By Alex Pijanowski
If you have strolled down the Hill to showcase your skills on the basketball court this year, only to find no one to play ball with, you are not alone.
In recent years, the 3-on-3 intramural tournament at the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC) has been among the facility’s most successful programs. This year, however, only two teams have signed up, leading KAC administrators and students to wonder what caused such a precipitous change.
Justin Newell, who has been KAC director since 2012, has been putting considerable effort into investigating this trend. Newell was especially surprised because of how popular the tournament had been.
“We’ve had, in the past, a lot of success with tournaments, or smaller leagues,” Newell said. “Nobody’s interested in really anything this year.”
“We would do whatever we could with anybody that signed up,” Newell said. “If people are interested, we are more than happy to try to put something together. We can make it happen.”
“It’s hard to find kids who want to play,” said Head Golf Coach Grant Wallace, who is also the Director of Intramurals. Wallace estimated that about 15 teams signed up for the 2013 league. He also suggested that increased participation in club and varsity sports may siphon interest from intramurals.
In recent years, there has been a vibrant pickup basketball scene at the KAC’s Multiple Activities Court (MAC). However, these games seem to be less frequent this year, which may explain lower interest in the 3-on-3 tournament.
Tomas Grant ’16 has been a steadfast participant in both pickup and intramural ball while at Kenyon, and he is disappointed to see that tradition decline.
“I come to the KAC daily,” Grant said. “If I see that nobody’s playing, I’ll just go lift or do something other than basketball, which is sad to say, because that’s why I came down.” More often than not, Grant arrives to find an empty basketball court.
“We used to play almost every day. Now it’s two, three times a week,” said Noah Morayniss ’15.
One possible explanation is that those who felt most passionately about basketball in past years are just not here anymore. Leland Holcomb ’14 said that, near the end of his Kenyon career, his graduating class made up most of the pickup regulars.
“That wasn’t always the case, but it was when we became seniors,” he wrote in a Facebook message. “During my time at Kenyon, pickup games were incredibly popular. That translated into more 3v3 tournaments and the like.”
Newell has noticed certain preferences among students.
“Students want to drive it themselves,” he said. “They haven’t liked it when it’s been more structured.”
Jon Green ’14 believes that the tournament was at its finest when loosely structured. “My freshman year, you would sign up online in the first place, but they didn’t really care if people switched around teams,” Green said. “It was just slightly more regimented pickup.”
Sarah Miller ’15 is a member of one of the registered teams, “The Big Spoons.” She was disappointed to learn about this year’s low turnout.
“Where’s the love for basketball?” she wondered.
Miller is also a captain of the women’s ultimate frisbee team (known as “Ransom”).
“The ultimate team actually puts together some intramural teams to compete, so I think that club sport participation doesn’t necessarily have to be an inhibitor to intramural participation,” she said. “I think part of it is the lack of publicity. A lot of my friends that do like to play basketball didn’t even know that this was an option, and I think that’s just because the signs are at the KAC.”
Even so, it seems poor campus-wide publicity would not damage 3-on-3 sign ups if there was already sufficient interest. Newell said that, in past years, he was often approached by students seeking tournament information, but he has not received those requests this year.
Newell is extending the registration period, hoping more teams will eventually sign up. Additionally, Newell and Wallace sent a survey to the student body to gather data for future use.
However, all may not be lost for KAC basketball.
Assistant Professor of Sociology Celso Villegas, who has played pickup games at Kenyon for four years, said, “I don’t think I’ve noticed any decline, and in fact, there’s [often] a sense of frustration when there’s too many people.”
“It’s definitely growing,” said Evan More ‘15. “The beginning of the year, it was six kids at best on the court, and now we have 15, maybe 20.”
In the meantime, Miller hopes enough students sign up so her team will have a chance to play.
“The Big Spoons are totally ready to take any competition, male or female,” Miller said. “I would like to play intramural basketball for my last year here, and [would be] very sad if it doesn’t happen.”