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Recreational Sports: Intramural, Fitness, Open, and Sport Club Programs






After reading this chapter the student should be able to:

Define intramural, fitness, open, and sport club programs and name the
objectives each is designed to achieve.

Prepare a list of policies -that, if followed, will enable a person to organize

and manage intramural, fitness, open, and sport club programs.

Understand the roles played by various managerial personnel in conducting

intramural, fitness, open, and sport club programs.

Discuss how intramural, fitness, open, and sport club programs are
administered in elementary schools, junior high or middle schools, secondary
schools, colleges and universities, and other representative organizations.

Organize various types of competition for intramural and extramural


Show the importance of and the procedures for managing sport clubs, co
recreation, and programs for faculty and for persons with varying disabilities.

Discuss the importance cf open or self directed recreational activities.

Chapter 3 discussed basic instructional physical education programs, one of the

triad of components of a well-rounded offering for students in drools and for
members of other representative organizations. This chapter discusses the second
component. the intramural, fitness, open, and sport club programs. which are
often referred to collectively as recreational sports. By tradition, the term
intramural denotes programming and competition "within" the institution,
whereas the term extramural depicts competition with "outside" schools. Sport
clubs fall in-between the two definitions offering both instructional and social, as
well as competitive experiences for their members. Recreational sports offer

competition and other types of physical activities for individuals of all levels of
skill and ability. A 1999 recreational sports student interest survey at a Big Ten
institution revealed that 82 percent of the students participated in recreational
sports activities. The survey indicated heavy interest in fitness activities (50
percent), and in intramurals and open play (28 percent each), whereas sport clubs
attracted about 10 percent of the students polled. In universities and colleges, as
discussed in-chapter 2, recreational sports is usually organized into a department
separate from physical education. This separation is also the case i n some
elementary and secondary schools. However, for many schools recreational sports
programs are considered an extension of the physical education program.
Recreational sports make up that phase of an activities program in a
school, college, corporate, or other representative organization that is geared to
the abilities and skills of the entire student body or all the members of the
organization. Recreational sports consist of voluntary participation in games,
sports, fitness, open, outdoor, self-directed, and other activities. Recreational
sports offer intramural activities within a single school or institution as well as
extramural activities such as play days, festivals, sports days, and extravaganzas
that bring together participants from several institutions.
Each club within a sports club program is usually devoted to one activity,
such as handball, rock climbing, sailing, skiing, squash, or volleyball, and it
encourages students and other individuals to participate at all levels of skill.
Sometimes two or more clubs combine (cross-training club) for more effective
management. Clubs compete within their own ranks as well as with other outside
clubs. Sport clubs may be managed by members of the organization, such as
students in schools and colleges, or by the central management of the
organization. Members, advisors, or community volunteers usually provide
instruction and coaching. Clubs are popular in school; and colleges as well as in
other organizations. Many communities have tennis, golf, swimming, running,
hiking, racquetball, riding, rowing, and other types of clubs.
Recreational sports in the form of intramurals were started many years ago
(circa 1850s-1870s; Princeton's Nassace Baseball Club, Yale's Boat Club, and

Minnesota Football) as a result of student initiative in schools and colleges. At

first they received little central administrative notice or support and were poorly
organized. However, as student interest grew, the demand for departmental control
kept pace. In 1913, intramural sports came under faculty control and was
departmentalized at the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. Dr.
Elmer D. Mitchell of the University of Michigan is considered the "father of
intramurals." The University of Michigan opened its Intramural Sports Building
(IMSB) in 1928. Since that time, intramurals, extramurals, and sport club
programs have continued to grow and develop and in most educational institutions
today are under the management and direction of fully trained professional
personnel (see figure 4-1). The National Intramural-Recreational Sports
Association (NIRSA) (formerly the National Intramural Association founded by
Dr. William N. Wasson at Dillard University in New Orleans) was formed in 1950
and is considered the major professional organization concerning the conduct of
recreational sports. Its Recreational Sports Journal is published twice a year and
its official magazine is Recreational Sports & Fitness.
Recreational sports programs (school, university, industry, public and private
sector) have evolved and expanded tremendously throughout the country. This
may be directly attributed to the fact that properly managed recreational sports
programs meet the many important needs of the participant. In order to meet these
needs, recreational sports programs should strive to satisfy the following
The objectives of the programs may be classified under four headings: (1)
health and fitness, (2) skill, (3) psychosocial development. and (4.) recreation.

