The University of Iowa

Intramural sports gain international flavor

March 12th, 2010

By Matt Cozzi, The Daily Iowan.

For international students, the cross-continental journey usually doesn’t consist of considering intramural sports.

Nevertheless, more international students seem to have found themselves adding the Bubble to their lists of must-see Iowa City attractions than ever before, as those participating in intramurals has increased.

International students from 104 countries make up 8 percent of the university’s enrollment, according to UI statistics. Jon Randle, an intramural sports graduate assistant, said that while the percentages are high, he would like to see more international participation in the future.

“They bring a different flavor of a sport to campus, especially after growing up in their home countrys for almost their whole lives,” he said. “People growing up in America aren’t always exposed to that.”

Badminton, basketball, and soccer are the most popular sports for international students, according to Recreational Services. Racquetball has also attracted larger sign-up numbers this semester.

Intramural competition also gains some variety, and the students bring something a little different each year.

The Hawkeye Giants, which competed in indoor soccer this semester, features a roster full of international students. Abhi Gupta, a third-year graduate student and captain of the team, said his team boasts players from India, Iran, and Romania — all of whom are playing intramural sports for the first time at Iowa.

“The main appeal for playing in intramurals is to have fun,” the India native said. “We love soccer. It’s a good way to exercise and get de-stressed.”

Gupta also said indoor soccer, which fielded the most international squads out of any other team sport, provides a pleasant environment to play in.

“We all enjoyed playing indoor soccer, especially in the Bubble,” said Gupta, who also competed in intramural table tennis last December. “It’s nice to be able to play in the winter.”

A sport that is almost always played inside, basketball, also has some international participation.

Team K, a team composed of South Korean students, participates in the Men’s Open League.

While the games may be tough, Team K captain Daemyung Han said he and his teammates are enjoying their experience.

“Basketball means a lot to us,” he said. “It’s not only a game. It means something more that can’t really be put into words.”

It’s the international students such as Han who strive to make intramurals fun, no matter the outcome of the game.

“We’ve lost a lot this season,” he said. “I think we put a lot of effort into it, though. Maybe we just need to practice more next time.”

Gupta, too, was already thinking about next winter’s soccer season.

“We’re definitely thinking about our next time out on the field,” he said. “We want to improve on our performance this year and go into the last stages of the tournament.”

Contributed with permission from The Daily Iowan.