A sport for all seasons

How intramural sport at King’s formed a campus community

There is an ethos at the University of King’s College that typically associates athletic pursuits with meat-headedness. It labels participation in games of physical prowess as a vestigial behaviour from Neanderthal times, and implies that participation is a tacit acknowledgment of your need for self-affirmation in the face of glaring deep-seated inadequacies, sexual or otherwise.

This is only a half-truth.

Shooting a rubber ball through a ten-foot high metal hoop does seem to distract me from thinking about the time my housekeeper walked in on me masturbating, but on the list of reasons I love to play, this barely even cracks the top five.

Running the King’s Amateur Athletics Association – or CUBE as it was inexplicably dubbed by my predecessors –gave me the opportunity to interact with people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met. The one common denominator between them all is their love of placing balls in their designated receptacles, and doing so with vigour.

In Canada people typically participate in sports for reasons of personal fitness, achievement or enjoyment. In other parts of the world, sports may be a more communal activity; the soccer pitch or basketball court plays a role more akin to a social club than an arena.

Further still, sports can serve as a distraction from societal ills like violence or poverty, and a springboard for a select few away from desperation towards an improved quality of life. Each of these incentives helped to bring people to our Tuesday evening pick-up soccer games.

CUBE was originally intended to serve as a physical outlet exclusively for the cynical, cigarette-smoking Kings populace. Soon after I took over as a CUBE coordinator, I realized that marketing intramural sports to a population in which sports are generally reviled would be difficult, as illustrated by our dwindling weekly attendance.

As a remedy, I decided to open the doors to students from Dalhousie. Or rather, I accidentally relinquished control of the origins of our attendees due to a base misunderstanding of Facebook privacy settings.

Somehow word got out to the international student society and we became inundated with a cohort of students from Bermuda to South-Sudan to Kazakhstan to everywhere in between, their numbers growing steadily with each passing week.

I noticed that some people would approach the game with determination, and even between games they would watch stoically while others sprinted up and down the gym floor. Others would be more proactive both on the court and from the sidelines, lambasting other players with a steady diet of chirps and unsolicited advice.

There was one guy in particular whom I nicknamed ‘Woody’, after the irritating cartoon character Woody Woodpecker, because of his knack for instigating conflict by flying off the handle at the slightest provocation. We came to shrug off his antics, but there were times when others were less understanding.

The beauty of CUBE soccer was that it provided participants, domestic and foreign born both, a momentary reprieve from the sometimes-stifling nature of day-to-day Canadian life.

At CUBE you could be as loud, obnoxious and blunt as you wanted, and as long as you passed the ball every once in a while, no one would bat an eye.

It was inspiring to see students hailing from an incredibly diverse array of geographic and cultural backgrounds, all able to access a sliver of home on the gym floor of a liberal arts college in Eastern Canada.

While my role was only to unlock an equipment room and flip over a few benches, I couldn’t help but look around and feel an immense – albeit completely undeserved – sense of pride at what we had created. I hope that the fun, open atmosphere persists and I encourage all who love to play, for whatever reason, to attend.

 

Editor’s note: CUBE sports runs 10:00-12:00 every Tuesday and Thursday night in the King’s gym. Join the Facebook group “King’s CUBE” for regular updates.

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Joseph Fish

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