This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section includes questions that are often asked about intramurals generally and Ophea's Raise the Bar Intramural Program specifically. The answers include some suggestions to consider but do not necessarily reflect the situation and best approach for each school. Knowing your students and your school is key to determining what to put into practice!
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What makes a successful intramural program?
- One of the most important elements of a successful program is support from staff and administration. Share your intramural plans with your administration so they are well informed about the activities you intend to offer and elicit their support in some of the decision making or challenges and barriers you may be facing. Engage staff in an event or activity by giving them simple, straightforward roles that are not time consuming.
- Include a variety of games to appeal to diverse student groups. Novel games and events or activities tend to draw in students who are not as confident in their skills.
- Make student leadership and student voice a priority. Students make the event or activity come alive and sustain it.
- Be creative with finding time during the day. Even a brief burst of activity during a break can provide a good start.
- Create a safe space where all students feel welcome; this is critical to drawing students into the event or activity.
- Set rules and expectations for healthy competition when competition is a factor in an event or activity.
- Make intramurals part of the school’s comprehensive healthy school plan.
- Choose events or activities that are fun for all to participate in.
What strategies can I use to overcome barriers and challenges?
- Draw on your students' knowledge to gain both the student leader and student participant perspectives about a specific barrier or challenge to participation.
- Survey your students to find out what they want in an intramural program.
- Make sure all student identities and groups are represented on your committee by organizers, leaders, or mentors who share those identities.
- Work with your administration, other colleagues, the health and physical education teachers and coaches to find equitable activity space so you can offer a quality intramural program.
- Incorporate a variety of activities that provide students with opportunity to practice skills they have learned in Health and Physical Education. This helps participants feel confident. Collaborate with Health and Physical Education colleagues to introduce and provide instruction for an event or activity (such as balloon badminton, mat ball or flickerball) as part of a class before offering it as an intramural activity.
- Maximize inclusiveness by having students make their own teams or bring friends. Actively and deliberately engage students of all grades and all genders.
- Create a schedule so that entire classes come during a recess break, (i.e., grade 1 morning recess, grade 2 afternoon recess etc.).
- Build sustainability by including students from all grades and embedding mentorship as a role for senior students or more experienced student leaders.
- Consider age-appropriate and skill-appropriate modifications to establish the appropriate level of competition for a given intramural setting. Set rules and guidelines to establish and maintain a priority on maximum participation as part of healthy competition.
- Make teamwork and inclusion an expected outcome of the event or activity.
How can I raise the profile of intramurals at my school?
Promote it throughout the school! You can do the following to advertise the program:
- Involve your administration and staff as much as possible so it is supported throughout the school.
- Make connections between your intramural program and other programs running in your school such as Healthy Schools initiatives or a peer mentorship program.
- Student leaders can make a presentation to the classes in your school. Consider doing this during the first week of classes and then periodically throughout the year. The presentation should take no more than 5 minutes. Stress the most important points: everyone can play and have fun!
- Student leaders can make daily announcements about the program. Keep the student body up to date with the upcoming activities.
- Student leaders can develop posters. Put these intramural posters up throughout the school. Change the posters when you move on to a new activity. Use your school social media to advertise, and keep students up to date as well.
- Have an intramural bulletin board. You would post the weekly schedule and pictures (only for students where consent has been obtained) from the intramural events or activities. Note: if you are taking or posting photos of students make sure you have obtained student as well as parent/guardian consent.
- Invite the local newspaper to the school to take some photos of the intramural events or activities, and post articles in your school newsletter and website. Note: if you are taking or posting photos of students make sure you have obtained student as well as parent/guardian consent.
- Share these key messages: all welcome, all abilities, come by yourself or bring a friend.
- Ensure the images chosen to advertise the program reflect the diversity of identities and groups that exist in the school.
School teams are always practicing in the gymnasium. How can I book more time to run intramurals in this activity area?
We are all in this together! The gymnasium is not just for the student athletes and the teams; it is for everyone in the school. Whether it is a school team, club, or intramurals we are all looking for the same thing – providing all students with opportunities to be active so that they can lead healthy, active lives. There is no reason that the interschool and intramural programs can’t share the gymnasium.
