Many students arriving on campus for the fall semester seek opportunities for friendship, excitement, exercise and even a chance to test their competitive edge.
Fortunately, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offers a variety of club and intramural sports that provide these opportunities and have the potential to appeal to every student.
Intramural sports are available to those who may not have much experience with a particular sport or those looking for a fun but laid-back version of competitive sports.
This fall, UTC offers flag football, pickleball, dodgeball, sand volleyball, spikeball, indoor soccer and softball as intramural sports.
Amy Slagle, coordinator of intramural sports at UTC, said that future semesters will include basketball, indoor volleyball, kickball, ultimate frisbee, table tennis and cornhole.
Slagle emphasized the importance of offering sports and games with potential appeal to everyone—whether individual sports such as table tennis, widely popular games such as cornhole or team-oriented sports such as soccer.
“Somebody may not be super-athletic but they probably played kickball in school,” she said. “I think that can be a good way to get people involved. We try to have a balance of the sports that everybody wants to play.”
Slagle said students can organize their own intramural teams to play with friends. Or, they can sign up as an individual and be chosen for a team.
“I think that it’s an opportunity for people that maybe have different majors and different backgrounds, but they get to be on the same team,” Slagle said. “It’s a way to foster those friendships and create bonds.”
Intramurals reach beyond the realm of physical sports. Esports are also part of campus recreation at UTC and can require as much skill as athletic sports.
UTC offers intramural esports leagues in Call of Duty, Super Smash Brothers, Rocket League, NBA 2k20, Madden 20 and FIFA 20.
For the serious gamer, intercollegiate esports teams compete in Call of Duty, Rocket League, Valorant, League of Legends and Overwatch.
Cindy Strine, director of recreation at UTC, said esports have become increasingly appealing and competitive for college students nationwide.
“It’s the wild west out there,” she said.
According to Strine, UTC’s “Call of Duty” team ranks in the top 20 college teams in the country, and five students on the team at UTC were awarded $500 scholarships.
Chase Daffron, a senior business analytics student from McKenzie, Tennessee, transferred from Concord University in West Virginia to UTC when offered a scholarship to play college Call of Duty. He was named one of the top eight players in the Varsity League in the College Call of Duty Southeast region.
“Ever since I was little, I loved playing video games and esports provided me with an outlet to show who I am as a person and a competitor,” he said.
Daffron said the experience provided him with long-term friendships and a professional setting to do what he loved.
“You can get real-world experience being a part of the esports space and it can help set up career opportunities.”
The spirit of competition can also be found on the fields, courts, water and every other arena where club sports thrive at UTC.
UTC Assistant Director of Sports Programs Michael Johnson said club sports include baseball, basketball, climbing, cycling, fencing, lacrosse, tennis, table tennis, rowing, roller hockey, swimming, soccer, softball, ultimate frisbee and volleyball.
Johnson said club sports differ from intramurals in that several clubs allow students to compete with and travel to other universities.
Depending on the sport, the teams will follow a complete athletic schedule, while others may compete only a few times a year. Some clubs, such as fencing, are still building their popularity before they compete.
Club sports may not be the same as a varsity college sports league, but club sports do involve recognition. Several UTC club sports have garnered attention and accolades, according to Johnson, citing the rowing club as an example.
Chynna Cohen, a UTC alumna who graduated in spring 2022, rowed all four years of college and even served as a team captain and president of the rowing club.
As a rower in high school, she wanted to continue her passion in college.
“I wanted to be plugged into my campus community and have a way to stay connected and active,” Cohen said.
Cohen and her pair partner won first place at the Sarasota Coastal Regatta in Florida and had multiple entries in the annual Head of the Hooch Regatta in Chattanooga.
“Rowing is truly the most magical and beautiful sport. Nothing beats mornings on the Tennessee River watching the sunrise with your teammates,” she said. “The thrill of racing and being a part of the community at UTC Rowing is truly special.”
She added that rowing contributed to her favorite college memories and allowed her to form lifelong connections.
“One of my teammates was a bridesmaid in my wedding and still one of my closest friends.”
Johnson said that these friendships make club and intramural sports great spaces on campus for students to form bonds with fellow students. He recalled his days of playing intramural flag football and said he is friends with several of his former teammates.
“It puts you in the space with somebody that you already have similarities with because you both enjoy the same club,” he said. “I’m a godfather to one of their children and an uncle to another.”
He added that getting involved in club and intramural sports prevents students from becoming sedentary and can introduce them to UTC’s sports complex, which he said many students have not seen.
“We are a couple blocks away from the main campus and a lot of people don’t know,” he said.