Figure 1. Organizational structure of a large university recreational sports

Health and Fitness
Recreational sports activities contribute to the physical, social, and emotional
health of the individual. They contribute to physical health through participation
in activities offering healthful exercise. Such fitness components as muscular
strength and endurance. agility, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, speed, and
body control and composition are developed and enhanced. Recreational sports
contribute to psychosocial health through group participation and working toward
achievement of group goals. Participation also contributes to emotional health by
helping a person achieve self-confidence and improve his or her self concept. It is

estimated that over half the students at colleges and universities are involved with
health and fitness-related recreational sports activities that range from aerobics to
strength training.
Recreational sports activities allow every individual to develop and display his or
her skills in various physical activities settings. Through specialization,
instructional programs, and voluntary participation, recreational sports offer
individuals the opportunity to excel and to experience the thrill of competition and
the satisfaction of open or self-directed activity. Most individuals enjoy activities
in which they have developed skill. Recreational sports help participants develop
proficiency in both individualized and group activities in which each person is
grouped according to skill, thus providing for equality of programming or
competition, which helps guarantee greater success and enjoyment. These
programs also enable many persons to spend leisure time profitably and happily.
Psychosocial Development
Opportunities for psychosocial development are numerous in recreational sport
activities. Through many social contacts, coeducational experiences, and playing
on and against other teams, desirable qualities are developed. Individuals learn to
subordinate their desires to the will of the group; they also learn fair play, courage,
cooperation, group loyalty, social poise, discipline, and other desirable traits.
Participation in such a program is voluntary, and people who desire to participate
under such conditions will do so by group codes of conduct. These experiences
offer training for lifelong learning, citizenship, and human relations.
Recreational sports programs help participants develop an interest in many sports
and physical education activities. They also serve to develop and enhance
appreciation, attitudes, and habits that help lay the foundation to an active, healthy
lifestyle that will last a lifetime. Besides the physical, skill, and psychosocial

development benefits derived from participation in recreational sports programs,

the mental process through a continuous 11 re-creation" of beliefs, values, and
attitudes assure the fun, enjoyment, and social meaningfulness of active
participation. It is crucial that recreation opportunities be accessible and
"inclusive" for all.
Relation to Basic Instructional and Highly Organized Athletic Programs
Recreational sports activities and interscholastic and intercollegiate sports are
integral phases of the total sport program in a school or college. This total sporting
package includes the intramural and extramural programs, sport clubs, and varsity
sport as well as the basic instructional physical education program. Each makes an
important contribution to the achievement of educational principles and physical
education objectives. It is crucial to maintain a proper balance so that each
program phase enhances and does not restrict the others.
The basic instructional program in physical education is viewed by many
physical educators as the foundation for recreational and competitive sports
programs. The instructional program includes teaching such fundamentals as sport
skills, concepts, rules, and strategies. Recreational sports programs provide
opportunities for all students and others to employ these basic skills, concepts, and
strategies in games and contests that are usually competitive. This part of the total
Physical Activity and Sport Continuum is sometimes referred to as the laboratory,
where the individual has an opportunity to experiment and test what has been
learned in the physical education program.

Community Recreation
and Leisure Activity
Recreational Sports
(Intramurals and Sport Clubs)
Figure 4-2. A modern conceptualization of the interaction of school and
community physical education and sport.
Whereas recreational sports are for everyone, varsity sports are for those
individuals who are highly skilled in sport-specific activities. The intramural
phase of the recreational sports program is conducted on an intrainstitutional
basis, whereas sport club and varsity sports are conducted on an interinstitutional
Very little conflict should exist among the three phases of the total sports
program. However, shared facilities and equipment, land and space, time,
personnel, and finance, among others, offer managers a creative challenge so that
all those involved can share equitably in the benefits of physical activity and
If conducted properly, each phase of the total sports program should
contribute to the other, and through an overall, well-balanced sports program, the
entire student body or all members of an organization will gain appreciation for
physical activity and sport and the great potential it has for improving physical,
mental, psychosocial, and emotional growth (Espinosa 1994).
The philosophical model that was shown in figure 3-1 illustrated the
placement of recreational sports within the province of physical activity. This
triangular-shaped model depicted an interdependence and a building of skills from
the basic instructional physical education level to the recreational sports level and,
finally, to the level of varsity and elite competition. This model conveyed the
philosophy that instruction and opportunity in school and community recreation
programs are basic to the other programs and that recreational sports skills are
essential to producing the high level skills found in varsity and elite play.
The diamond-shaped model in figure 4-2 is presented because of its
implications for viewing the phases of the physical education program as both

interdependent and equal. It establishes each phase as independent of the others.