- Consider speaking to your administration about how scheduling time for intramurals and sharing the space would promote an inclusive school culture and provide activities for students who do not have the privilege of playing on school teams or organized sports outside of school.
- Meet with your administration by June to set up a balanced schedule for this activity area for the following school year (e.g., twice a week, intramurals occur for 45 minutes before interschool teams practice after school).
- Consider exploring alternate locations that can be used for your intramural activities such as outdoor spaces, the library, empty classroom or other activity spaces in the school.
We don’t have the equipment we need to run the program. Where can I get financial support to purchase more equipment?
One of the great things about intramurals is that you can use equipment that you already have and can plan the activities you offer based on what you have. Most of the games and activities involve little equipment. However, if you need financial support you could approach your School Council. Parents, family members, and caregivers want their children to be active and have fun at school and may be interested in helping out. You could also approach your administration with the shared vision of supporting all students to lead healthy, active lives. For more funding opportunities related to physical activity, visit ophea.net.
We run a ‘balanced day’ at my school. How can we find time for intramurals?
Intramurals do not have to be lengthy events. They can happen in as little as 15–20 minutes. For example, if the two balanced day breaks are 40 minutes each, the students can eat for the first 10–15 minutes. You can use the remaining time to run the intramurals, especially since most of the time students only need a pair of running shoes to play. You may have two 15 minute recess breaks as well. These might also be used for a quick burst of intramural activity. Strategically, choose activities that do not require students to change into alternate clothing to participate. With elementary schools and with a balanced day schedule you may wish to start with a series of open gym activities, which can minimize set-up and get more students playing more quickly than the league concept. Have your student leaders on hand to bring out the equipment you need for the day’s events or activities. At the end of the intramural period, work with the student leaders to help clean up. You don’t need a lot of time to get students playing, and having your student leaders involved will make a big difference.
Our school does not have a common lunch. How can we run an intramural program?
Many secondary schools have multiple lunches. During lunchtime there are usually classes using the activity area. Some schools run successful intramural programs with a double or even triple lunch. They work with administrators and the Health and Physical Education department to ensure that the gymnasium or another activity space is not being used during the lunch periods once or twice per week. This allows students on lunch to use the activity area for open gym activities. Some schools also run intramural activities and/or clubs before or after school.
What if some students don’t have a team? Can they sign up as individuals or small groups?
The answer is yes to both options! The best way to do this is to make it clear from the beginning that you don’t need to sign up as a team. Make sure to highlight this when you promote the program. You will get individuals or small groups of 2–3 students who want to play.
- Have anyone who wants to play, come to the gym and make up the teams when students arrive; no need to have preset teams.
- If an event or activity requires forming teams, take a look at the small teams you already have and try to place these students on teams with students that they already know. This makes for a comfortable transition.
- You can also ask the individual student or the small group to take a look at the teams and pick one that they feel comfortable with.
- Make it regular practice that team members introduce themselves to each other at the beginning of each session and to the opposing team.
- Encourage inclusive practices such as high fives before game play in order to ensure everyone feels welcomed and part of the team.
- Encourage everyone to make a habit of ending each session with teams doing a cheer and congratulating each other on their participation, teamwork, and inclusion of everyone in the event or activity.
Should we allow student spectators in to watch?
Having a group of spectators can bring a great deal of energy and excitement to the intramural program. Students like watching their friends play, and it is a great way to promote the program. The participants also get very excited about having other students watch them, and for many students it may be the first time that anyone has watched them play. For some schools, especially elementary schools, space is limited so having spectators might not work. Intramurals that are run outside may be a great opportunity to allow for spectators.
Here are some considerations for spectators in the activity area.
- Supervision —The number of students participating needs to be consistent with educator–student supervision ratios. This includes the supervision of the spectators.
- Garbage — Set a rule (e.g., for some schools the rule is no food or no drink other than water is allowed in the activity area), communicate it clearly, and enforce it. Talk to and work together with your custodial staff.
- Respect — Spectators must act respectfully toward all participants.