This article discusses the role of intramural sport/activity programs in primary and secondary public schools. This summary includes an overview and description of what intramural sports/activities programs are as well as the social (e.g., social growth, social harmony) physical (engagement in physical activity), and psychological (e.g., reduction in anxiety, depression, improved self-esteem, enjoyment) benefits for the students. This overview is followed by a discussion of the philosophy, administration, promotion, and assessment of developing and maintaining effective intramural programs that focus on providing students opportunities to have fun while being physically active, focus on effort, fair play, and equal playing ground for all participants, as well as develop leadership skills and positive character.
Keywords Character Development; Fair Play; Intramural Sports/Activities; Leadership Skills; Mission Statement; Physical Activity; Physical Fitness; Positive Competition; Self-Esteem
Traditional Benefits of Intramural Sports
Intramural sports and activities in primary and secondary schools offer students opportunities to participate in recreational sports and activities involving physical activity before or after the traditional school day and, in some schools, during recess periods. Scholastic intramural programs may include an array of traditional sports (e.g., basketball, volleyball, floor hockey) or may include creative modifications of traditional sports (e.g., basketball played with a rubber chicken or different type of ball) or new non-traditional sport-related activities (e.g., Harry Potter's Quidditch) all with the focus on students having fun. Intramural programs focus on intra-scholastic contests with teams playing against other teams from within the school. Depending on the focus of the intramural program, these before and after school programs can compliment a school's physical education program by making it a more broad-based and comprehensive program (Tenoschok, Lyons, Oliveto, & Sands, 2002). The intramural programs extend the physical education curriculum to the intramural program where students are afforded additional time to practice the skills learned in class, perform self-testing of these skills, and have opportunities to learn new and unique activities (Tenoschok et al., 2002). Typically, intramural programs are managed and administered by one or more teachers (e.g., physical education teachers or classroom teachers) and, in some cases, in collaboration with a group of students (Byl, 2004). Financial backing for intramural programs may come in the form of school administration classifying intramural management as an extra duty for staff members and pay these teachers accordingly (Byl, 2004), yet these programs may also receive additional funding from the school district (e.g., equipment, officials, facility usage) and/or through fund raising and support from school groups such as the Parent-Teacher Association (Byl, 2004).
Physical Benefits of Intramural Sports
Intramural sport and activity programs offer the overall student population an opportunity to engage in physical activity and sport programming that is less competitive than regular team interscholastic athletic programs. The recreational focus of intramural programs provides many benefits to the student participants, including intellectual/academic, physical, social, and psychological benefits. Research has indicated that the academically-related benefits of participation in physical activity include, helping students improve their concentration, academic performance, and readiness for class (Byl, 2004). The physical benefits of intramural sports/activity participation include improved physical fitness and additional, structured opportunities for students to choose as a means to engage in physical activity. Intramural programs seek to provide opportunities for all students and not just the athletically-gifted students, therefore providing all students the choice to participate in physical activity at a level of competition that is comfortable and/or appropriate for that student.
Psychological Benefits of Participation
The psychosocial benefits of intramural participation are numerous. Intramural activities offer students opportunities to socialize outside of the structured classroom setting and to develop and learn new social skills (Forrester & Beggs, 2005; Tenoschok, Lyons, Oliveto, & Sands, 2002). Also, the social interaction that occurs during intramural programs helps students develop social harmony and social integration as the program may include students from a variety of backgrounds, social groups, and with varying levels of athletic ability who are grouped together to work toward a common goal (Forrester & Beggs, 2005). Participation in intramural programs may also foster the development of character in the students, if the program focuses on effort, respect, and fair play (Forrester & Beggs, 2005). Intramural programs also provide school staff an occasion to allow students to take on leadership roles in terms of helping to administer, create, and develop the intramural programs. Through the creation and development of leadership opportunities for the students, intramural programs can enhance students' leadership skills under the guidance and support of school staff (Tenoschok et al., 2002).
The psychological benefits of intramural sport and activity participation are also abundant. Research has indicated that participation in physical activity that is considered to be fun by the participant can decrease anxiety and depression as well as improve his or her overall feelings of well-being (Byl, 2004). Research has also suggested that participants in physical activities experience a sense of joy or personal enjoyment, personal growth, and enhanced self-esteem as a result of being physically active (Byl, 2004; Forrester & Beggs, 2005). The focus of effective intramural programs is to provide fun activities for students, therefore suggesting that the student participants' will experience joy, less anxiety, depression, and an improved sense of well-being and self-esteem. Effective intramural programs can help students attain these psychosocial benefits if the program is well-designed with a focus on fun, equal opportunity, and personal effort and improvement.
Development of Program Mission
Based on research in physical activity and sport management, scholars have provided suggestions and guidelines to direct practitioners in the development of effective scholastic intramural sports and activities programs. In developing an intramural program for a primary or secondary school setting, it is critical to determine where the program is headed in terms of the goals and orientation of the program (Byl, 2004). Program administrators must determine the overall outcome goals of the program by asking themselves several questions, including:
• Why begin an intramural program?
• Who is the program targeting?
• What are the outcome goals of the program?...
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