Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Elementary Intramurals

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Intramurals are structured recreational sports or physical activity games that are organized within an educational institution for its students. The word intramurals originates from the 19th century from the words: intra- ‘within’ + Latin murus ‘wall; + al, which relates directly to its meaning of having recreational competition amongst participants that all attend the same institution or are all within the walls of an institution.

Intramurals take place outside of traditional classroom time. Most often they take place during the lunch hour, in order to give students the opportunity to participate in structured physical activity. In fact, “the philosophy that drives the intramural program is that anyone can be a player; skill level doesn't matter” (Friesen, 2012, p. 38). Intramurals are a great way to get kids engaged in physical activity especially “with increasing awareness of childhood obesity and declining physical activity levels” (Friesen, (2012, p. 39). Furthermore, “physical activity during childhood and adolescence also has health benefits and may have important implications for activity levels in adult life (Allison, and Adalf, 2000, p. 371). This means that childhood movement experiences are very important for future activity levels. However, participation “is at least partly influenced by opportunities to engage in regular physical activity” (Allison, and Adalf, 2000, p. 371). We can improve on this by providing more opportunities for children to participate in physical activity, for example, intramurals. Offering intramurals programs at Elementary Schools can enrich the lives of children, not only physically but emotionally, and socially as well.


Increase Levels of Physical Activity

Physical education classes are a part of the Elementary School curriculum. In fact, there is “little variability by grade level in the average number of days per week (just under 3) that students engaged in physical education classes (Allison, and Adalf, 2000, p. 372). There is not a lot of time dedicated to physical activity in Elementary Schools, and thus intramurals acts as another way of increasing the time devoted to physical activity.

Boys vs. Girls Physical Activity Levels

There is a big difference in the way that boys and girls view recess and lunch in Elementary Schools (Bevridge, and Scruggs, 2000, p. 23). It is “interesting to note that girls mentioned the importance of being able to talk to friends (walking and talking, sitting and talking), whereas the boys mentioned friends in the context of games they played” (Evans, 1996, p.53). Generally, “boys engage in more physical activity in free play environments than girls” (McKenzie, Sallis et al., 1997, p. 200). More specifically, “girls engaged in significantly more sedentary activity, while boys engaged in more moderate, vigorous, and MVPA [Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity] during recess” (Ridgers et al., 2011, p. 547). As you can see from this research, girls are not being physically active during recess and lunch in Elementary Schools and thus not accumulating as much physically activity as their male counterparts. Also, this leaves them behind in skill progression, because they are not getting nearly as much practice as the boys. According to studies by Sarkin, McKenzie, and Sallis (1997), Mckenzie et al. (1995), and Stratton (1997) “girls engaged in more physical activity during structured physical education than during unstructured recess, while boys engaged in equal amounts of physical activity in both environments” (as cited in Bevridge, and Scruggs, 2000, p. 23). Moreover, there is research that states that the “minutes of MVPA attained from organized indoor recess activities (3.31 ± 3.49) was significantly greater (p<0.05) than that of indoor free play (1.58 ± 2.27min)” (Holt, 2014). These numbers and studies demonstrate how valuable it is to have structured activities during recess and lunch for students attending elementary school. Intramurals is a great way of implementing organized, structured play during recess and lunch in order to increase the amount of MVPA students get within the elementary school system. By offering intramurals and getting girls involved, instructors are able to help increase the amount of activity that girls are getting. Furthermore, they are brought into an environment that is safe and inclusive in which they are encouraged to participate. Whereas during free play that occurs at recess and lunch, the girls might be intimidated to participate with the boys, or might be intentionally excluded by the boys. Overall, intramurals provides students especially, girls the opportunity to be active during recess and lunch.

Reinforce Skills Learned in Physical Education Classes

As mentioned earlier, the average number of days that Physical Education classes are offered is roughly about three days. This does not give students a lot of time to practice skills learned in class, especially if they are not involved in organized sport outside of school. It is vital for students to develop their fundamental movement skills such as running, hopping, jumping, skipping, galloping, throwing, catching, and etc. in order to be able to develop their sport specific skills. As Senne describes, “fundamental motor skills are the foundation upon which all other sport-specific and advanced movement related skills are based, most importantly taught during elementary school physical education instruction” (2013, p. 4). This is really important because once students move on to high school, there is much greater emphasis on sport specific skills. However, “developmentally speaking, students must first learn and become competent in the performance of FMS [fundamental movement skills] before they will be successful in the development and execution of sport-specific skills or other advanced movement skills” (Senne, 2013, p. 4). Therefore, intramurals is a great way to give students the opportunity to practice FMS that they learned in their physical education classes. This allows them to improve on those fundamental movement skills and hopefully with the extra opportunities become competent in the performance of FMS. This will have a tremendous impact on their ability to be active for life.

Introduction to New Games

Instructors are able to introduce new sports, games, and/or activities that they may not have time to introduce in classroom based physical education. Intramurals can act as another way in which children get to sample a wide variety of sports and activities. This helps students learn their strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, they might be introduced to an activity that they love so much that it might facilitate life long participation. It is key that in Elementary School, kids not specialize but instead participate in a variety of activities (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011).