Recreational and varsity sports are placed close to each other because each is
related to the other more closely than are leisure activity and basic physical
education instruction. Community recreation is included in the model because of
its contribution and conceptual link to recreational and varsity sport activities,
both of which have as a primary objective the satisfaction derived from
Although the basic physical education and recreational sports programs in
a school or college are designed for every student, in practice they generally
attract beginning students or those with moderate levels of skill. The highly
skilled person usually finds a niche in the club sport or varsity program. This
system has its benefits in that it is an equalizer for competitive structuring. In
some cases further recreational sport skill divisions (e.g., "Jag" leagues, co-rec,
first division, Division 1) may be instituted.
Many management personnel are needed if a recreational sports program is to be a
success. Some key persons involved are the director, associate and assistant
directors, program managers, student le2ders, recreational sports council
members, and officials.
The Director and Management Team
Many larger schools, colleges, corporations, and other organizations have
established the position of director of recreational sports. In some cases other
titles are used. The director is responsible for establishing programs, securing
adequate funding, involving the community, and assessing program outcomes.
Some of the more specific duties of the director include planning programs;
organizing tournaments and other forms of competition; supervising the
maintenance of facilities, equipment, and supplies; attending and planning sports
council meetings; interpreting the program to the membership, the administration,
and the public in general; supervising the program in action; preparing budgets;

and evaluating the needs and worth of the program.

In larger institutions (see figure 4-1) besides a director, there may be an
associate, assistant, and program directors or managers. The associate and
assistant directors work closely with the director on responsibilities such as
budgeting, facility maintenance, and strategic planning. Program directors and
managers are usually responsible for specific program areas such as health-related
fitness, sports clubs, racquet sports. and aquatics. Again the further from the
director's position, the more activity -specific technical skills are required.
Place in Management Structure
The director or person in charge of recreational sports in an elementary, junior
high, middle, or secondary school is usually responsible to the director of physical
education or athletics and activities. In some schools, these various components
are not all under the same department.
At some colleges, the recreational sports de partment might also fall under
the control of a director of physicai education or athletics and in some instances, a
student activities director. These program administrators usually appoint one
person to manage the entire campus recreational sports program of which
intramurals, fitness, open, and sports club activities are integral parts. In many
schools, partial responsibility for recreational sports activities is delegated to
students themselves.
In some larger colleges and universities, recreational sports departments
maintain separate divisions, similar to the physical education or athletic divisions,
and receive the same considerations concerning staff members, finances, facilities,
equipment, supplies, and other departmental essentials. The department is usually
headed by a director well schooled in physical education and sport or recreation
management. Working with the director (when conditions warrant) should be
associate and assistant directors, program managers, graduate assistants,
supervisors, student managers and assistants, and other staff members as needed,
depending on the size of the organization. There should also be an adequate
number of trained officials and support staff.

Student Leaders/Employees
Student involvement in all phases of education has been steadily increasing.
Involvement in the management of recreational sports has been happening in high
schools and on college campuses since the 1850s. Student leader roles may range
from serving as board members to being managers, office assistants, team or
sport-specific unit leaders, coaches, and officials. For example, many colleges
have drop-in or information centers where student supervisors am available to
establish programs, reserve equipment, answer questions, and arrange additional
usage hours for the gymnasium, multipurpose areas, or swimming pool. In
addition to student leaders, many larger colleges have outstanding opportunities
for well-schooled graduate assistants to help in nearly all phases -ofprogram
delivery, control, and assessment. It's vital that student leaders, graduate
assistants, and other employees be carefully screened and selected, thoroughly
trained, and appropriately certified (i.e., first aid, CPR/AED, NSCA-CPT, WSI,
CRSS). This has serious implications concerning safety, legal liability, and risk
management (see chapter 13).
Recreational Sports Council Members
An important feature of the overall management of a recreational sperts prograrn
is a recr--ational sports council, which is usually an elected body with
representatives from the participants, central administration, and recreational
sports staff. The council is influential in establishing policy and practices for a
comprehensive recreational sports program. The council assists and advises the
person in charge as well as the staff members. In some cases, the council plays an
important role in the decision-making process. The council also helps make
decisions about program operation and policy, financial allocation, and fee
structures and serves as a sounding board for ways in which the program may be

