The Rise of Intramural and Recreational Sports

The Beginning of Intramural and Recreational Sports Organization in Collegiate Settings

Though college sports clubs and intercollegiate team play existed as early as the mid-1800s, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that intramural sports departments began. Two Midwest universities, the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University, are credited with formal collegiate programs for intramural sports beginning in 1913. The first director of OSU’s program, football coach John Wilce, said: “Every student should at least have had the chance during his college career to have obtained the social and moral benefits of membership on some athletic team, and opportunities should be given to him to form habits of recreational play which will be of value to him after college.”

But it is Elmer Mitchell, author of Intramural Athletics (1928) and co-author of 1939’s Intramural Sports, who is commonly referred to as the “father of intramural sports.” Mitchell became the director of intramural sports at the University of Michigan in 1919 while still a graduate student at the university, and held that post for over 20 years. He also taught at the university and was involved in the physical education department until 1959.

Elmer taught a PE graduate student named William Wasson in 1946. Wasson became increasingly interested in intramural sports and went on to develop Dillard University’s intramural program. With funding from the Carnegie Foundation, he was able to tour historically black colleges and universities to research their intramural sports programs.

A Brief History of NIRSA

The results of Wasson’s study, A Comparative Study of Intramural Programs in Negro Colleges, led to an Intramural Summit at Dillard University in February 1950. Twenty representatives from 11 HBCUs attended and formed the first iteration of what NIRSA is today, known then as the National Intramural Association.

The National Intramural Association (NIA) spent the 1950s and 60s expanding to include more intramural and recreational sports programs from colleges and universities across the U.S. In 1971, women were granted membership in the NIA for the first time since 1959, and in 1975, NIA members voted to change the name to the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA). They are known today as NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation.

NIRSA spent the next several decades expanding to cover new regions and offer more resources. The first issue of the NIRSA Journal was published in 1977 in and 1999, they launched their electronic communication eFASTNEWS and published the inaugural issue of the Recreational Sports & Fitness Magazine. The next year, NIRSA began distributing their newsletter, NIRSA Know. In 2004, NIRSA launched the NIRSA Education & Publication Center, a joint publishing venture with Human Kinetics and the report, The Value of Recreational Sports in Higher Education: Impact on Student Enrollment, Success, and Buying Power, was published. 

As NIRSA expanded to include more intramural and recreational sports programs in colleges and universities, it established 6 regions within the U.S. In 2017, NIRSA established Canada as its seventh region. Today, there are around 4,500 members including professionals, students, and businesses that cater to over 8 million students. NIRSA has also created programs and outside of the classroom learning experiences for its members and students.

Diversity and inclusion have been important values since NIRSA voted to allow women to hold membership. In 1987, just 16 years after women were allowed membership, NIRSA had their first female president, Mary Daniels of The Ohio State University. In 1998, Juliette Moore became the first African American female president of NIRSA. NIRSA has also shown their commitment to inclusion by officially recognizing the People or Color Social and creating the People of Color Distinguished Leadership Award, creating the first Special Olympics Unified Sports division in 2011, and introducing a pioneering inclusion policy for transgender participation for athletic competitions in 2014.

NIRSA has a presence on over 700 campuses and offers a wide range of sports for collegiate recreation. MONDO is proud to work with an organization like NIRSA as we have installed sports flooring in many of their rec centers. We offer the best sports flooring options for intramural sports that have been installed in recreational sports centers, gyms, fieldhouses, and stadiums all over the globe.

How MONDO can help your recreation facilities

MONDO’s complete line of rec center products are ideal for a variety of sports and fitness activities as well as common areas and dressing rooms. We have flooring options available for basketball and volleyball in gyms and fieldhouses, weight rooms and fitness centers, locker rooms, indoor and outdoor track and field, and artificial turf for soccer, football, and other outdoor sports.

Our flooring options are highly versatile and incorporate advanced technological features to create a sports surface that allows for maximum performance while providing an excellent response to limit the risk of injuries. Many of our sports floors are also non-porous and can withstand the frequent cleanings that are common in rec centers.

If you need sports flooring for your recreational sports and wellness center, MONDO flooring can help you offer a complete sports experience for everyone and every activity.  Our versatile, high performance sports flooring for intramural sports and collegiate recreation are designed to nurture athletic ability while providing safe conditions for the athletes to train.

Contact MONDO to learn more about our sports flooring options for rec centers and college campuses.

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