Intramurals VS Inter-School Sports

In intramurals students compete against their fellow peers who attend the same school, whereas in inter-school sports, students compete against neighboring schools. The following are statistics taken from Elementary Schools in the province of Ontario. According to Allison and Adalf, “the majority if elementary schools (88.4%) reported offering an intramural program” whereas, “almost all (92%) elementary schools reported offering an inter-school sports program” (2000, p. 373). The numbers concerning how many students participated in each program are drastically different. For example, “during the period of January-June, 1988, 57.8% of elementary school students participated in these intramurals programs” and only “about one third (31.4%) of students participated in these inter-school sports programs” (Allison and Adalf, 2000, p. 373). These numbers clearly showcase that participation in intramurals is significantly higher than participation in inter-school sports. This is one of the benefits of running an intramurals program at an Elementary School. This could be related to the fact that in order to participate in inter-school sports, students often have to try out for the team and be skilled players. Usually, the more gifted athletes participate in inter-school sports. In contrast, intramurals accepts all students to participate regardless of ability, and skill level. It allows everyone to compete recreationally. Furthermore, intramurals is more likely to take place during school hours, at lunches, when students are already at school. In contrast, inter-school sports often take place before and after school, and also the location often changes from school to school. For some students transportation or other circumstances might be barrier to participate in inter-school sports. Intramurals is an inclusive approach to get students active and it allows a greater number of students with the opportunity to compete recreationally.

Emotional and Social Benefits

Intramurals is a great way for students to meet new people and make new friends. They get to play with their peers that they don’t necessarily have class with, they get to play with individuals that may be a year younger or older than them, and they get to work with different teachers. It is a great social experience for children to participate in intramurals, not only participating in the activities but also the planning, recruiting, advertising, and other aspects of putting on the show. As Byl states, “Intramural programs provide great opportunities for our students to be creative, and to become directly involved in developing activities that they want to enjoy” (Byl, 2004, 22). Furthermore, this helps students develop fabulous leadership skills (Byl, 2004, 22). Not only that but “students that are more engaged in the school tend to build healthy relationships with other students and the school as a whole” (Raise the Bar Intramurals, n.d.). Furthermore, teachers and students are able to ensure that a safe and inclusive environment is established in an organized structured environment, whereas this is much harder in an unstructured, free play environment such as recess and lunch. Overall, intramurals not only provides numerous physical benefits, but also emotional and social benefits for students as well.


Mission Statement

Before creating any program of any kind, a mission statement must be created. Mission statements can vary school to school, for example, is your goal “to have fun, to encourage active participation by as many as possible, or will it serve as a feeder system for your school’s athletic program?” (Byl, 2004, p. 22). The mission statement you create collectively as a planning party, will aid you in developing your program. Furthermore, Byl states that you should “use that mission statement in your promotional materials, schedules, meetings, or wherever intramurals are discussed in order to help the entire program stay on track” (2004, p. 22).


Each school is unique and has something different to offer. Some schools are bigger than others, and equipment varies school to school as well. However, a lack of equipment or space should not deter you to continue with an intramurals program; “make the best of what your school has to offer” (Byl, 2004, p. 22). For example, “If your gym and outdoor field space are minimal, consider how you can use alternative spaces such as large classrooms, hallways, or parking lots” (Byl, 2004, p. 23).


Scheduling is a very important part of intramurals planning. The planning committee must be aware of all other clubs and commitments that students might have. Also, it is key that you “schedule intramurals at a time that will facilitate participation by as many students as possible” (Byl, 2004, p. 23). Furthermore, “you may need to be flexible to the varying needs of the different grades” (Byl, 2004, p. 23). Accommodation is really important if you want your intramurals program to be successful and have the highest number of participants possible.


Running an intramural program is a lot of work and definitely takes more than one person. The best way to run effective intramurals is to “develop a group of students to help organize and run the program” (Byl, 2004, p. 23). This not only helps students build on their leadership skills but also “reduces the workload on the teacher or intramural program director” (Byl, 2004, p. 23). The more students are involved the better the program will be. It will be a program run by the students for the students. They know what their peers want and how to accommodate those needs. It is very helpful to have a planning committee with specific jobs assigned to different students or groups of students. For example, some roles that can be assigned include: advertising, poster making, refereeing, making announcements, scorekeeping, and etcetera. Organized intramural programs will be more successful than those that are poorly organized.

Staff Support

Running an intramurals programs “requires substantial commitment from school staff,” (Byl, 2004, p. 24) even when the students are involved. In fact, “Principals are encouraged to formally recognize intramural programs as an extra task required of a teacher” (Byl, 2004, p. 24). In addition, it would be beneficial for teachers to divide the workload, “for example, a teacher that oversees promotions, another that oversees scheduling, and another that overseas student leadership training or supervision” (Byl, 2004, p. 24). The more teachers and students on board the easier it is for everyone.


