Varsity athletics have only been at Franciscan University of Steubenville since 2001, but that’s not where on-campus sports started. Franciscan Intramurals have kept competition strong on campus since 1960. Intramurals celebrated its 60th anniversary last weekend on Oct. 31.
Kelly Herrmann, intramural and club sport coordinator, has been an advocate for intramurals on campus for many years, and says they are crucial to the Franciscan experience.
“October 2, 1960, was the official beginning of Franciscan intramurals,” said Herrmann. “It started with flag football, and then obviously we’ve developed lots of programs since then.”
In the 1960 Franciscan University yearbook, there is a page commemorating the beginning of Franciscan intramurals. Herrmann says when she attended the university in the 80s, intramurals were a huge part of campus life.
“Two things kind of perpetuated the growth of our intramural program,” said Herrmann. “One is that we have a tight knit community, being that everybody has a similar faith background and campus isn’t very big. And then the other is households, because half of our students are in a household. This makes an automatic connection for students to get hooked up with teams … that created a really booming intramural experience.”
Herrmann said she feels strongly that intramurals are crucial to Franciscan’s campus, because the entire campus community benefits from and participates in intramurals.
“All students, faculty and staff — and that includes varsity athletes. The vast majority, like … 90% or more of varsity athletes, participate in intramurals,” said Herrmann. “It really does serve the whole community.”
“I really believe that sports have far greater significance than just giving us something to do,” Herrmann said. “From a faith perspective, we understand the balance of mind, body and spirit, we understand the importance of caring for our bodies. Being good stewards of our bodies, and trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which involves, you know, some reasonable level of activity and exercise.”
Herrmann talked about St. John Paul II’s take on sports and competition on our lives and building virtue. She said that if someone believes what John Paul says, they have to conclude that the intramural experience is truly crucial for everyone who participates — “because our lives should be full of opportunities for growth and to be learning and developing virtue in our lives.”
“So, when you think about that, does that only apply to varsity athletes?” said Herrmann. “Does that mean the intramural experience isn’t as important as the varsity experience? And this is coming from somebody who started two of our varsity programs. I’m 100% a fan of our varsity programs, but I’m also 100% a fan of our intramural programs, and unfortunately, I think sometimes they get a little bit of a back seat, because I think people discount the intramural experience.”
Herrmann also said that she makes intramurals a priority when it comes to scheduling.
“When I coached both basketball and volleyball in the 2000s, my teams always practiced at 6 a.m. Not because anybody told me to, but I felt strongly that the gym needed to be available for recreational use, and not just programmed intramurals. … I am someone who sees intramurals as a little more of a priority on our campus than others, and that’s because I lived it … and the intramural experience is crucial to our campus.”
Herrmann said that Franciscan’s varsity sports should not be their own culture, or a sub-culture of Franciscan athletics, but that it should be exactly what our campus culture is: faithfully Catholic.
“We look for ways to fill our lives, and so the question of ‘Why intramurals?’ from a faith perspective has a particularly obvious answer to that question,” said Herrmann. “I think that’s been a big reason for why our intramural programs have enjoyed so much success, because I think students recognize that. They want to compete together, they want to look for opportunities for brotherhood and sisterhood, they understand striving, the virtue of magnanimity and using the gifts and talents that God has given you and using those gifts and talents not just to compete, but to help each other, to form a team, to invite people on your team and get to know them.”
As it marked its 60th anniversary last weekend, Franciscan Intramurals celebrated with food, games and a concert. Herrmann said it is a good way to bring campus community together and celebrate something that’s been a huge part of students’ lives on campus, and the Franciscan experience, for many years.
“There are thousands and thousands of people who lived that in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and who have very fond memories of their time at Franciscan surrounding their intramural experience,” said Herrmann. “Father Michael (Scanlan, TOR,) played intramurals. When he was first president, he literally played everything.”
Herrmann said intramural competition also opens up opportunities for all kinds of growth and development; “That’s why we do what we do.”