Posted February 3, 2016
By KATIE HOVAN
UM’s Residential Colleges will sponsor the 31st annual Sports Fest competition on Feb. 12-13.
Sports Fest gives students living in residential colleges on campus the opportunity to compete against one another in a series of events, including canoe races, soccer matches and tug-of-war challenges. The events will use modified rules from intramural sports on campus.
Beginning in 1986 as a rivalry between freshman dormitories Hecht and Stanford, Sports Fest is one of UM’s greatest student life traditions. Today, Housing and Residential Life (HRL) funds the two-day event.
Though Sports Fest started as a small event, beverage companies like Coca-Cola and Red Bull have even recently sponsored it in years past.
Tom Soria, assistant director of Intramurals and director of Camp at UM, has been coordinating the event for longer than he can remember.
“This is my 10th or 11th Sports Fest,” he explained. “And they all start to blend together after a while.”
Soria explained how much time actually goes into planning an event like Sports Fest, which has become one of the biggest student life events on campus.
“I know all the logistics,” Soria explained. “But the committee is actually comprised of students.”
The Sports Fest Committee consists of two students from each residential college and several HRL faculty members. The committee is responsible for voting on which events will remain part of Sports Fest each year. At the end of Sports Fest, the committee members will act as judges to vote on awards like sportsmanship and spirit.
In addition, Soria and his committee begin planning Sports Fest each year about four months in advance.
“We start planning in late September or early October, and all the planning is done during the fall semester,” Soria said. “Everything had to be done before we left for break, so there have been times where we had to meet on a reading day.”
Olivia Gassner, a committee member representing Mahoney Residential College, also stressed how extensive the Sports Fest planning process has been.
“During the fall semester we met every Monday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in a conference room” Gassner explained. “We would vote on the events we wanted to definitely keep, and then from there, vote on which events to get rid of.”
Committee members are also responsible for promoting the events to students living in the dorms.
“We present the promotional Sports Fest video on all the televisions in the dorms,” Gassner said. “And the RAs should really push the sign-up in Eaton because it houses freshmen.”
“My expectations are for there to be overall more participation, especially in the upperclassman dorms,” Gassner added.
Emily Hunter, an Eaton resident and transfer student from the University of Kentucky, is new to student life at UM, but said she is excited to participate in Sports Fest for the first time.
“I’ve never participated in anything like this before,” she said. “I even decided to sign myself and few of my friends up for tug-of-war, because I heard it’s a pretty big event.”
Hunter added, “It’s also kind of nice to have an event that students who aren’t on an actual UM sports team get to participate in and enjoy.“
Despite its name and competitive nature, Sports Fest isn’t just for students who like sports. Both Soria and Gassner believe the event brings other benefits to the table.
“We try to have events that all people can participate in,” Soria explained. “There’s even table tennis for the international students and the video games can be for students who may be physically impaired.”
Soria also takes pride in Sports Fest’s ability to uphold UM traditions and values.
“At the end of the day, it’s a long lasting tradition that helps retain students with a sense of belonging,” Soria added. “It’s the stuff they do outside the classroom that helps them stay at the university.”
Gassner personally admires the event’s ability create a sense of unity.
“I wanted to be a part of Sports Fest because it reminded me of high school sports, which I cherished,” Gassner said. “I really saw it bring together the whole campus and especially the freshman dorms.”
This year’s Sports Fest will begin with a canoe race at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12, and will conclude at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the closing ceremonies on the Intramural Fields.
The sign-up deadline is on Jan. 29 for students who still wish to participate.