Free Agents, Friendship, and an Uphill Battle with COVID Regulations
You might expect intramurals to have a similar feel to playground sports, only with a little more structure. But what if I told you that it’s a much more intricate process featuring free agents, scouting reports, stat keepers, and strong friendships?
One of the most popular sports that the Marist intramural program offers is flag football. The less physically demanding alternative to tackle football would usually be played with a 7-on-7 format, with each team consisting of 9-to-12 players. Teams form when a group of friends or an individual decides to form a squad within the league. Usually, though, there aren’t enough players to fill out a team roster that is necessary to compete in the intramural league. To find enough players, teams look to the free-agent market, where students can make themselves available for open roster spots.
“Once we made a team, there were a ton of people that were in as free agents, and you could look through the list and see who you wanted to add to your team,” former flag football athlete Scott Long said.
But how would you know what player would best fit your team? Well, through scouting reports, of course. When signing up to be a free agent, students have the option to write down their athletic history and experience. The issue is that there is no fact-checker or scout to verify any of it, so students can say whatever they want on their report.
“On their bio in free agency it would say things such as ‘I played wide receiver for my high school team that won the county championships’ or they would say that they were fast with good hands or something like that,” Long said. “I didn’t take any of the people with long-winded descriptions because I felt like it seemed a little overboard and extremely embellished.”
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 regulations that were put in place during the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, the core intramural sports of flag football, basketball, co-ed soccer, and co-ed volleyball could not go on. Despite the absence of the usual suspects, some intramurals got the go-ahead. In fact, the removal of many traditional intramural sports has allowed what Julie Byron, head of intramurals at Marist, calls “backyard games” to enter the fold. These consist of games like cornhole, wiffleball, KanJam, ping pong, and badminton.
“Those were really big hits, especially when we did them out on the turf in the fall while following social distancing guidelines of course,” Byron said. “Badminton and cornhole were surprisingly very, very popular. So, those sports will remain in rotation even when things return to normal.”
Cornhole is so popular that it even earned its own statistician in senior Edison Hauptman. Hauptman, who collects and measures statistics as a hobby, decided that he wanted to transfer his passion to his intramural league, where he quantifies individual stats, records, and scores.
“I was looking into, really just for the sake of scouting other teams, how they’re doing based on their numbers,” Hauptman said. “I started doing it for fun because I really enjoy analytics, collecting data, and those sorts of things. I’ve gotten really good at Excel that way.”
These intramural sports go further than stat keepers and free agents, though. What these intramurals truly offer students is the opportunity to not only escape from the pressure of class, but also from the stress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also gives students, especially freshmen and sophomores, the chance to have some form of social activity when those types of interactions are so inhibited by on-campus regulations.
This was certainly the case for Hayley Moore and Kent Patino, who decided to start a badminton team at the beginning of the fall semester called the Firefoxes. Since there were only two of them, and four people are needed to make up a badminton roster, Moore and Patino had to look to the open market. After a bit of searching, they found Declan Leonard, a freshman who had played tennis and badminton in high school, and Jenna Cottone. From there, the group began their friendship.
“We all got to know each other and clicked really well together,” Moore said. “We’d always go to McDonald’s together after our games, we’d hang out, and we even went bowling. We all really had fun together.”
“I definitely think this was like a second family for me,” Leonard said. “I came here and didn’t really know a lot of people, but badminton definitely helped me meet people, and I’m very grateful to have met the people on my team.”
Unfortunately, not much of the bonding from the fall semester has been able to transition into the spring. That’s because on March 17th Marist enacted a campus pause that did not allow athletic activities to continue, including intramurals. Most intramural teams have only been able to play one game in seven weeks. Recently, on April 11th, Marist partially lifted the campus pause, allowing students to return to in-person classes once again. But the future of athletics and intramurals was still up in the air.
“We had just started a mini, four-week session on Monday, March 15th,” Byron said. “But of course, on the 17th, we were put on pause. Where we go from here will be interesting. I’d like to pick those up right where we left off and, if weather permits, we will be out on the field.”
Byron set a target date of April 29th for intramurals to resume. On Tuesday, April 20th, due to the improving COVID case numbers and the increasing number of students getting vaccinated, Byron determined that intramurals could return. Now that they are back, free agents will be boasting, Hauptman will continue to collect his stats, and new teammates will quickly become friends.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez-Paz and Jonathan Kinane