What’s the Difference Between Intramural and Club Sports?

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College is a time to explore new interests and pursue your passions, including athletics. While big-time college sports like the College Football Playoff National Championship, March Madness, and the College World Series steal the spotlight, there are plenty of opportunities available for all types of college athletes—from intramurals to college club sports to DI, DII, and DIII collegiate athletics. 

 

5 Reasons to Play a Sport in College

 

Although the level of competition and profile of intramural, club, and collegiate sports differ greatly, student-athletes reap many of the same rewards, no matter what level they compete in. These benefits include:

 

1. Fitness

 

Rigorous coursework and a multitude of social commitments make it tough to carve out time for exercise at college. Playing a sport builds activity into your schedule while competition keeps motivation high and encourages you to push yourself. 

 

2. Friends

 

Sports are a great way to meet new people and make new friends—after all, you’re guaranteed to share at least one interest with your teammates. In addition to competing together, those who play collegiate and college club sports also practice, travel, and eat together which provides plenty of opportunity to bond outside of the classroom. 

 

3. Relieve Stress

 

Whether it’s a big test or a messy roommate, college is stressful and there’s no better way to beat it back than with exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, “exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.”

 

4. Build Life Skills

 

Playing a sport in college fosters the development of a bunch of skills that you’ll use for the rest of your life, including time management, commitment, and leadership. Whether you’re organizing practices for your club team or leading your varsity team into championship season, you’re guaranteed to build skills that will serve you well. 

 

5. Fun 

 

The main reason people play sports is they’re fun. The highest level collegiate athletes may feel pressure to perform, but the majority of college students who play sports do so out of a love of the game.   

 

The Different Levels of College Sports

 

Colleges offer a variety of opportunities for students to play sports while pursuing a degree, no matter their athletic talent. With sports ranging from low-pressure/high-enjoyment intramurals to super-competitive NCAA Division I sports, there is a sport for everyone. 

 

Intramural 

 

Intramural sports are generally the least competitive and lowest commitment athletic option in college. Intramurals are organized by the college and available to everyone regardless of their athletic talent or experience with the sport. To ensure everyone has a good time and no one is disadvantaged, many schools offer different leagues and divisions of intramural sports for participants with varying levels of experience and skill. It’s also common to find schools fielding co-recreational teams. 

 

One of the big appeals of intramural sports is the broad spectrum of sports offered. In addition to common activities such as basketball, soccer, softball, and flag football, intramural sports often include non-traditional pursuits like ultimate frisbee, cornhole, dodgeball, and quidditch. Another alluring aspect of intramural sports is that they don’t require a large time investment—they generally don’t require attendance at every game and have limited (or no) practices.

 

Club 

 

College club sports are typically student-run (with support or sponsorship from the school) and fall in between the more casual atmosphere of intramural sports and seriously competitive varsity sports. Club teams attract a diverse group of students—from competitive high school athletes to beginners looking to try something new—who are interested in continuing their athletic endeavors with a degree of structure and competition. College club sports teams play against other schools, travel for competitions, and even compete for championships.  

 

One appealing quality of college club sports is that it gives competitive high school athletes the chance to participate in sports they may not have been previously exposed to. For example, cycling, rowing, and rugby are among the most popular college club sports.  

 

Because college club sports are student-run, the obligations of athletes can extend off the field. For example, the job of hiring a coach, making travel arrangements, scheduling games, and fundraising can fall on club members. Therefore, it’s a great way to build your leadership skills. 

 

Collegiate

 

Collegiate, or varsity sports are the most rigorous and competitive of all undergraduate athletics. Varsity teams are organized and funded by the schools themselves and overseen by the NCAA. To ensure fair competition, the NCAA divides the schools into three divisions—DI, DII, and DIII—each with its own unique standards. 

 

Varsity sports represent the highest level of collegiate athletics and therefore require the greatest commitment. Frequent practices (even in the off-season), travel, and a busy schedule are hallmarks of a varsity athlete. Varsity athletes are also in the spotlight; it’s common that their games are broadcast on television and radio, particularly if they’re participating in fan-favorites like football, basketball, and baseball/softball. Division I collegiate athletes can also earn athletic scholarships, although only a small percentage of college athletes fall into this category. 

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Most Common Club and Intramural Sports

 

The types of sports offered are another difference between college club sports and intramural sports. College club sports generally look similar to a school’s varsity offerings, while intramural sports provide a much broader spectrum of activities. 

 

Common club sports include: 

 

  • Basketball 
  • Baseball
  • Cycling 
  • Football 
  • Golf 
  • Lacrosse
  • Skiing
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Swimming 
  • Tennis 
  • Volleyball

 

In addition to traditional sports, intramural sports include other interesting activities, such as: 

 

  • Badminton
  • Broomball 
  • Cornhole 
  • Dodgeball
  • Flag football 
  • Floor hockey 
  • Kan Jam 
  • Quidditch
  • Squash 
  • Table tennis 

 

How Sports Affect Your Chances of Acceptance?

 

Extracurricular activities, like athletics, form an important part of your college profile and come into play when applying to college—they can factor in as much as 25% into an admission decision. If you’re curious about your odds of acceptance into a particular school, CollegeVine can help. Our free chancing calculator uses data points like GPA and standardized test scores, along with other considerations such as sports, to give you an idea of your odds of admissions at over 500 schools.

 


Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.

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