Grove City College has long been known for its active intramural sports (IM) community. In fact, about half of all students are involved in IM sports during their time on campus, and The Princeton Review has regularly acknowledged the College’s IM program as one of the top in the country.
The reason it works? Community. The Office of Student Life & Learning sees IM sports as a critical aspect of student development.
“Students lead each program. Students organize them. Students supervise them. Students play in them,” said Andy Toncic, director of student recreation. “You get a group of people together, you give them a purpose, you give them a vision, they work together toward that vision or goal, and it creates community. But it does more than that, it creates camaraderie.”
Because of the small size of Grove City College’s campus, students know each other off the playing field which makes for a more inclusive environment. Even varsity athletes join IM teams during their off seasons.
“Being such a close-knit campus, you know where people are coming from,” said Brett Heckathorn ‘19, president of men’s intramural sports. “You know them outside of IM sports. At the end of the day, we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ.”
But in addition to building community, IM sports also contribute to the development of professional skills students need in today’s workforce – communication, teamwork, tenacity, and time management to name a few.
Grove City College’s Office of Career Services receives feedback from employers time and again that employers often look for athletic involvement as an indication of soft skills.
“According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers are looking for various attributes on a college student resume beyond such things as internships, major, GPA, and leadership,” said Mandy Sposato, director of career services. “Athletic involvement provides an opportunity for college students to showcase these types of skills effectively on their application documents and in an interview setting. Many of our employers are excited at the prospect of hiring athletes because of the array of skills that student athletes can bring to the proverbial table, given the fact that student athletes need to balance the demands of their academic coursework with team commitments.”
In Heckathorn’s case, the College’s IM program not only provided skill development but also led him to his career choice.
Heckathorn became involved in IM sports as a freshman, playing in 15 to 20 leagues such as volleyball and spikeball. Through his participation, he found out that the program is maintained by commissioners – student workers that run each of the 28 men’s and dozen or so women’s sports.
After commissioning for a few sports during his sophomore year, Heckathorn became president of men’s IM sports during his junior year, dedicating 20 to 30 hours per week to the job. He also began doing stats for the women’s volleyball team and meeting with the College’s sports information director to learn the statistical software for the sport.
It was then that Heckathorn realized that he was playing IM sports less and running them more and that this interest had career potential.
“I’ve always loved sports and loved numbers. When I got here, there really wasn’t a plan for my major,” Heckathorn said.
Heckathorn, a senior business economics major and analytics minor, is now pursuing a career in sports information and is gaining hands-on experience by transitioning the College to IMLeagues, an intramural registration and communication platform for higher ed institutions.
“I’ve used Excel for most of my stuff - extensive spreadsheets, lots of scheduling, high organizational skills,” Heckathorn said. “But with IMLeagues, you get out as much as you put into the system.”
Heckathorn said this includes gathering waivers, sending automated emails and texts, and assigning administrators. He hopes that these new efficiencies will create easier access to the IM program for students so that the program continues to flourish and is happy to add this experiential learning to his resume.
As for his personal goals, Heckathorn is already looking for full-time opportunities in sports information as a next step after graduation. In the meantime, he plans on enjoying being a player while he has the opportunity.
“I think I just like to play more - play as much as my freshman year. I need to take advantage of it while I have it,” Heckathorn said. “Our IM program is just so good.”
In addition to offering a wide variety of sports, the IM program is well-known for hosting a league for every skill level. Find out more about intramural sports at Grove City College.