Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands: A Look Into Intramural High School Sports

Six members of the Imposters basketball team. A majority of the members attend Franklin High School, and the team practices at nearby Clinton Park. Photo by Stella Holt Dupey

Getting an interview with the Imposters basketball team is no easy task. I originally reached out to the team’s Instagram about a possible interview, and shortly received an elusive response; “…I’ll check with our secretary, but I’m sure we can squeeze you in sometime.” 

Immediately my interest was piqued. Who was this team, and why were they in such high demand?

After a few days of correspondence with the “Head of Media Management” for the Imposters, we settled on a time and place for a group interview. 

When I arrived, most of the team was in attendance. Although they hold “try-outs,” they have yet to cut anyone, as it wouldn’t align with their team value of inclusion. Some of the members go to other schools. A nice thing about intramural sports is that your team can quite literally include anyone you want, you just have to play in the age bracket of the oldest player on the team. As we started to talk, I mostly wanted to know logistical things about their team, but I slowly began to uncover other aspects of the group, like chemistry and dynamics. 

There’s something so charming about this ragtag bunch of juniors. While they are a basketball team, in some shape or form (they do, in fact, have plans for homemade jerseys and have posted their team roster made on Google Docs), it’s pretty clear to everyone around that they are simply a fun loving group, breaking away from the stressful side of high school sports in favor of a more laid back environment. Their coach, Jason Co, is not quite sure how to make substitutions in a game setting, as he has more experience with tennis. Jokes are made about “starting five” and “benchwarmers” but at the core of it, this group shows their heart and love for each other in the best way possible. 

When asked about their season goals, Fisher West, one of the team co-founders, was first to speak up. “Our main goal is to play Bronny’s team in California.” To that, the group erupted in laughter. And just about anyone who knows who Bronny is (rather— who Bronny is related to,) would laugh as well. Bronny is Lebron James Jr., so it’s evident that their goal of playing him is somewhat of a joke. But the actual team goal is the same as so many of ours as high school students grappling with the fact that we effectively lost a year of school time. They just want to create something bigger than themselves as individuals, and more importantly, spend lots of time together before college. 

This becomes evident in many ways, even in the description for their team GoFundMe to cover tournament costs. 

“As we [The Imposters] get closer to graduating from high school, and splitting ways to go to college, we wanted to do something big together. We all love basketball, so we made a team,” 

Playing on your home turf and wearing your school colors is a core aspect of high school for many student-athletes. But as students get older and become upperclassmen, at some point school or work become higher priorities than sports. These kids, combined with others that enjoy the sport but have a different primary sport for which they spend a majority of their time training, often create intramural teams playing in leagues like Goldenball and Hoopsource. AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) is also an option for non-school teams, but generally the competition is much better. 

Intramural sports can be taken very seriously. Ultimate Frisbee, for example, can be described as an intramural sport because it is not directly attached to a school and therefore doesn’t have to follow OSAA (Oregon School Activities Association) and PPS guidelines. But Ultimate is still a highly competitive and organized sport. There are tournaments and leagues and many participants every season. Many say playing Ultimate feels a lot like playing a high school sport, just without the daily practices and pressures. People with particularly demanding classes or extracurricular/clubs often opt for intramural sports. Milo Ridenour, a senior at Franklin, is one of these individuals. He is in only six classes this year, but they’re all Advanced Placement. For him, two to three practices a week plus games on the weekends is a perfect amount of extra commitment. 

The Imposters don’t practice very much. Unlike Ultimate, they aren’t in a league yet (they’ll have to enroll themselves) and they don’t even have a secure practice schedule or location. They shoot around at Clinton Park when it’s convenient for their busy schedules. When they do enroll into a tournament, they’ll likely be playing against teams with lots of hours spent in the gym together and fancy uniforms and shoes, the product of monthly payments that can rack up to thousands a year. When they show up to the gym in their homemade jerseys and assorted shoes, the other team will probably scoff and think to themselves, what is this team doing? 

But when the first buzzer sounds, and the other team parents are stressed and gossiping about their child’s teammates, and their coach is screaming louder than the whistle blows, and discouraged faces line the bench, I have no doubt that the Imposters’ infectious joy and “here for a good time” mindset will brighten the room. Even if they lose, this group will forever remember their time spent working together, creating this idea, this team. 

This is the true beauty of playing an intramural sport. It gives you the opportunity to enjoy athletics while also enjoying limited stress and toxicity. And for the Imposters in particular, it’s super fun, as sports are supposed to be. 

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