Intramural sports go virtual

Melissa Brown
Sports Writer
[email protected]
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, many events and activities such as sports have been canceled, including intramural sports.

UNCA’s Campus Recreation hosts online intramural sports amid COVID-19 cancellations. Photo Illustration by Roman Uglehus

In early March, Campus Recreation announced the Sherill Fitness Center would be closed and all activities to be canceled until July 1. 
“Campus Recreation in-person programming, including club sports, group exercise, aquatics, fitness programs, intramural sports, outdoor programs, and personal training, is also suspended during this time.  We are exploring virtual program options and on-line program resources to keep our campus community engaged,” said Director of Campus Recreation Wendy Motch-Ellis.
UNC Asheville is involved with both the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association and the National Association for Campus Activity. Both of the programs help with the development of esports and E-games for college campuses around the U.S.  
This semester, Campus Rec was planning to have spring sports like sand kickball, dodgeball, volleyball and soccer. In order to continue the program, Campus Rec made the decision to transition to virtual engagement.
“We are very fortunate, though, to be able to use technology to reach our students and we have amazing student employees that quickly got involved in helping us create some really cool virtual programming,” Motch-Ellis said.
Both E-games and esports are available to every UNCA student, faculty and staff member. In order to be a part of these programs, each person must create an IMLeagues account. This is the same system used to sign up for intramural sports prior to COVID-19. Each person must have an active OneCard number and UNCA email address. After signing up, participants are seeded randomly and are put into a double-elimination bracket. Each person plays until they lose twice.
With E-games and esports gaining popularity all over the country, UNCA was planning on doing a launch in the Fall 2020 semester but released a couple this spring. FIFA 20 and Golf Battle are the two esports offered currently. FIFA is available for  Xbox and Playstation users. Golf Battle is available for any user with an iPhone or Android.
“I think the addition of E-games and esports is super cool especially in quarantine because I’m laying around and on my computer and laptop already doing stuff so it’s cool to be able to count it as intramurals and possibly win a t-shirt,” said junior Cecilia Stack.
Each player is responsible for contacting other players. Once they are finished playing they have to send a picture of their final score to Campus Rec by email by the date and time assigned. Once 
Campus Rec receives the email they will update the bracket so participants know who to play for the next round. Whichever players win their tournament will receive an intramural champion shirt through the mail.
“Student interest continually drives our offerings and we do our best to meet student interests and needs,” said Lindsey Englehart, assistant director of sports programs. “ We are excited to learn more from students on the various types of esports and E-games they play or are interested in playing.”
Campus Rec wants to create opportunities for all of its members. They plan on generating a survey to better understand the interest of those associated with the program. They will use this information to grow the program and possibly continue in the summer and fall. According to Motch-Ellis, many have already expressed interest regarding E-games and esports.
“There is a lot of momentum around the growth of collegiate online gaming around the country and if we have enough student interest, we will look to develop a more robust program,” Englehart said.