With Western preparing to welcome students back in fall, many campus programs are exploring what their in-person activities will look like, and Western’s intramurals office is no different. For Lucy Caples, the university’s brand new intramural and youth sports-camp coordinator, the transition is an opportunity to welcome back students of all backgrounds and abilities to intramural sports.
Western Today sat down with Caples to discuss her path leading up to Western and what changes are on the horizon for the program.
WT: What has your journey up to this point been like and how did you become interested in the sports studies field?
LC:“I love telling this story because it connects so closely to the work I’m doing now. I started off in my undergrad at the University of Arkansas, where I really wanted to be an RA, but I just didn't make the cut. I was really nervous about my second year, because I was afraid I couldn't afford to live on campus.
As I was walking to class, one day, someone yelled, “Do you need a job on campus?”, and I immediately thought, “Yeah, I absolutely do!” So, they told me all about officiating and becoming an intramural referee, which I had no experience in -- but I jumped in headfirst.
I literally had no knowledge about refereeing, but they taught me everything, and eventually, I began to move up the ranks until I became the intramural intern. In my last semester, I realized that the program was a huge reason why I was enjoying school, getting good grades and even graduating.
After that realization, I thought this might be something that I really want to do in my post-graduate life. I wanted to mirror that love and development that I got during my time in intramurals. So, I took a year to really think about my decision and to intern at the University of South Carolina intramural program, and I absolutely loved it.
From there, I got my graduate degree in college student affairs at the University of West Georgia and worked as the graduate assistant for competitive sports.
After that, I knew I was comfortable moving around and I’d always wanted to live on the West Coast, so I found my way to Western.
Not only is there a great intramural program here, but the university values the same things I do like diversity and inclusion. It's not just the recreation department that values these things, but it's also the university, which is something I was not necessarily used to in the past. Although I’ve only been here a few months, my time has been absolutely amazing.”
WT: Speaking of diversity and inclusion, I saw you have two LGBTQ+ ally safe zone certificates from past universities. What was the certification process like and how do they factor into the work you’re doing?
“I was very lucky that my past two institutions had a safe zone training available to all faculty and staff. I was even able to offer it to my student staff at the University of West Georgia, which helped them explore topics that might be a little uncomfortable or foreign to them.
It's a training that the diversity and inclusion office at each university conducted that helped people provide appropriate allyship to those in the LGBTQ+ community. There's nothing we can do to fully understand what they're going through, but it gives people insights and builds empathy.
It was probably one of the best trainings I've been a part of because it was super interactive and open to questions. Overall, it was a great way to make sure that my programming was the best it could be for everybody on campus.
To me, it’s important that I'm putting in policies that are supporting everyone who wants to participate. I also need to make sure my student staff is properly assessing these policies and that they’re able to talk their way through them without making anyone feel unwelcome.
I haven’t found any similar resources at Western yet, but I’m still digging. I would love to have another training whether that means bringing someone in or collaborating with another university virtually; I’m open to lots of possibilities.”
WT: What does your day-to-day look like as the intramural and youth sports camp coordinator?
“As of right now, it's mostly cleaning out my office and figuring out what the heck I'm going to do for the quarter, but I’m really excited for fall quarter.
We have not yet heard if we can have normal programming indoors yet, but we're confident that outdoor programming is going to look normal as long as we can remain safe and socially distant. I’m scheduling like we're going to have a normal quarter and trying to keep everything as similar to the pre-COVID times as possible.
I'm planning for the best-case scenario but preparing for the worst-case scenario.”
WT: In the past, intramurals has launched programs like wheelchair basketball tournaments to shed light what on our students who are differently-abled deal with each day. Will there be more activities like this moving forward?
"Yes! A major goal of mine is to offer inclusive sports like wheelchair basketball, sit-down volleyball and goalball to ensure all bodies are included.
I also hope to collaborate with other departments on campus to reach a population of student who may not know much about what we do as a program or who don't necessarily feel confident participating in intramural sports."
WT: Are there any other changes or big projects in the works for intramurals?
“Considering I’m brand new here, I don't want to jump in and shake things up completely, but I’m not shying away from change. There are students who haven’t had a chance to play intramurals in nearly two years, so if there’s any time for innovation, it’s now.”
WT: What’s one thing you want all Western students to know about intramurals and the work you’re doing?
“The main goal of programming intramural sports is to provide a fun, safe and engaging environment. If there are students who are feeling nervous about participating in intramural sports or feel like they don't have enough friends to create a team, I strongly encourage them to reach out to me.
If there's anybody who feels like their identity or who they are as a person does not align with playing intramural sports, I hope our programming and staff can help prove that mindset wrong. This is supposed to be fun for everybody.
Reach out to me, send me an email, call me or even stop by the intramural office in the Wade King Student Recreation Center, and I will sit there and chat with you to make sure you’re included. We have a really strong team of student staff returning, and our biggest goal is to make sure everyone who wants to play can do that.”
Lucy Caples received her undergraduate degree in sports studies from the University of Arkansas and completed her master’s degree in student affairs at the University of West Georgia. She was hired as the intramural and youth sports camp coordinator at Western Washington University in July of 2021. She can be reached at email@example.com.