Kelsey Rasheed’s intramural co-recreational soccer team leads its opponent by one with mere seconds remaining. She and her teammates know victory is almost guaranteed, and a tie is the worst-case scenario.
The other team scores just as time expires, but a female opponent kicked the final goal. Instead of sending the game to a one-minute overtime period, this goal counts for two points, so Rasheed’s team loses in regulation.
It’s a common occurrence in University of Georgia rec sports. Almost every co-rec activity, from soccer to flag football to volleyball, includes special rules designed to offset a perceived disadvantage for female participants.
The purpose of this regulation is to encourage female participation, but the message it sends comes off as insulting to many students.
“It’s a little bit demeaning,” Rasheed said. “That has nothing to do with skill.”
Of course, the rule is not as ill-intentioned as that. It originated solely to make co-rec sports fun for everyone. Jason James, one of the senior coordinators for competitive sports, said that without incentivizing inclusion of both genders, co-rec sports would become dominated by male team members.
The “men’s” intramural leagues are open to both genders, making them what James called open leagues. He said he has seen female athletes play in these leagues, but their male teammates often don’t include them in the game plan. James said this trend is especially apparent in football.
“I’ve been out there with females that are playing flag football,” he said. “They’re running routes. They’re getting open. But they don’t throw it to them.”
There are other factors that play a part in the governing of UGA rec sports as well. The National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) is the leading organization through which regional and national tournaments of intramural sports teams take place.
NIRSA’s guidelines for co-rec sports dictate the rules at colleges around the country. Because most schools follow the same regulations, there isn’t a lot of incentive for the people in charge of UGA intramural sports to rock the boat.
But national conformity is not the only driving force to staying consistent with NIRSA policies. Elise Harvey, also a senior coordinator for competitive sports, said creating a whole new set of rules would hurt teams trying to play in rec sport tournaments.
“When you’re going to a NIRSA-sponsored tournament, you’re playing by the NIRSA rules,” Harvey said. “If we aren’t utilizing those when we’re sending teams there, they aren’t playing by the rules. If we’re sending officials, they can’t officiate to the best of their ability.”
Fair or not, the rules are not likely to change in the near future. Although Rasheed admits the rule is a little insulting, she’s decided she might as well take advantage of the situation.
“The way I view it, I’ll take it,” she said. “It’s an extra point.”