By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Sports have always been a big part of Olivia Slater’s life.
The Omaha native participated in soccer, basketball and track and field at Millard North High School before enrolling at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Slater doesn’t play collegiate sports at UNK, but she wanted to remain active and stay involved with athletics.
“Intramurals is a great way to do that,” she said.
Slater signed up for intramural sports through UNK Campus Recreation as a freshman and continues to compete in activities such as sand and indoor volleyball, basketball, softball and broomball – a hockey-like game played on the rink at Kearney’s Viaero Center.
Intramural sports offer a nice balance for both serious and casual participants, according to the UNK junior, who admits she’s “very competitive” when it comes to athletics.
“I’ve met a lot of people through intramurals and made some really good friends,” said Slater, who was named one of UNK’s Intramural Participants of the Year in 2018-19.
Each spring, UNK Campus Recreation selects a male and female Intramural Participant of the Year based on their overall success, high participation rate, sportsmanship and leadership. Both winners receive a scholarship supported by the Leland and Jean Copeland Intramural Awards Fund.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
More than 1,200 students, including 510 first-year Lopers, took part in UNK intramural sports last academic year.
Campus Recreation offers about 40 intramural leagues, tournaments and one-day events each year. There are the standards you’d expect – sports like flag football, volleyball, basketball, soccer and softball – as well as some nontraditional options such as human foosball, table tennis, cornhole, Spikeball, ultimate Frisbee and wallyball, a form of volleyball played on a racquetball court.
Gamers can compete in NBA 2K, Mario Kart and Madden tournaments, there’s pitch and bingo for people looking to relax, and Campus Recreation even sponsored a snowman-building contest earlier this semester.
“You don’t need to be an ‘athlete’ to be involved in intramurals,” said UNK junior Kelcee Bacon. “There’s definitely something out there for everyone.”
Bacon, an exercise science major from Bancroft, plays intramural volleyball, basketball and dodgeball. She’s also a student supervisor. Campus Recreation employs around 40-50 intramural staff, including two graduate assistants, seven supervisors and over 30 officials and scorekeepers.
In addition to gaining valuable work and leadership experience through the paid position, Bacon enjoys interacting with fellow Lopers.
“Intramurals are a really great way to meet people on campus,” she said. “It’s a fun way to get involved and stay active. You don’t really feel like you’re exercising, but you actually are.”
Intramural official Kyler Watts, a freshman from Bridgeport, likes the camaraderie as well as the flexibility that comes with working on campus.
“I’ve met a lot more people because I work at UNK,” she said. “It’s a very rewarding job and the people I work with are great. It’s a really good experience.”
A pre-physician assistant student studying psychobiology, Watts is another former high school athlete who keeps her playing days alive through intramural sports. Plus, she said, it’s a good stress reliever.
“Everyone who plays absolutely loves it,” Watts said. “Intramural sports are really popular here.”