramurals.
If Southern had competitive sports teams, students would travel to schools throughout the state. An increasing number of people would learn about our little Adventist university. , a And if the same Biblical principles were applied to coaching the teams that are used in other extracurricular activities on campus, I have no doubt that those people would notice a difference in our players. I know from experience that putting God first in sports while playing your best is something that stands out; the crowd can see the difference.
I am sure that it takes a substantial amount of work to run Southern’s intramurals program — training and scheduling student referees, conducting captains’ meetings, keeping track of stats, etc. So, I admit, it would not be cheap for Southern to introduce competitive sports while continuing to maintain intramurals, which is embedded in Southern’s culture (just think about all-night softball). The university would likely have to hire more staff.
However, in the long run, I believe the program could become self-sustaining by increasing community interest in the university, consequently drawing in more students and perhaps more donors. The introduction of sports scholarships would attract even more young adults, and, as the program grew, ticket sales and merchandise could contribute to the budget.
If Southern maintained both programs, I do not think extramurals would overshadow intramurals. Sure, athletes on the school’s team/s would get more attention than intramural players, but first chair violin gets more attention than second chair. Club presidents get more attention than vice presidents, yet that doesn’t stop second chairs and vice presidents from doing what they love. If Southern introduced extramurals this semester, I doubt I’d make a team. That wouldn’t ruin my intramural experience; I go because I love playing sports.
Lastly, I believe extramurals, sports teams comprised of Southern students that travel and play other schools, would overwhelmingly enhance school spirit. We’d have something we could all root for together, people we could all pray for together and several opportunities to interact with the community together.
It would not be a simple task, but the idea of introducing extramural sports should not be dismissed by Southern’s leadership. Without a doubt, competitive teams would draw in more students and enrich the college experience for current campus members. Playing sports, for many, is a spiritual gift, and the university should, to the best of its ability, facilitate opportunities for all students to use their spiritual gifts on and off campus.