|Pink Flamingos, the women’s volleyball winners
At Dickinson, athletic prowess is not required to play recreational sports, but there are a few other prerequisites, like the desire to have fun, the inclination to make new friends and the capacity to be a good sport.
The recreational sports office, formed in 1983, has grown into three divisions—open recreation, club sports and intramural sports—under the watchful eye of Director and Cross-Country Coach Don Nichter.
Open recreation provides time and space in campus facilities for students to be active. In other words, students who aren’t on a team can shoot hoops in the Kline Center or kick a soccer ball on the field during designated times.
For the more competitive, there are nine club sports that don’t have the time demands of intercollegiate teams.
Ten percent of Dickinson students are members of a club team. The ski, equestrian, ultimate Frisbee, karate, fencing and cardio-boxing clubs play against area colleges, while the ice hockey and men’s volleyball teams compete in local leagues. The outing club offers travel opportunities to the entire campus community.
But the most popular category is intramural (IM) sports. Sixty percent of Dickinson students play at least one IM sport. Options include softball, tennis, field hockey, floor hockey, flag football, golf, racquetball, soccer, arena football, basketball, volleyball, bowling, table tennis, Wiffle ball and kickball.
Morgan Mirth ’07, Mike Gortakowski ’07 and Dan Vroman ’06 are intramural aficionados. They have worked for Nichter in the recreational-sports office for more than two years and have participated in nearly every IM offered.
One of the biggest draws, and a key reason why many high-school varsity athletes choose this route, is the flexibility. There are no practices, and students attend games when they can.
“It’s more fun not to have a strict schedule,” says Mirth. She was a high-school basketball player but worried that she wasn’t good enough to make Dickinson’s intercollegiate team. Thanks to IMs, not only does she play basketball, she participates in several sports, which she couldn’t have done if she played varsity.
Gortakowski and Vroman were members of bowling teams in high school and maintain that interest through IMs.
To Nichter, the value of IMs is social. “There is a winner and a loser, but the emphasis is on participation over ability.”
IMs also provide a chance for groups on campus to form teams and build camaraderie.
“I’m a member of the Keystones of Dickinson College, [a men’s community-service organization] and we have a team,” says Vroman. “IMs are big bonding sessions. It’s something we all can do together.”
“A lot of first-year residence halls have teams,” Mirth adds. “Floor hockey is big among sororities.”
While IMs are intended for fun, some athletes take them seriously.
“There’s less aggressiveness now than there used to be,” Nichter says, “but it still can be a problem.”
“But the games always end well,” Gortakowski adds. “The teams shake hands and say ‘good game.’ ”
Another downside to IMs is a lack of referees. The refs are student volunteers, and the more competitive the games, the more abuse the refs suffer.
“Finding refs is hard,” Mirth says. “We have the same few who keep doing it, but they can’t do everything.”
Along with a lack of refs, IMs also face a lack of space. With only one indoor athletics facility on campus, recreational sports compete with intercollegiate teams for floor time.
“The Kline Center is booked all day long,” Nichter says.
Despite these hurdles, intramurals at Dickinson are thriving. According to Nichter, “Our program, compared to peer institutions, is exceptional based on the number of activities we offer and the amount of participation.”
Wiffle ball and kickball are the most recent additions. “Our mantra,” says Nichter, “is if you want to do it, we’ll find a way to get it done.”
And one of the biggest draws to IMs? The teams that win are awarded the sacred intramural T-shirt.
“Everyone wants one,” Mirth admits. “It’s cutthroat.”
“The T-shirt is the Holy Grail of intramural sports,” Nichter says.