Behind the Scenes of Volunteering for UBC Intramurals

Editor’s Note: Intramurals is a team of 100+ passionate volunteer student staff who organize UBC’s most iconic events, leagues, and media initiatives. With support from professional staff members with experience in sport management and student development, all of our student staff are challenged to grow as individuals and innovate within their roles as student leaders. We are currently accepting applications for the 2022/23 academic school year, learn more.

Read Time: 5 minutes

“Everyone’s seen the UBC Intramurals jackets, but no one really knows the stories behind them.”

For Timme, a UBC Intramurals Director, that story started on Imagine Day. On a day of wild fanfare and blinding lights where the UBC community comes together to welcome new students to the school, it was Timme’s Imagine Day leader, Auguste, and team member Ethan, who would have lasting impacts on his university experience. 

“I was definitely very talkative in my Imagine Day group,” Timme recalled. “And Auguste told me he was in UBC Intramurals. He told me to join his volleyball team after finding out that I played, and through playing volleyball with them, I realized that these guys were great. We would hang out after games and they encouraged me to join the UBC Intramurals team.”

That origin story of hearing about UBC Intramurals (sometimes affectionately referred to as ‘Rec,’ even though it’s just a part of the whole UBC Recreation program) from friends, echo throughout individual experiences. Kelly, first met other student executives in her soccer team (her brother Daniel was also in UBC Intramurals) and Sal, heard about it through her friend Katrina, who was serving as a UBC Intramurals Assistant Director at the time.

The vast number of alumni and student staff involved with UBC Intramurals means the organization is deeply woven into the school as a whole. From my own experience, friends have often asked me “what is it really like working for UBC Intramurals”?

To answer that question, it’s important to ask why people choose to join the UBC Intramurals team. There are a seemingly infinite number of clubs and societies on campus, all with their own unique challenges and experiences, but what makes UBC Intramurals different?

“University can be so big and yet you can sometimes feel very alone. I was drawn by the community, and I wanted to meet new friends and get involved in some capacity. I also loved the energy and positivity of people who were on the team.” Kelly shared.

To those that have attended UBC Intramurals events (e.g. Day of the Longboat and Storm the Wall), that energy is palpable, but indescribable. It lies in the team building retreats, the 7 am call times for set up, the hours of preparation that go into an event beforehand, and the broad smiles and iconic blue UBC Intramurals jackets that greet participants.

“In no other situation would I get up at 4 am to put vaseline all over my body and get into a wetsuit to tow a longboat. The people really are just so great that you have fun while doing it.”

For UBC Intramurals while the energy draws people in, the camaraderie keeps them there. 

There is always an element of serving when joining volunteer groups, maybe your time could be better spent finding a paid part time job (especially in university) – but ownership is important if you do decide to volunteer.

Timme summed it up well, “If you’re just doing it for volunteer hours, you won’t stick around long. But you find gems in those that do stick around.”

Having said that, there are some very tangible benefits as well. To run leagues and events, team members are given responsibilities and opportunities to lead – university is a place to learn, and growth is just as important to UBC Intramurals as its culture. From event planning, to marketing, and to team management, volunteers are given industry level experience that develops them both personally and professionally.

So if you are thinking of joining UBC Intramurals, Sal had a few words of advice.

“Your director really makes your experience but also just be yourself. It isn’t a pre-requisite to be outgoing. A good UBC Intramurals experience stems from being authentic and showing your personality. It can definitely be difficult to do that if you are on the quieter side, but if you can open yourself up in an authentic way, that’s the most important thing – and people are drawn to that.”

Kelly concurred.

“What Rec taught me when I was hiring for my team is to seek out what’s special about everyone. I had that done to me when I was in my first year and everyone made a huge effort to help me feel comfortable.”

Perhaps the most important thing when applying is to be excited but not feel disheartened if you aren’t hired; there will always be unsuccessful applicants in everything we do.

“Never feel discouraged if you don’t make it into the team,” Sal insisted. “It can sometimes be ego bruising but it doesn’t mean anything and speak to your value, there are sometimes just so many different factors in hiring. Special people fly under the radar all the time – we only realize this when they make it in the second or third time round.”

A connecting thread I found in Kelly, Timme and Sal was that serving in UBC Intramurals was the best part of their university experience. Timme even said that it might be the best thing to ever happen to him, and that he’s met lifelong friends through the program. Sal couldn’t even fathom the idea of not being apart of it.

There were many fun moments they wanted to touch on; from the blood, sweat and tears of events, to the fun and games in the office break room. Kelly thought the panic and passion shown by one of her team members when a printer wasn’t working on the morning of an event was a poetic, symbolic memory of her time at UBC Intramurals. Sal reflected on team ski trips and buying $50 banana bread during an internal fundraising auction.

“It was the best $50 I’ve ever spent.”

She was adamant.

But it was also the small meaningful conversations that meant the most to everyone; staying up with their teams, being able to get to know each other, teaching a friend how to play foosball. Their experiences blended together to gestalt-ly form the whole. 

For me personally, I joined UBC Intramurals in my final year, a year limited by restrictions. It’s been a hard time for everyone but I’m glad to have been able to be apart of the team to round off my university experience (I do wish I had joined earlier). But the impact UBC Intramurals has had on my life isn’t just limited to what I’ve experienced on the team. Through participation in leagues and events, I have formed many close friendships and experienced the most fun moments of my undergrad; UBC Intramural’s broader impact on my university life can’t be understated and is something I will always be thankful for.

It seems that a recurring theme in these stories is finding a sense of community. The biggest challenge in university aren’t the assignments, the coursework, the sleepless nights, it is finding friends to go through those moments with – friends with whom you can be yourself with.

For many, finding your community at any point in life is hard, and at times, it is something I myself have struggled with. University can be a mix of transactional and transformational relationships – we get close to people in our courses, and the next day we might never see them again.

But sometimes, we get lucky.

For Kelly, Timme, Sal and many others on the team, they found their community serving in the UBC Intramurals family, and that community lies at the heart of their university experience.