Email missives from Josh Perez-Cruet ’20 B.S., one of the intramural (IM) secretaries of Grace Hopper College, read like calls to battle. Font size veers wildly from 12pt to 36, and the indiscriminate use of rainbow colors recalls the dizzy days of early blogging.
Even a loss to Harvard could not dampen Perez-Cruet’s enthusiasm. In an email to fellow “hopletes” following a face-off with Harvard’s IM flag football team this past November in Harvard Stadium, he wrote: “We let them win by an empirical score-based point of view, but I certainly believe with utmost conviction that they left that game with no sense of pride in their school, in their peers, and in their team. A most embarrassing defeat if you ask me.” Perez-Cruet makes the case that Yale, with its “at least 29” fans in the stands “including the venerable Dean [David] Francis!” won the ultimate contest — that of fan loyalty. According to the email, the Harvard IM team had no fans in attendance.
His Facebook “hype videos” to encourage attendance at upcoming games are similarly impassioned, full of flashing white-on-black text and feature a montage of Hopper students playing soccer, dodgeball, and running, interspersed with NBA, NFL and NHL highlights, stunt videos, and Running of the Bulls footage.
IM sports at Yale are played in three designated seasons and students sign up to play with their residential college team on a game-by-game basis. Players of all abilities are invited, most sports are coed, and gender balance is mandatory. Each sport is worth a designated number of points, based on how many players are on the field — so soccer games are worth 11 points and basketball games are worth five. The college with the most accumulated points at the end of the year wins the Tyng Cup, donated in 1933 by Yale football players George Adee (1894) and Malcolm Aldrich (1921) along with former Spanish professor R. Selden Rose (1909). Timothy Dwight College (TD) holds the Tyng record with 13 wins, and Trumbull the least with two. Along with an inscription on the cup, winners walk away with championship T-shirts — and bragging rights.
Saybrook College recently cinched this year’s Tyng Cup, but second-place Hopper has come far since its 11th and 12th place IM days. Its success is thanks in large part to the enthusiasm of its IM secretaries, Perez-Cruet and Rachel Cohen ’21 B.S., and what Perez-Cruet calls a “tenacious” first-year class. “It used to be I would go to volleyball, and broomball, and there would be no one [from Hopper] there,” Perez-Cruet says. “My sophomore year I decided to change that. One of the main reasons I love IMs, besides the competitive spirit, is that it really connects people.”
In addition to the traditional sports — basketball, cross country, volleyball, softball, golf, badminton — IMs include quirky options like broomball, spikeball, dodgeball, and inner tube water polo. Broomball was devised as an alternative to hockey, a now-retired IM option. Students loved the opportunity to play at Ingalls Rink, says head IM secretary Max Yuhas ’20 B.S., but not enough had the necessary skating skills. In broomball, players face off across the rink horizontally, wearing sneakers, and use sticks with triangle heads to push an inflated ball toward the opponent’s net.
“IMs are a way to get to know other people beyond your class year,” Yuhas says, adding that he’s made his closest friends in TD playing IM basketball and indoor soccer. “It’s important for the colleges on Old Campus to bond with other people. You don’t have to be a varsity athlete — or maybe you were, and want to relive the fun.”
Yuhas was recently recognized with a Y-Work Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student Employees. “You have to balance the sports administration and student body,” Yuhas says of his role. “And sometimes you have to enforce rules that are not in favor of your friends.”
While de-stressing and unwinding are part of the IM appeal, students and alumni say they also relish the competition. “I’ve always been into sports, and I’m active on the club triathlon team,” says Cohen, who says she favors IM dodgeball, indoor soccer, and flag football. “At Yale, there are a ton of high-achievers who don’t have time to commit to a varsity sport,” she says. “They need that competitive outlet.”
Former Yale basketball player Ryon McGuire ’96 B.A. of Jonathan Edwards College (JE) says he played a few IM basketball games after a major shoulder injury sidelined his varsity play. “The last game I played cemented JE winning Tyng in ’96,” he says. “That’s as good a memory as walking onto the court for a varsity game.”
Amy Gambrill ’93 B.S. of JE used IMs as a competitive outlet after two years as a varsity lacrosse and field hockey player at Yale. “I played everything JE needed me for — and got a little bit too serious about co-ed inner tube water polo,” she says. Megan Titzer ’06 B.A. of Pierson College confirms that float-enabled water polo in the pool could get rough. “My job was to play defense,” she says, “a.k.a., dislodge large boys from their tubes. We didn’t consider it a successful game unless blood was drawn somewhere.”
Ultimately, IMs are about bonding, and giving students a means to let go of academic stress and pressures to succeed — at least temporarily. “Everyone here is an over-achiever,” Perez-Cruet says. “Sometimes it distorts your vision, and the people aspect of your life can be lacking. IMs are a great way to go out for an hour and have a cool experience with someone you haven’t met.”