Planning Is the Key to Success
It takes passion, patience, and planning to run a quality, inclusive, and sustainable intramural program. Students will participate in well-organized programs with a focus on student participation, fun, and social inclusion. It is important to create a well-designed action plan with student leaders at the core in order to provide enthusiasm and direction and to help build an intramural culture that will grow year after year.
Some planning considerations include:
- Intramurals can be a complement to the Health and Physical Education program by integrating games and activities that students may have learned in health and physical education classes. Making these games and activities a focus of the intramural program whenever possible provides students with an opportunity to further develop their physical literacy and gives them more confidence to participate in intramurals.
- If you are new to running an intramural program that takes place at regularly scheduled times throughout the day or week, consider starting by running a series of open gym activities. Open gym is designed to provide students with an opportunity to play in a safe environment while minimizing the organization and planning needed ahead of time. There are two types of open gym: unstructured and structured.
- Unstructured: In an unstructured open gym the supervisor offers 1–3 activities depending on the size of the space. There are no teams or sign-ups, and you use the equipment that is made available by the supervisor in the physical activity area. The focus of this type of open gym is to provide students with an opportunity to play. Different activities may be offered each day or each week, and students play for the duration of the time set aside. Rules of play and safety rules are provided at the beginning of the activity session. For more information on supervision, visit Supervision and Safety.
- Structured: In a structured open gym the intramural supervisor may choose to run a more structured game involving teams, rules of play and refereeing by student leaders. Students wishing to participate are placed on teams as they arrive in the physical activity space. Participants play for the duration of the time. There is no ongoing commitment to a team or structured league. Rules of play and safety rules are provided at the beginning of the game or activity. For more information on supervision, visit Supervision and Safety.
- Regardless of the format you choose, providing students with a safe space and fun, easy-to-use equipment such as hula hoops, scooters, and balls helps foster an inclusive environment and address the social and emotional needs of the participants. The types of activities chosen and equipment used should be age appropriate and allow students to easily engage in free play with minimal instruction. Two key considerations in choosing activities for an open gym are 1) the knowledge the intramural supervisor has to run the activity safely and 2) that the number of students participating is consistent with educator–student supervision ratios.
- Intramural leagues provide the opportunity for any student to become part of a team. Organizing intramural leagues requires planning and a strong committee of student leaders and staff volunteers, particularly educators and/or administrators who must take on the role of supervisor. Healthy competition may be a part of the intramural league; however, the main focus should be participation.
- Regardless of the type and format of the program, it is really important to vary your activities to ensure that you are meeting the interests and needs as well as supporting the diversity of students in your school community. The keys to running a successful intramural program are choosing activities that are 1) easy to play and organize and 2) based on what students enjoy.
Schools can provide multiple opportunities for students to participate in intramurals by capitalizing on the non-instructional time throughout the school day such as before and after school and/or during lunch, recess, or nutrition breaks.
Scheduling activities can range from 15 minutes, during which the whole school or selected age/grade divisions are involved in a common activity, to daily or weekly open gym or league schedules. Activities can also be whole-day events such as Winter Carnival or the Terry Fox run or walk. It is important to be creative and flexible with the time available when it comes to choosing the type of intramural you might run and the optimal duration and schedule for the program.
Facilities that may be used to run intramurals (e.g. the gym, library, empty classrooms, fields and hallways) may need to be shared with interschool teams, rental groups, and special events, so it will be important for schools to consider how to share activity spaces while developing an inclusive intramural program.