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Getting cut, and liking it (Apr. 1993)

Three years later, the words still ring in my ears: “Sorry, we won’t be needing you, but have fun playing intramurals.”

As I looked up to meet his steely grin, I thought, “Who is this guy kidding?”

The first few days of my freshman year had been rocky—I missed home and was having some difficulty adjusting to the New Haven climate—and now this Marine Corps drill sergeant masquerading as a soccer coach was telling me that I was better off in what I considered the minor leagues—Yale’s intramurals.

Up to that point, I had read with limited interest about the University’s vaunted alternative athletic system, and dismissed it with a sense of snobbery. I wouldn’t need it, as I was sure to make at least the JV soccer squad, but it was nice for those who couldn’t handle intercollegiate competition.

Three and one-half years later, I have happily proven myself wrong. After being kicked off the varsity fields, I reluctantly trudged across the street to find that there was some decent soccer being played there as well. The status wasn’t quite the same, but I soon learned that other things quickly made up the difference.

The key to the success of Yale’s intramural system is the 12-team league that represents the residential colleges. Unlike larger universities, where random groups of friends form teams and create usually unstable intramural leagues, Yale with its college system has an integral advantage. Each sport has a definite structure, with playoffs and a championship, giving rise to such more esoteric sports as coed innertube water polo and ultimate frisbee, as well as the standards, baseball, basketball, and touch football.

However, as I enter my last term at Yale, the thing I am most pleasantly surprised with is the spirit and team cohesion that develops between the colleges and each individual team. The feeling of being part of a team was what I thought I would miss most by not playing varsity athletics, but the rivalries among the colleges and the bonding between teammates have more than filled the void. From the powerful forces of Ezra Stiles and Timothy Dwight—the two teams that have for years dominated the race for the Tyng Cup, symbol of the college champion­ship—to hapless Calhoun, which has been the cellar-dweller all year long, each college develops a personal identity.

In Trumbull, which once owned twelfth place, we have undergone a revival that has drawn many non-athletes into the fold. As I write this, the Bull is solidly in third place, and leads several of the individual winter races. Personally, I now get as fired up for our biweekly squash matches as I ever did playing high school sports.

So, while the memory of being cut still stings from time to time, I now think that the varsity coach actually did me a favor. While I probably would have been bogged down with the practices and no doubt disappointed by stretches on the bench if I’d made the varsity, I have found my own niche in Yale’s “minor leagues.” For me, like thousands of other undergraduates, the University’s intramurals are important supplements to daily life.

Filed under 1990s
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