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Guest Column - April 2011

Intramural Sports

Women in Intramurals
A Look at Declining Participation

By Abigail Whaley, Dr. Peter Titlebaum & Patrick Wallace


Female college students are participating in intramural sports in diminishing numbers, when compared with their male counterparts across the country. The staggering difference in participation rates is not hard to notice. Take a look at most recreation facilities on a regular night during the school term; women are scarcely to be found playing organized team sports.

Perhaps this may not seem like a big deal because in these same recreation facilities, women are found elsewhere, participating in activities such as group fitness classes and in the fitness center on cardiovascular exercise machines. Female students may be found participating in volleyball, but not in many other sports that had previously held their interest. They are likely to be found participating in indoor as opposed to outdoor sports, as well. However, one in every three college students is overweight or obese. In a country where physical fitness programs in schools and colleges are being drastically reduced, it is important to encourage female students to engage in the opportunities that remain.

At stake is the loss of valuable skills associated with team play, and this should concern us all. College can be one of the last places to work on important skills students will need later in life. Individual physical fitness is essential to overall health, but team sports help develop many other life skills as well. Playing on a team provides playful, social experiences that just cannot be practiced when recreating alone. Intramural sports also offer an educational component to participants in the form of learning and practicing new skills.

Men are taking advantage of these budget-driven programs at a rate of 70 percent compared with 30 percent of females. At some schools, the difference in participation is as high as 90 percent male to 10 percent female.

There is a great deal at stake for women who do not participate. Just consider the skills that can be gained by participation in team sports—skills like constructive communication, active listening and participation, open and willing sharing, cooperativeness, willingness to help, flexibility, commitment to the team, problem-solving, and treating others in a respectful and supportive manner.