Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, February 4, 2013

Rec Sports celebrates centennial with ‘Share Your Story’ and more

U-M made history 100 years ago by creating the first stand-alone university recreation sports department in the country, the Department of Intramural Athletics. Now known as the Department of Recreational Sports, it celebrates the100th anniversary this year with help from former and current patrons.


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Centennial celebration

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As part of the centennial Birthday Celebration, stories are being solicited on the Rec Sports website. So far, 250 stories are in, says William Canning, recreational sports director.

“We provide a sport activity outlet for active students, faculty, staff and alumni. It’s about keeping fit, keeping well, reducing stress, and finding a fun place to come in and work out. There’s a social aspect to it, there’s a wellness aspect to it and there’s a competition aspect to it,” Canning says.

Today, U-M Rec Sports oversees 25 intramural sports, 2,300 teams with 6,200 games played each year, Canning says. There are 5,000-6,000 visits to Rec Sports facilities per day during the academic year.

  Patrons of the Department of Recreational Sports are asked to share stories of their Rec Sports participation online, as the department celebrates its 100th anniversary. There are 5,000-6,000 visits to Rec Sports facilities daily during the academic year. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Recreational Sports)

“We played when I was a freshman in West Quad,” Red Berenson, head hockey coach, has said of his time playing intramural football in the late 1950s. “We had a blast. It was the chance to get to know people from other parts of campus and even other parts of the world.”

Nick Boswell, an alumnus from Bozeman, Mont., wrote, “The friends I made while on the mountain biking team are the best friends I have ever had and I still talk to them and make it a point to see them whenever I am back in Michigan.”

Having recreation opportunities for incoming students is necessary, Canning says. More than 60 percent of incoming U-M freshmen have participated with an Amateur Athletic Union or interscholastic team during high school. “Most of them won’t be involved in Michigan varsity sports, but their sports activities can continue,” Canning says.

Rec Sports' centennial festivities continue with a Birthday Celebration during Homecoming Oct. 4-5. Activities include an open house Oct. 4 and a tailgate party in the Intramural Sports Building before the Michigan-Minnesota game Oct. 5, which also is the 100th anniversary of that football rivalry.

“We hope to have about 500 people. We’ll have celebrities and folks who used to work for Rec Sports, administrators from across campus and retired administrators,” Canning says. There also will be a silent auction, cake cutting, and photos of former staff and newspaper articles presented on tables and easels around the gym, he adds.

Rec Sports also is one of the top employers of students on campus, with more than 600 currently working. Beyond gym opportunities and intramurals, Canning says, 33 club teams play in non-varsity competition against other universities’ teams. Rec Sports also operates an Outdoor Adventures rental center where canoes, snowshoes, cross country skis and kayaks are available. It offers recreational trips including dog sledding in the Upper Peninsula.

Dedicated in 1928, the Intramural Sports Building is the first building in the country dedicated to recreational sports. “It was built specifically so all students could have a place to participate,” Canning says.

Rec Sports also is commemorating the centennial by hosting association meetings on campus in 2013-14: The Michigan Intramural Recreational Sports Association in October; the Big Ten Recreational Sports Conference May 14-16; and the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association RSA Student Lead On conference in January 2014. It is for students pursuing campus recreation as a career.

Rec Sports also partners with Parking and Transportation Services to provide Blue Bikes rentals, and operates the Challenge Program that promotes team building.

Other centennial celebration activities include the Directors’ Cup, a competition between U-M and Ohio State University, specifically the intramural sports, club sports and outdoor adventures programs during the fall 2013 and winter 2014 semesters. “What's Your 100?” — a program that encourages patrons to pledge physical activity — will begin in the fall.