The latter half of the 2019-20 year at Hope College was disrupted in the early spring by the spread of COVID-19, with many changes and protocols being implemented then and throughout the year. The Hope administration worked diligently throughout the long summer to make sure that they could bring students back on campus safely for a fall semester, but some of the compromises made for the sake of health and safety have had negative impacts on Hope’s communality. Around July, the concept of school in the fall was becoming a reality, but a large part of Hope’s culture—intramural sports—waited at the bottom of the totem pole of necessity.
Intramural Director David Jolly worked along with administration through the late weeks of the summer to try to have even a one-sport intramural season. “Administration asked me to present a proposal that went along with the health and safety protocols,” Jolly said. “The first one got shot down quickly, but I presented another that erred on the side of extreme caution because we didn’t want intramurals to be the source of an outbreak.” That final proposal was approved and presented students with the choices of kickball, cornhole and fitness running club. “It’s my second year here, and as someone who spent decades in public schools, I know how much athletics can mean,” Jolly mentioned. “I was surprised at how competitive and important it was here, and I wanted to do all I could to make sure we at least did all we could for a season.” He and others involved did more than just try: their work culminated in a season with over 700 students joining a team and getting together. “Classrooms teach one thing but extracurriculars teach another, a life experience, true to our motto of ‘building relationships one game at a time,’” Jolly concluded.
Many students feel the same way about the remnants of their normal school year. With many classes forcing students to stay in their dorms, and with clubs and student organizations extremely limited, intramurals remain as a safe yet useful way to get into Hope culture. “I signed up for intramurals last year to meet people and ended up doing so, but also growing closer to people in my dorms,” said Timmy Kleyla (’23), who played intramural soccer last year and kickball this year. “Even this year I would recommend [intramurals] to anybody as a way to just get out there.” Although COVID-19 has altered the reality for many Americans for who knows how long, everything we can do to get out there and band together, and everything we can do to remind us of non-pandemic life, is important. Intramurals are one of the ways Hope is attempting to overcome the isolation problem of social distancing on campus amidst the pandemic. Also, it’s a lot of fun!