By Jarrett Standridge
“TO: All Norman Campus Students
Intramural Sports Update
Triathlon, Sand Volleyball, 4-Person Golf Scramble and Flag Football registration deadlines coming up soon!
FREE! 1.5 Mile Bike Ride, 100 Yard Swim, .75 Mile Run
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
$40/team – One game per week over four weeks
Season starts Sunday, September 8, 2019
4-Person Golf Scramble
$35/player, 4-Person Team
Friday, September 6, 2019
Preseason Flag Football
$20/team – Single Elimination Tournament
Tournament played the week of September 8, 2019
Regular Season Flag Football
$80/team – One game per week over five weeks
Season starts Sunday, September 15, 2019
All specifics and any additional information can be found at ou.edu/far/intramurals
Please direct any questions to Jonathan Dewhirst, Intramural Sports Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Dewhirst, M.S.
Intramural Sports Coordinator
Fitness + Recreation
Sarkeys Fitness Center
The University of Oklahoma
Fitness + Recreation”
Students at OU get this email and many others like it throughout the semester. By now, most probably recognize the name and automatically know the email is about intramural sports. However, no one would recognize the face behind that email. Who is Jonathan Dewhirst?
Jonathan is the intramural sports Director for OU Fitness and Recreation. Dewhirst joined the staff in January of 2009. His responsibilities include organizing sports leagues, training officials, and recruiting students to play. Most OU students may see his name and associate it with the bombardment of emails about intramurals that come with the beginning of a semester. But it is more than just meeting participation numbers or getting games played. For Dewhirst, it is about creating a place for students to stay active, hangout with friends and most importantly, to have fun.
There are many things students can do while they are not in class or studying, some good, others not so good. Intramural sports can be a positive outlet for students who want to stay active and escape the mental grind of studying for a while. Jonathan’s goal is for anyone and everyone, regardless of athletic ability, to get involved and have fun in a non-competitive atmosphere. Even the legendary Baker Mayfield has graced OU’s intramural fields. Many people have heard the stories of Mayfield tearing it up on the softball field, but Jonathan tells a different story about him.
When Baker Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma for Texas Tech, he came as regular college student. Only those who really paid attention to college football knew who he was. Jonathan had never heard of him before. Due to NCAA transfer rules and various other reasons, Baker was not quite yet on the OU football team. So, he signed up for intramural flag football. Of course, many of his opponents did not know who he was, and he played receiver rather than quarterback so that his team did not have an unfair advantage. Baker had not thrown one pass during the entire season. Jonathan still remembers the moment when he figured out who Mayfield was. Baker’s team was losing late in the game and as a last-ditch effort, pitched him the ball. Being the athlete that he was, Baker was still the best player on his team despite not playing his true position. The entire other team swarmed Baker, thinking he was the only threat to score. Mayfield proceeded to throw a hail-mary pass for a touchdown down the far sideline to win as time expired. After that, everyone realized that he was more than a student having fun but was really a D-1 football player.
Once OU Fitness and Recreation figured out that Baker had played football collegiately, they did not allow him to participate in intramural flag football. But for those few weeks, everyday students got to hangout and play football with a guy who would soon be cast into the spotlight and become a true Sooner legend.
“I think what is better about the story is that the year he played the most and did the most was his redshirt year when he lived in Headington Hall. And I just think he felt like a regular ol’ student,” Dewhirst says. It is an example of what Jonathan wants intramural sports to be. A place where students can come make connections with others, build friendships, exercise and enjoy their time away from the responsibilities for life. In talking with Dewhirst, one quickly realizes that he is all about the students.
Jonathan, in addition to running the intramural sports at OU, is an official for basketball, baseball and softball. Dewhirst has officiated youth through high school in basketball and baseball and has officiated softball at the collegiate level. Jonathan has a genuine passion for sports that he wants to share with others through intramurals. Dewhirst says the most rewarding thing about what he does is “dealing and working with students.” Whether it be students participating in intramurals or the students who work with him, he enjoys seeing their growth and being a mentor for them.
The graduate assistants who work for Jonathan appreciate his approach to teaching and mentoring them. Mike Fox, one of Dewhirst’s graduate assistants, describes Jonathan as laid back. “He gives us a chance to learn instead of just being like this is how we are going to do it, and this is how you are going to have to do it,” says Fox. Lance Boehm, another Graduate Assistant, describes him as supportive. Boehm says, “Jonathan gives us a lot of freedom to help run the program here,”. “He’s always allowing us to learn and be able to learn by doing,” says Boehm. Dewhirst’s approach is obviously effective. Former assistants of his now work at the sports and recreation departments at Loyola Chicago, Emporia State and Samford University as intramural sports directors.
Dewhirst also believes students are the most challenging aspect of his job. Typically, when students become officials for Jonathan, they either do not know much about the sport or they do not have confidence in themselves as an official. “They are looking at you bug-eyed like ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m doing’,” says Dewhirst. By the end of the season, some are confident and really progressed while others have not. “It becomes disappointing sometimes, and it is not very often, but it’s just like you have so much potential and you’re not using that potential, you’re not using that ability to lead or grow… you’re not challenging yourself to be better,”.
Running intramural sports leagues does come with challenges. The biggest issue with intramurals is simply getting people to play. In his first five or six years at OU, participation in intramurals increased steadily. Now, their numbers have plateaued. Students choose not to participate for various reasons. Some students may not have time while others may stray away because of their athletic ability. Some just have no interest in sports or fitness at all.
Dewhirst believes that maintaining a balance between more competitive teams and less competitive teams helps encourage students to participate. There is a place for students looking to compete and win as well as students who just play to have fun. No matter where on that spectrum a student falls, there is an opportunity. Despite this, intramural numbers at campuses across the nation have started to drop off. While colleges are trying to maintain participation, it seems this trend will continue. Gerry Armstrong, Assistant Director of OU Fitness and Recreation, believes trends in participation are cyclical. “You’ll see times of increase and everybody is excited, and they are being a part of it. Then you’ll find maybe one or two classes that aren’t as involved in athletics, and then they start to decline. So, you kind of ride the wave,” says Armstrong.
While intramural sports may just be a way to pass time for most people, it is more than that to Jonathan Dewhirst. It is an opportunity for students to make friends and meet new people, to stay active, to get their mind off of school and responsibilities and to have fun. It is a way for him to be involved with the student body and to see growth in students of all backgrounds. It is more than a game of flag football or softball. It is more than teaching a student to be a referee. It is a place where anyone and everyone, even Baker Mayfield, can enjoy the fellowship and fun that comes with sports. Big or small, athletically gifted or not, Jonathan Dewhirst wants students to get involved.