Being organized and “doing everything you can to ensure safety minimizes player injuries and reduces liability issues” (Byl, 2004, p. 24). It is very important that instructors “develop safety policies for proper attire, competition levels, body contact, and facility use” (Byl, 2004, p. 24). In addition, teachers must ensure that these polices are enforced and that students are aware of all safety guidelines. A great way to do this is to create visuals such as posters, in addition to verbally outlining the rules. Furthermore, instructors must “plan appropriate procedures for when injuries do occur” (Byl, 2004, p. 24). It would be a good idea to outline procedures in a safety book that is easily accessible.


Promotion is key to student participation. Furthermore, you want to align your promotional strategies with the mission of your program. For example: “if the program is about fun, use wild posters and wacky PA announcements;” “ if the program is about inclusivity, then use pictures of all kinds of people;” “if the program is about respect, then establish fair play awards as a key part of the program” (Byl, 2004, p. 24). In addition, giving out awards throughout the course of the year, “prizes consistent with the mission of the program will reinforce your program objectives” (Byl, 2004, p. 24). Prizes can be certificates, medals, t-shirts, healthy treats, or anything else you can think of. Awards and prizes act as recognition, which help keep engagement high.


The below sample intramural proposal form is from Raise the Bar Intramurals website which is run by Steve Friesen. The form can also be found at

“The following is an example of what staff might use when presenting the idea of developing or improving an intramural program at their school. Program Rationale - Why is it important to have an intramural/houseleague program? There are many reasons to have an intramural program at your school. Intramural programs provide numerous benefits to the students and school community at large. You could use the benefits listed above and include others that are particular to your school. Keeping students active and engaged during or after the school day is a benefit that impacts on the entire school.

Implementation - Who will run the intramural program?

In some cases, school administration and federations support the use of intramural supervision as a component of school supervision duties. School boards such as Kawartha Pine and Wellington Catholic recognize this supervision duty. Most school boards do not however. The program will have to be organized by a staff member or a team of staff members as part of their extra curricular volunteer time. This is the most common model - and it is a successful one.

Funding - Where will the money come from?

There is little funding required to implement and sustain an intramural program. These programs use existing equipment. The administration should be asked to help out financially to help offset the wear and tear on equipment. Asking for this money would be no different than seeking support for more basketballs or football equipment.

Timetable and space- what time of day will intramurals be offered?

Elementary schools can offer intramural programs at lunch or during the nutrition/snack breaks that occur twice daily. These breaks provide an ideal time to gather students into the gym for activities. Most kids are done their lunch in mere minutes - the gymnasium provides a positive, active place to go for the remainder of the nutrition break. If you have a secondary school with a common lunch, then you can offer intramurals at this time. However, if you are at a school with a double or triple lunch, then you must offer activities after school - one night a week for starters.

What do you want from your administration?

You want SUPPORT - in any shape or form. Providing support for supervision may not happen. But your administration can support you in terms of funding and advocating strongly for the program in the hopes of getting more staff involved in the supervision of the program. The principal can set the tone of the school. Getting her/him on side would be a big boost to the success of the program.” (Raise the Bar Intramurals, n.d.).  

Works Cited

  1. Allison, K., & Adalf, E. (2000). Structured Opportunities for Student Physical Activity in Ontario Elementary and Secondary Schools. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 91(5), 371-375.
  2. Beveridge, S., & Scruggs, P. (2000). TLC for Better PE: Girls and Elementary Physical Education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 71(8), 22-27. Retrieved from
  3. Byl, J. (2004). Organizing Effective Elementary and High School Intramural Programs. Physical & Health Education Journal, 70(3), 22-24. Retrieved from
  4. Canadian Sport for Life. (2011). More About Learn to Train. Retrieved from
  5. Evans, J. (1996). Children's Attitudes to Recess and the Changes Taking Place in Australian Primary Schools. Research in Education, 0(56), 53. Retrieved from
  6. Friesen, S. (2012). Raise the Bar Intramurals. Physical & Health Education Journal, 78(2), 38-40. Retrieved from
  7. Holt, E. (2014). Difference in Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity during Organized Indoor Recess Activities and Free Play. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 46(5), 514. Retrieved from
  8. Intramurals. (n.d.). In Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved from
  9. McKenzie, T., Sallis, J., Elder, E., Berry, C., Hoy, P., Nader, P., Zive, M. & Broyles, S. (1997). Physical Activity Levels and Prompts in Young Children at Recess: A Two-Year Study of a Bi-Ethnic Sample. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 68(3), 195-202. DOI: 10.1080/02701367.1997.10607998
  10. Raise the Bar Intramurals. (n.d.). Benefits. Retrieved from
  11. Ridgers, N., Saint-Maurice, P., Welk, G., Siahpush, M., & Huberty, J. (2011). Differences in Physical Activity During School Recess. The Journal of School Health, 81(9), 547. Retrieved from
  12. Senne, T. (2013). A Better Path Toward Ensuring Lifelong Physical Activity Participation. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 84(4), 4-6. DOI:10.1080/07303084.2013.773702