Last week, I wrote about club sports as an alternative to varsity, and this week, I wanted to take it a step further. The variety of club sports that Michigan provides is certainly an exciting prospect for all of the former athletes paying their overpriced rent in Ann Arbor. Intramurals are the best place to play strange sports with a bunch of your guy and girl, jock and dork, smart and stupid friends.
The IM Building is superior to the CCRB for a variety of reasons – better location, better staff and a bigger weight room come to mind from a biased former IM building employee. But the intramural sports that are consistently provided down at 606 E. Hoover St. are really what make the IMSB the hallowed brick building that it is.
Some of these contests are not appropriate for everyone. Basketball, for instance, is stiff competition between groups of guys who spend hours and hours practicing. You know you’re pressed to win when you have a variety of zones to throw at the other team and a handful of offenses to run. If Tommy Amaker only needs one, why do you think you need five different sets?
Hockey is another one that is really only for those who know what they’re doing – and they deter novices by charging $200 for a team and making you bring all your own gear.
But if you stay away from the ones with the die-hards, IM sports can provide an athletic outlet slightly less intense than club sports and two steps below the varsity level.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still screaming and shoving and maybe the occasional punch (only acceptable if the other guy swings first). Competition tends to be fierce and some people even feel the need to practice, draw up playbooks, etc. I’ve even heard of people sneaking into the pool to practice inner tube water polo (though I swore I’d take that to the grave and don’t plan on breaking that promise with any more details).
A lot of people don’t know the secrets behind IM sports, and that’s why I’m here. I’ve spent more than four years at this University. I’ve played on dozens of teams and, since I worked in the IMSB most of my collegiate career, I’ve probably watched hundreds of games. So I’ve decided to make the beginnings of the intramural sports handbook:
Get there early for signups: This seems obvious, but people insist on coming whenever their last class is over. The only way to be sure to get a time slot that you want is to get to the IM building early – and by early, I mean before the 11 a.m. start time. The line starts forming around 10:30 a.m. Find someone in your group who can get there by then – or skip class if you have to. By this point, you should know what’s really important.
Get there even earlier for playoff scheduling: There’s nothing worse than losing your star goalie for the semifinal game because he can’t miss his midterm. Although you can also use this opportunity to rid you of some weak links, so make sure you know everyone’s schedule.
Try something new: Sure, flag football is fun, but sliding across the ice in sweatpants, a hockey mask and sneakers is cool too. Don’t be intimidated by the sports you don’t know. Inner tube waterpolo, broomball and wallyball are an intramural enthusiast’s dream.
Know the rules: There are a lot of strange rules in intramurals – like having to involve a girl in every other throw of a co-ed flag football game. If you know them, you can take advantage – like double-teaming girls or recruiting a girl quarterback.
Don’t invite too many people: Try standing on the sidelines of an intramural waterpolo game and you’ll understand why.
Co-ed sports are the best, but make sure you have enough girls: And make sure they’re committed to the weekly game and the playoffs.
Get everyone you know to play in the regular season: Or just have all your friends come by and swipe their M-Card for the last game of the year, even if they don’t actually play. It may seem like cheating, but it’s better than being caught off-guard and out of players for the playoffs.
Speaking of forfeits, never take one until the last possible minute: This goes with the same idea of having fun and, you know, actually playing games. You should disregard this rule if you happen to know that the other team is very good.
If you’re going to participate in All Sports Points, play all the sports that qualify for points: That means the boring ones like track and swimming relays. Gag, I know. But that’s where these competitions are won and lost. Find the fastest people you know to win these events for you.
When signing up for the playoffs, don’t take the spot with the first-round bye: This one always gets me. If you take a first-round game, that’s just one more game you get to play. It’s not like you get tired after playing four games in two weeks. Your shoulders may be sore, but you’ll make it for the finals if you’re a trooper. It’s supposed to be fun, so get in the extra game.
Be nice to the officials: I’ve done it. It’s hard. Don’t yell. They’re getting paid $7 an hour, and I’m sure they’re trying their best. I know it’s hard to believe sometimes, but they really don’t care who wins the game. They don’t actually have something against you. Unless you’re really an asshole – then expect some bad calls, but don’t say you didn’t deserve it.
The BA finals are always better than the AB finals: The AB finals are between two teams that thought they were good and are actually bad. The BA finals are between two teams that thought they were bad and are actually good.
Watch the finals: I always found it fun to watch the AA basketball finals in particular. Two years ago I saw the football team – with Braylon Edwards and Jason Avant – get fooled by a sharp-shooting team that played a solid zone. It was a blast to watch, and Braylon had a few dazzling alley-oops. The IM staff usually brings out the bleachers for the AA finals. Take advantage of an exciting game that’s free and fun.
And that’s what I’ve got. I’m sure most people will tell you to make sure that you have fun. I couldn’t agree more, but make sure that you also have the biggest, strongest, fastest guys you know to make it even more fun and get those free t-shirts.
And if all else fails, they sell the extra shirts for a dollar at the end of the year. Buy some and pretend you’re an intramural champ.
Ian Herbert can be reached at email@example.com.