Excellent officials are necessary for a quality recreational sports program. They
should have special qualifications, including a knowledge of the activity, the
participants, the goals of the program, the organization's philosophy of
competition. Some of the responsibilities of the managers of the recreational
sports program are to find sources for competent officials and then to recruit,
select, and train them so that they enhance the program. Some of the duties
performed by officials are to have game equipment ready before the contest, see
that accurate score sheets are prepared, check for an) safety hazards, prepare
accident reports if needed, and officiate the game or activity objectively and
impartially. Some institutions put officials through training sessions, supervise
them during the playing season, and evaluate their performance after the season
(Schuh 1999). Whereas most colleges pay their officials, elementary and
secondary schools usually do not have the budget to provide compensation. Many
schools seek voluntary help from students, staff, parents, and the community;
these volunteers need close supervision, should be offered high-quality in-service
training, and in some instances go through background checks.







A list of policies and procedures governing the various features of the program
should be in writing and well publicized, perhaps in handbook form NIRSA
possesses a large database and serves as an excellent resource for this undertaking
(NIRSA 1996).
Policies and procedures for recreational sports should be developed in at
least the following areas: student involvement in program organization and
management, health and welfare of all participants, activities that meet the
interests and needs of the participants, officiating, coaching, protests, eligibility
standards, fees, forfeits, postponement.;, point systems, and awards. Policies and
procedures concerning user groups, guest fees, rental structure, noise, food
consumption, key control, equipment control, travel, and facility use should also
be on record. The health and safety of the participants must be a top priority, and
policies concerning emergency and disaster procedures should be well publicized.
The management ot recreational sports at the elementary, junior high, middle, and
secondary school levels presents some problems that are pe culiar to these
programs. In many colleges and universities, students live in dormitories and on
campus, but students in K-12 systems do not have such living arrangements.
Some students in K-12 systems have after-school jobs or need to catch a bus to
take them home and cannot stay after school to participate in recreational sports.
College students are more often able to participate because they are not faced with
such problems, at leas: in institutions with dormitory living. Also, many times the
parents of elementary, junior high, middle, and secondary school students do not
see the value of recreational sports and so do not encourage their children to
participate after school. College students, on the other hand, usually make their
own decisions. Another prob lem faced by managers of K-12 recreational
programs is the lack of facilities. Most schools have limited gymnasium and
outdoor space. Varsity sports are often given priority in the use of these facilities,

which causes a hardship on the recreational sports program. The question of

financial and human resource support also exists in many schools, but recreational
sports, especially at the junior high, middle, and high school levels, are clearly on
the "most needed" list for many school districts.
In light of these problems, managers of school recreational sport programs
need to be creative when trying to initiate such programs. Some schools, for
example, form partnerships with other schools, private fitness clubs, community
centers and parks, YWCA/YMCA swimming pools, and Boys' and Girls' Clubs to
provide facilities that meet the programmatic needs of their students (Miller

Recreational sport provides students


to participate and promote fair play

through officiating.


Recreational sports have grown so large on the college campus that they present a
different pattern of concerns and challenges than recreational sports in the K-12
school setting. It is estimated that 40 percent to 80 percent of college students
participate in recreational sports. Despite this increase in participation, finances
remain a prime concern. Most programs' primary sources of revenue are
institutional funds and student fees. A tienu toward aecreasing institutionalfunding has challenged many programs to create alternative sources of funding
(e.g., opening facilities to the public, providing instructional classes. operating
sport camps).
Although recreational sport has mushroomed in the last decade, there is
still a tremendous need to attract and retain students with various disabilities.
Professionals clearly need to take the initiative to become more inclusive.
Facility development and renovation, however, remains alive and well-one
just has to visit Georgia State, Haverford College, Johns Hopkins, Pittsburgh,
Ohio State University, or the Universities of Houston, North Texas, South
Carolina, Tulsa, or Wisconsin-Madison, to mention a few that have invested in
architectural showcase facilities. Furthermore, with the development of new and
refurbished facilities. myriad opportunities exist for qualified and well-trained
professionals to provide leadership in rccreational sport management.
The organization of a recreational sports program involves selecting activities,
scheduling, determining eligibility, establishing awards and point systems,
maintaining records, plannit..g health and fitness assessments, financing, and
directing publicity and promotion.
The activities constituting the recreational sports program determine the amount
of resulting participation. It is therefore important to select the most appropriate
activities. The following are recommended management guidelines that will help
in selecting activities:

