As every tour group walks through Franklin Field, prospective students hear about Penn’s varsity, club and intramural sports.
But, according to a survey released late last year, only about 15 percent of Penn students actually participate in intramurals. The average participation rate for Penn’s 16 peer schools, which included Duke, Stanford, MIT and the rest of the Ivy League, was 31 percent.
PennRec’s Assistant Director of Structured Sport Brian Calio and many students attribute low 2010-2011 participation rates to low-quality or lacking facilities, which were often subject to inclement weather.
“They’d always try to reschedule [games] on Franklin Field, but that’s where all the varsity teams practiced,” said College senior Tim Suzor, who has played intramural soccer for two years. “The games were so short, it was a joke. You spent more time putting on your cleats than you did playing.”
Several students agreed that the opening of Penn Park has drawn more students to their leagues, and this year PennRec extended the length of soccer games by four minutes because of the additional space the park provides, PennRec Associate Director of Structured Sport Michael Reno said.
Since the opening of Penn Park, several sports that play at the Park have seen modest participation increases. In the fall, flag football grew from 703 to 884 participants, and soccer expanded from 720 to 922 players this spring.
“When we think about places like Cornell or Williams, places that are in more rural or suburban settings, there’s a lot more space, a lot more fields,” said Rob Nelson, the executive director for education and academic planning in the Provost’s Office. “I think Penn has similar demand to those schools but we haven’t been able to create as many programs. My guess is we’ll see that number increase as Penn Park gets utilized.”
Suzor agrees, saying he’s seen less of an intramural presence on campus than at University of Virginia, where he went to school before transferring to Penn. “Perhaps it’s because there’s so much room there,” he said. “I think people are involved [here,] but we don’t have a lot of room outside.”
While Penn Park may have made an impact on outdoor sports, indoor intramural sports haven’t benefited. Intramural basketball saw a drop of over 200 participants this spring semester. Intramural volleyball participation dropped from 344 participants in 2010-2011 to 315 this year.
“Penn’s rec center should do a better job of advertising,” Engineering junior Taylor Thomson, who plays intramural volleyball, said. “I’ve been signing up for [years] and missed sign-ups this year because it wasn’t advertised very well. If more people knew about the system and how you sign up you’d probably have better attendance.”
Calio thinks Penn’s poor intramural culture is related to the sheer number of other activities on campus.
“There are so many activities and clubs and associations here that there’s almost a saturation level,” Calio said. “You can have a lot of intramural events and special events, but they’re always going to be competing with … other groups.”
Nonetheless, Calio and Reno say they are satisfied with the school’s overall involvement in intramurals, citing special events such as the Homecoming 5K as ways students can participate without joining a formal league.
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