Exploring different views on intercollegiate sports

Caption: Christian Steinart tries to pull the flag in an intramural football game. Wednesday,October 18, 2023. (Photo by Elais Zabala).
Caption: Christian Steinart tries to pull the flag in an intramural football game. Wednesday,October 18, 2023. (Photo by Elais Zabala).

Written by: Alissa Flores

Students and faculty at Southern Adventist University have discussed the idea of intercollegiate sports being established on campus for some time.

Intramurals are the main sports activity at Southern, but some students wonder why intercollegiate sports are not allowed. 

One student who voiced this concern was Aman Javaid, sophomore nursing major.

“Competitive sports can help teach students important values such as integrity, responsibility and perseverance,” Javaid said. “Sports help students develop good leadership skills.”  

When asked about intercollegiate sports at Southern, Carlos Torres, a student ambassador, junior psychology and marketing major and avid sports player, said, “The reason I’m for competitive sports is simply because our school [and] our student body wants it. Not only our student body, but people who are considering Southern [want it].”

According to Torres, upon coming to the university, many prospective students ask whether or not there will be an opportunity to play intercollegiate sports.

“I work in the admissions department giving tours, and that’s one of the questions that we get the most ,” Torres said. “We’re losing so many people, so much interest.” 

Intramurals at Southern are popular, and student participation in them is increasing, according to Jason Merryman, vice president of Enrollment Management. 

“It is true that prospective students often inquire about intercollegiate sports when considering Southern,” said Merryman. “For most new and current students, our intramural programs satisfy the urge to be active in sports.

“Last year, nearly 1,300 students participated in both fall and winter semesters,” Merryman continued. “This year, we appear to be ahead of that participation rate and on track to have the largest year yet for intramural student participation.”

Southern’s Marketing and University Relations department and School of Health and Kinesiology wrote a statement together on why the school does not offer intercollegiate sports: “The highly competitive and selective nature of intercollegiate athletic programs and their strong probability for financial drain are not in harmony with the values of Southern Adventist University. The institution does not promote intercollegiate athletics and does not participate in or allow on campus any intercollegiate athletic event, interscholastic sport (K-12), friendship tournament, or other competitive sport event that would lay a foundation for intercollegiate athletics.” 

This statement is then followed by an explanation of Southern’s intramural program: “The intramural program facilitated by the School of Health and Kinesiology encourages fellowship and physical activity for both students and employees that helps improve the physical, mental, and spiritual health for all.”

Judy Sloan, dean of the School of Health and Kinesiology, reaffirmed this sentiment.

“Southern has had a really good position on intercollegiate sports,” Sloan said. “[So we] simply ask the question: ‘Would we want to spend all of our funds to have programs for an elite few athletes or use the money to provide activities and sports events that all the student body can participate in?’”

Sloan said Southern’s position is different from that of any other Adventist school in North America.

“I believe Southern is the only Adventist institution of higher learning that has never had intercollegiate sports,” Sloan said. 

Although students understand this could be another financial burden for the school to undertake, some believe that an attempt at introducing a competitive sports team to campus is worth it. 

“We should have enough money for it,” Torres said. “If it was prioritized [and] if it was something the administration wanted to put forth, they could.” 

Torres said he believes that Southern has enough people who could manage both intercollegiate teams and intramurals. He believes that Southern has the capability to add intercollegiate sports but does not have the initiative to do it. 

Gus Martin, director of Online Campus, competes in intramurals with his futsal team. 

“I’ll be honest with you, coming from institutions that [had] pro sports, I’m not necessarily saying that we are against it,” Martin said. “However, if we go competitive, then it removes something good that is happening right now. What’s happening is intramurals is kind of the heart that allows bonding, allows us adults, faculty and staff to come play together with you guys.”

According to Martin, through intramurals, students and faculty can interact on the same level without the stress of serious competition. 

Eliezer Graterol, professor in the School of Religion, who also plays in Southern’s futsal intramurals, said he values the bonding experience that intramurals provides over the competition.

“So, at the end of the day, it’s the spirit of bonding and fellowship, which I believe is way more valuable than even the competition itself,” said Graterol.

“In addition to the health benefits for students, these programs are a great way to meet new people and establish lifelong friendships all while learning to play as a team within a Christian environment that encourages good sportsmanship,” Merryman said.

“Intramurals are a fantastic thing. It is something that unites our student body,” Torres said. “It’s something that gives people the opportunity to become involved, to have fun, enjoy a sport that they are passionate for, that they are good at. It brings all different levels together. … I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. It’s not that you can’t have intramurals if you have competitive sports.”

Sloan mentioned that a Christian university’s main focus should be spiritual development and helping each other. According to Sloan, people also wonder if intramurals, not just competitive sports, are detrimental to the spiritual well-being of an individual. 

Sloan said competition happens on this campus no matter what. It can even happen in the classroom. She explained that the basis of competition is the concept of trying to make one better than another, and she believes that is unchristian. 

When discussing the matter of sports and spirituality, Martin stated that Southern’s mission is to work for a goal greater than ourselves as individuals. 

“So, because the fundamental for Christian education is actually the development of the heart and soul, we strive to prepare students to accomplish a specific mission which is not necessarily winning a tournament,” Martin said. 

“I also think that Southern might think that having competitive sports draws us away from our ministry of the gospel on Earth,” Javaid said. “However, if we have the right intentions of treating our competitors with love and kindness, then there is not anything that should affect our spirituality and human nature on the field.” 

Due to sports being so universally loved, Torres explained that he believes using sports and religion to reach out to others would be effective and could possibly bring in more students. 

“Sports is something that unites cultures, that unites people from all different backgrounds,” Torres said. “We could use that as a means for outreach that reaches so many people who are interested in sports.” 

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