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Iowa State University's Recreation Services offers many ways for students to get involved.

COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the cogs of all functions of society. At Iowa State, students have adapted well as individuals, completing most of their work online and taking other measures, such as reducing contact between people, to stop the spread of disease.

This reduction of interaction, while necessary, has left many students more isolated and alone than in previous years.

Where campus was a complex web of interlinked social groups, now, that web seems limited to the dorm or apartment students live in or the major they are pursuing.

Iowa State understands the need students have for social growth, so they have continued to offer select intramural programs throughout the pandemic.

Russ Jones, the assistant director of recreational services and director of intramurals, is in charge of coordinating intramural sports and keeping them well-equipped. According to Jones, the biggest problems with intramurals this year has been coronavirus-related, whether it’s guidelines that make it hard to play certain sports or a reduced budget.

Regardless of these obstacles, the team of directors of intramurals have put together a solid roster of available intramural activities. Guidelines for regulating close contact have caused the cancelation of a few popular intramurals, such as flag football, but the majority of intramurals remain open.

“We have about 30 sports this year, 20 more than most colleges,” Jones said.

Thirty sports sounds impressive, but compared to Iowa State's usual roster of about 55 sports offered, it’s clear that putting together this year's intramural schedule was challenging. A reduced budget may have left some programs underfunded, and replacing things like soccer nets has proven to be more stressful than in previous years.

Jones said regardless of stress put onto the directors of intramurals, the sports are available to the student body. 

“Our numbers are down, but not drastically,” Jones said.

He continued to say attendance at most intramurals is about 75 percent of the usual amount. Such a decline in involvement is expected in a global pandemic.

“Intramural sports provide a great opportunity for students to meet other students from different majors, different backgrounds and different cultures. Many lifelong friends and even spouses have been met on the IM fields and courts,” Jones said. This may provide some relief for those struggling to expand their social circles.

As the pandemic continues, many people not involved in intramurals or any other physically and socially demanding activities may find themselves slipping into a cognitive haze, stagnating as the semester drags on.

For these individuals, intramurals offer an escape from the events of the year.

Andrew Gilbertson, freshman in criminal justice, participated in intramural lacrosse for the first time this year.

“I was kind of bored, and it seemed like something to keep me busy, so I was like, ‘Whatever, I’ll do it,’” Gilbertson said. “It was nice to meet people with different backgrounds, but the sport’s what brings everyone together. Overall, I think it improved my quality of life, it gave me something to do, let me be a little more active, made me less bored so I got into trouble less.” 

Signups for intramurals can be found on the Iowa State Recreation Services website.

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