Santa Fe Parents
Fall 2010 Letter Home
Intramurals Kicks Off its Second Season
Celebrating its second year at St. John’s in Santa Fe, the college’s growing intramural program sports a smart student-designed catalog of activities and a host of new offerings. Teams played kickball and volleyball during the All College Barbecue the first weekend of the fall semester, and freshmen, upperclassmen, faculty, and staff joined in games and were treated to demonstrations (from tango to Jui Jitsu) during the sixth semiannual Activities Fair a week later.
Hoping to keep both enthusiasm and participation high, Director of Student Activities Karen Starz and her staff have put together a wide variety of activities designed to help students rediscover the joy of amateur athletics – and get some exercise along the way. Long a mainstay on the Annapolis campus, the intramurals program on the Santa Fe campus not only provides the benefit of exercise, but also is a great way for lower- and upperclassmen to interact outside of the seminar room. (For Friday night games, sophomores typically bring out carts offering hotdogs, popcorn, and sodas.)
To keep a pulse on the kinds of programs that students are most interested in, a questionnaire devised by the Student Activities staff was included in the welcome packet sent to incoming freshmen. “We’re constantly experimenting with what people will come out for,” explains Mike Thurber, athletics and outdoor program coordinator. The questionnaire revealed some surprising preferences, such as dodge ball and kickball. These games are tremendously popular on college campuses around the country, perhaps in part because they are fairly noncompetitive and fun, Thurber suggests.
Floor hockey – with special sticks and pucks designed for use on a gymnasium floor – also is all the rage and first made its appearance on the activities schedule last spring. Other games fell out of the line-up last year for a variety of reasons; for instance, flag football required too many players and has complicated rules – two strikes against it when it comes pulling together a more spontaneous pick-up game with whomever is on the field. Thurber anticipates further fine-tuning this spring.
At the beginning of this year, all students, including those in the Graduate Institute program, were assigned to one of four teams: the Geometers, the Myrmidons, the Olympians, and the Quixotics. (Faculty and staff also are encouraged to come out for sports and are then assigned to a team, and alumni are invited to join in the games, as well.) Students participating in intramurals accrue points, ultimately qualifying them for a letter jacket (as opposed to Annapolis’ blazer). These points also are transferable, Starz points out, which means that students switching campuses bring their points with them.
Team members are outfitted with distinctive, student-designed t-shirts. Team captains typically are chosen from among those students who are most excited about the sport. “Their job is to go into the dorms and get people psyched to play,” Starz says.
Last year games were scheduled by team, but this year Starz decided to dispense with this system, in favor of organizing sides regardless of one’s team affiliation. “We’re not worrying about how many team members show up; we just want people to come out and play,” she emphasizes. To encourage participation and assuage the concerns of inexperienced or rusty players, a series of pre-game clinics were offered (covering the basics of Ultimate Frisbee, dodge ball, and volleyball).
In addition to the intramural program, there are a number of teams that compete beyond the campus, including the Ultimate Frisbee team, which travels in the southwest, and the ice hockey team, which plays against local Santa Fe teams. Both campuses field croquet teams.
Beyond teams, there is a host of other ways to exercise the body after a long day of exercising one’s mind. Students may take classes in Eastern martial arts, including Karate-Do, Back Tiger Kung Fu (new this year), Tai Ji, and Ba Gua Zhang, the Taoist Movement system from China; Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; Iron Bookworm Training, a fitness routine emphasizing isometric and dynamic bodyweight exercises; Russian Kettlebells, a weightlifting regimen; fencing; kickboxing; disc golf; handball, racquet sports, and table tennis; and ballroom dance, including Hi Hop, Swing, and Latin styles. Boxing, started by Matt Summers, a junior who owned and operated a self-defense gym before coming to St. John’s, has proven to be especially popular. And for the early risers, there is indoor cycling.
Also new are a series of workshops on such topics as basic self defense, stress management, and bicycle maintenance. Students can take out equipment on loan – from tennis rackets to climbing gear – and this year they also can borrow bicycles (plus helmets, locks, and lights) on a one-day or term basis. “About 25 bicycles had been abandoned on campus, some in great disrepair and some that probably had been here for years,” Thurber explains. “We were able to refurbish about eight or 10, and we’re starting out by loaning about half of them to students. Donations are welcome!”
Those seeking a less rigorous or perhaps more contemplative break from their studies may take yoga, breathing meditation, darkroom photography, pottery, or landscape painting and drawing classes or join the student theatre group, Chrysostomos, which mounts a variety of productions, from traditional Greek drama to contemporary plays. Other student-run groups include the Eldritch Fellowship of the Icosahedron, a role-playing group, the astronomy club, and the monthly newspaper, The Moon. “There’s something for everyone,” Starz says.
And for both change of pace and change of scenery over weekends or longer breaks, Starz and Thurber lead a number of popular outdoor adventure trips, such as rafting the San Juan River in Utah, exploring Carlsbad Caverns in southern New Mexico, and skiing and snowboarding in the Taos Ski Valley. These trips also provide an alternative to students who can’t travel home (especially international students) over Winter or Spring Break when dorms are closed.
This past spring, Starz and Thurber took a dozen students to Moab, Utah, where they rafted, climbed, mountain biked, and backpacked. Both are Wilderness First Responder certified and have taken the AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) single pitch instructor course for safety. Starz was a climbing guide all over the west and southwest prior to joining the St. John’s community, and Thurber was an OARS raft guide in the west and northwest. Together, they have 22 years experience guiding trips in the outdoors.
“It was a challenging trip for some of the students as we were in the elements for three weeks straight, cooking our own food, sleeping in tents, and experiencing multiple sports,” Starz says. “However, the students rose to the occasion, learning a lot about each other and, of course, having seminar-style conversations around the campfire.”
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