Activities should reflect the needs and interests of the students or the members of
the organization. These may include faculty, staff, and alumni. Annual
institutional needs assessments should be initiated.
Activities should be selected in accordance with the season of the year and local
conditions, culture, and influences.
Coeducational recreational activities and recreational activities for students with
varying disabilities should be provided.
The activities included in the school physical education program should be
coordinated with the activities included in the recreational sports program,
which could serve as a laboratory experience for physical education.
Activities offered should require little special equipment and not require long
periods of training to prepare the participant for appropriate playing condition.
Consideration should be given to such recreational activities as field trips, rock
climbing, camping, canoeing, backpacking, hiking, road racing, bicycling,
orienteering, and other outdoor and adventure pursuit activities.
Activities should be selected with special attention to the ability, safety, and risk
management of the participant as well as the provider.
Open, self-directed, or informal recreational sports activities should play a
primary role when organizing a program. Indeed, this phase of recreational sports
programming is the most popular and rapidly growing phase. Opportunities
should be provided for students to come to a well-kept faciliry and work out
without having to enter a competitive environment, particularly in light of the
physical fitness and wellness movement and of today's stressful lifestyle. Box 4-I
illustrates some offerings that have been employed successfully in various
recreational sports programs throughout the nation.
Recreational sports activities schedules will depend on student needs, student and
faculty availability, facilities, season of year, community culture and support, and

budget constraints.
One of the most popular and convenient scheduling times for schools is
late afternoon, especially in the fall and spring. This time has proved best for
many elementary, junior high, middle, and senior high schools. It is an economical
time because lighting is not required, outdoor space is available, and faculty, staff,
and adult supervision is readily available.
Evenings have been used quite extensively at colleges, and this trend has
been followed in many high schools. This time is not recommended for
elementary, junior high, or middle schools. Some schools that have flexible or
block scheduling use selected hours during the school day. Physical education
classes, however, should have priority and use of this period for intramurals or
extramurals does not conform to the standards set by the profession. Some schools
have satisfactorily used free periods, activity periods, club periods, and even
before-school hours for recreational sports programs when facilities were
The noon hour has also been utilized in some schools, especially in
elementary, junior high, middle, and secondary schools and particularly in rural
schools in which students do not go home or off campus for lunch. Because
students will be active anyway, the lunch period offers possibilities in selected
situations if moderately strenuous activities are offered.

Safety is always a concern in any sporting activity, especially those involving

slippery conditions.
Saturdays have also been used for recreational sports programs. On
occasion, special weekend days are set aside in many schools for track and field
days, on May Day, for example, when all the students participate in a day or a half
day devoted entirely to the program's activities.'Ihese traditional sports days re
main quite popular, especially at the K-6 level. For the most part, however,
recreational sports programs. especially at the school level, have remained sub
dued in their weekend sports activity programming. Recreational sports activities








munities. and other organizations are scheduled at various times to meet the

convenience of the members. Activities might be scheduled at any time during the
day or night. With more single parents and more dual working-parent households,
after-school activities have become standard rather than an experiment.
A few simple eligibility rules are needed. These should be kept to a minimum,
because the recreational sports programs should offer something for all students.
It is generally agreed that in schools and colleges players should not be
allowed to participate in like activities when they are on the varsity team or squad.
A student should be allowed to participate on only one team in a given activity
during the season. Students, of course, are eligible to participate in more than one
activity during a -season (e.g., flag football, coeducational soccer) and should be
enrolled in or affiliated with the school and conform to the institutional and
NIRSA rules for participation.
Unbecoming conduct should be handled in a manner that is in the best
interests of the individual concerned, the program, and the established code of
student conduct. On occasion a student's eligi- , c: bility may be forfeited for
serious or repeated rules ' infractions.
Certain activities by their very nature are not appropriate for individuals
with certain health problems. Therefore such individuals should be cleared by
their personal physician or the school health service or department before being
permitted to participate.
Several states have instituted policies linking academic achievement
(GPA) and, attendance of students with their eligibility to participate in extracurricular activities. However, some controversy has developed about whether
a student should be denied the right to participate in such activities because of
poor grades. In some cases, state officials have threatened to challenge such action
iii the courts. It is important to have written policies in place concerning all phases
of one's total sports program and eligibility.

There are arguments for and against granting awards for recreational sports
involvement. Some recreational sport administrators argue that awards stimulate
interest, serve as extrinsic incentive for participation. and recognize achievement.