The Rise of Recreational Sports


By Galvin Zaldivar

ampus recreation can take many forms, from mainstream sports to fitness programs. From extramural hockey to Harry Potter yoga. From indoor soccer to lightsaber training, and indoor cricket to ninja training. 

It may not have the glitz and glam of varsity play, but for some, recreational sports are more about the fun of the game.

At the beginning of the spring 2019 season, the Ontario Collegiate Recreation (OCR) restructred their events and competitions into the new RECSport model, made up of four pillars: RECFest, RECPlay, RECSeries, RECCup.

These range from intermural activities (fitness programs, etc.) to intercollegiate RECSeries events.

Matthew Schnarr, Vice President of Recreation at Mohawk College, and Chair of the OCR committee, says the reasoning behind the rebranding and restructuring of OCR was to open up recreational sports beyond a focus on extramural, and be more creative with the kinds of programs offered by the OCR.

“I think we’re looking more towards activities now and what isn’t your regular basketball, volleyball, soccer,” he says. 

Schnarr says that recreation also offers opportunities outside mainstream sports.

“Esports is a big one that’s coming through the pipeline right now and I just met with students at Mohawk about how we could entertain and capture these, those students that like the eSport venues and I think that’s a big one coming through the pipeline,” he says.

RECFest events are held on an annual and semi-annual basis. This pillar consists of three or four sports/activities that are open regionally, and allow teams to represent campuses, as well as their respective institutions. 

“Mohawk college and some other schools have worked on collaborating with the Special Olympics and running a unified basketball program,” he says. “[This] is for students with and without intellectual disabilities and we compete in our unified championship against other universities in May.”

These are just an example of some of the events that fall under the OCR’s definition of RECFest and RECPlay events.

“We’re trying to branch out and try new activities or new programs that maybe will capture a different studnet body or different demographic,” Schnarr says.


The next pillar is RECPlay, which are composed of intercollegiate, intercampus events, exhibition games and unified sports leagues. RECPlay events also occur at most twice a year to meet the criteria of the OCR. 

RECSeries is currently the highest active pillar of the OCR’s RECSport model. With three or more scheduled events of intercollegiate and/or intercampus tournaments, RECSeries cover most extramural sports and tournaments.

The final pillar, known as RECCup, has not been adopted by the OCR at this time, and will reevaluated at a later time. RECCup events, which was described by the OCR as a “formal structure of competitive, recreational inter-collegiate play,” were not adopted at this time, to strike the right balance between a competitive and recreational level of play.

Schnarr says, “we’re trying to move to our competitive model…while understanding that it’s still a recreational event.”

He says that the OCR hopes to refine and launch RECCup sports and activities for the Fall 2020 season. 

Abir Singh, an Art Fundamentals student at Sheridan, says he did not even know about the Co’ed Indoor Soccer team until a couple of days before joining the team.

“My friend said if  I wanted to come, and I came and showed my skill and they liked it, and they called me to the team,” he says about how he joined the team.

Despite playing only a couple of games as part of the Co’ed Indoor soccer team at Sheridan’s Trafalgar campus, Singh says he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“I did pretty good considering that I didn’t even know anyone in the team,” he says. “I just joined, like I found out about this tournament yesterday. Yeah, so I just came, and I played, and scored a few goals helped out the team.”

Schnarr says that recreational sports contribute to the social wellness of an institution.

“Participating with other colleges and giving you some community around the college you go to and get you affiliated with…your brand at a college whether it be a Humber Hawk or a Redeemer Royal,” Schnarr says.

“Recreations is all about the masses, right,” he says. “So, we’re just trying to create as much as we can and create experiences that students, you know walk away with feeling, ‘Yeah. I was a part of that.’”

Charmaine Druken defending. Photo by Galvin Zaldivar.

Singh says that playing recreational sports has allowed him to make new friends and meet new people, Singh encourages other students to do the same.

“I think it’s definitely important, you know, it helps students get along together and make new connections they wouldn’t usually make in the school,” he says.

The Recreation Coordinator at Fanshawe College Jackie Corby says she encourages all students to get involved in their school’s recreational programming.

“I think all students should participate in any kind of extracurricular activity college, with regards to recreation,” she says. “It’s nice for them to get out of their heads and kind of just get back into their bodies and move around.”

Corby also says that recreational sports are an important way for students to become involved in their campus communities.

“We all know it’s good for mental and physical health and it’s a great way to meet people and do something that you’re passionate about with your friends or classmates,” she says.

Because campus recreation is less restrictive on its requirements than varsity athletics, colleges can offer a wider range of activities for students to participate in, barring any necessary expenses or fees.

Fanshawe College allows students to take part in activities like table tennis, ball hockey, and flag football. 

Corby says Fanshawe tries to be as flexible as possible to give students as much of a chance to participate as they wish.

“We organize it around the classes so there’s never any conflicts,” she says.

Because the point of campus recreation is to bring students into contact with their campus communities Schnarr says recreation isn’t just confined to sports and athletics.

“Let me give an example, Centennial College hosted a RECFest with three or four other colleges where they played rock paper scissors games,” he says. 

“It was just a chance for students to be social get active and get out and then enjoy the camaraderie of institutions.”

Schnarr says that recreation also offers opportunities outside mainstream sports.

Even if there isn’t anything available that piques a student’s interest, he says that isn’t a reason not to try and start it themselves.

“My suggestion would be to any student has to approach your athletics,  recreation and wellness departments [and say] ‘Hey, I don’t see this offering is this something that we can do?’ And start that conversation,” Schnarr says.