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What's the Difference Between Intramural and Club Sports?

College has more than just collegiate-level opportunities to play sports, but what's the difference between intramural and club? Our experts have the answer!

Paul Dorn
Assistant Director of the Department of Campus Recreation

University of California, Davis
Intramural sports programs provide students an opportunity to participate in a variety of competitive and recreational sport activities. You may encounter leagues for men’s, women’s, or mixed (co-recreational, or CoRec) teams. Most universities offer teams in traditional sports such as basketball, softball, soccer, volleyball, and flag football, as well as nontraditional activities such as Ultimate Frisbee, floor hockey, badminton, racquetball, and tennis.

Sport clubs allow students to get together regularly to play a sport they love, though they do not meet as often or for as long as varsity teams. Club sports are typically managed and run by the participants themselves, including coach selection, travel, fundraising, scheduling, practices, and participant development. Club sports bridge the gap between intramural and intercollegiate athletics by providing competition at specialized levels, participation in tournaments, and opportunities to practice. Although some clubs remain solely recreational, most are highly competitive.

Many clubs provide instruction for skill development, and no prior experience with a particular sport is necessary. “Many university students may have been competitive athletes in high school,” says Carrie Trexler, coordinator of club sports for Campus Recreation at University of California Davis. “but they may not have had an opportunity to participate in sports like rowing or lacrosse or cycling or martial arts. Collegiate club sports give athletes an opportunity to develop skills in a new activity, expand their competitive realms, meet new challenges, establish new goals, and engage with new friends.”

On most campuses, the recreation program provides administrative support, access to facilities, equipment, marketing, and office services in supporting the student clubs. The recreational sports department may also provide funding support from appropriated student fees for travel, competitions, conference dues, officials’ fees, and equipment. The clubs provide social, competitive, instructional, and safe environments based on the common interests of the participating sport club members.

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