Collegiate Recreational Sports: Pivotal Players in Student Success: The Importance of a Bona Fide Campus Recreation Sports/wellness Program Cannot Be Overstated

By Blumenthal, Kent J. | Planning for Higher Education, January-March 2009 | Go to article overview

Collegiate Recreational Sports: Pivotal Players in Student Success: The Importance of a Bona Fide Campus Recreation Sports/wellness Program Cannot Be Overstated


Blumenthal, Kent J., Planning for Higher Education


Recreational Sports Road Trip

Amazing. It's simply amazing.

Trying to find the right college, the right "fit," for a college-bound high school senior is a complex process. Now take it up a notch. It's not just any child who's going to college; it's your child. Ratchet it up still more. It's your daughter, and she's your only child. She's the light of your life and the gleam in your eye. She's Daddy's Girl.

Take everything you know, everything you've learned, every bit of wisdom imparted by friends and colleagues both within and outside of academia, and mix it with the formidable combination of the common application, supplemental applications, grade point average, class rank, essays, standardized test scores, the free application for Federal Student Aid, tax returns, loans, and your daughter's vacillating interest between a degree in engineering or government and politics (huh?). What do you get? Stress. Confusion. Worry. Intimidation.

My dad often reminded me that "there's more than one route to the center of a city." That pretty much sums up how I've come to appreciate and understand collegiate recreational sports, and it's helped me to process what I've learned on college tours. I've travelled at least five avenues into the heart of this higher education bastion of recreation, health, and wellness: as an intramural participant, director of a campus recreation program, student of recreation and leisure services, executive director of the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA), and now as a parent of a college-bound high school senior.

Each route has offered a different lens through which to view form and purpose. Combined, these experiences have given me a special vantage point--an opportunity to see beyond what meets the eye and to appreciate the skills, discipline, forethought, and resources required to deliver cutting-edge recreational programs, services, and facilities to a wide and diverse college or university community. This latest excursion, as a parent, may be the most telling.

Every college student is some parent's child, and our desire for our children's happiness and well-being is paramount. Our concerns may have changed somewhat over time as they have grown and matured, but not in any real sense. As parents, we still worry (and may always worry) about their personal safety. We want them to be good students--not just to do well grade-wise, but to learn, too. We want our children to find a wholesome community of friends to spend free time with, and we want them to be perpetual learners both inside and outside the classroom, although not necessarily via the "school of hard knocks." Simply put, we want our children to be happy, healthy, and smart. Colleges and universities can serve as our surrogates and, with a well-developed and executed collegiate recreational sports program, create an environment where the odds of this happening are improved.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The Evolution of Recreational Sports in Student Life

Both the breadth and scope of today's collegiate recreational sports programs and facilities have grown exponentially since the earliest intramural programs began in the late 1800s under the auspices of physical education teachers or varsity coaches. The first dedicated intramural facilities were established in the early 1900s, and the first departments of intramural athletics were created at the University of Michigan and Ohio State University in 1913. The sole purpose of these new departments was to organize and schedule sporting activities for the recreational enjoyment of students under the direction of one person (NIRSA 2008a). Figures 1 and 2--depicting the University of Michigan Intramural Sports Building, built in 1927-28, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Student Recreation and Wellness Center, opened in 2007--illustrate how facility design elements have changed over the past 80 years. …

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