The health benefits of participating in intramural sports (or any other form of physical exercise) are obvious. As Oxford College's director of recreational programs for the past three years, Seth Bussey knows that participating in such programs offers countless other benefits that cannot be obtained inside the classroom.
"The intramural program is a competitive outlet for stress," Bussey said. "College can be a very stressful time, with deadlines for papers and tests. With intramurals and other recreation programs, they can get away for an hour, forget about what is stressful in their lives and just focus on a game. Secondly, just being out with other people and working together as a team is good for building friendships. In business or anything else, you're going to work with other people, and learning how to relate to people in different settings can enhance a person's overall college experience."
A recreation science graduate of Berry College in Rome, Ga., Bussey started out as a voice major, but eventually switched majors after realizing how important recreation was to him. " I spent my four years of college on the intramural fields, so I guess I was destined a little bit to do this," said Bussey, Oxford's first full-time recreation director. "I started out as a participant because that's what I did in high school. I was an athlete and I wanted to continue that."
Bussey's involvement with intramurals and recreation was taken to the next level when, as a junior, he assisted the athletic director in planning and implementing recreational programs. After he graduated in 1991, Bussey joined the Berry staff as assistant director of recreational programs while he pursued a master's degree at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Ala., which is about a one-hour commute from Berry. He then went to Armstrong State College in Savannah for a one-year position as physical education instructor and assistant intramural director before coming to Oxford in the fall of 1993.
Intramural sports are the most prominent component of Bussey's recreation program. Sports offered under the intramural program include flag football, basketball, softball, soccer, tennis and volleyball. "You could say that what we have is a classic intramural program, taking place within the walls of the school," Bussey said. "Students form the teams from residence halls, groups of friends and clubs. They'll just get a group together and sign up as a team. Even if a person signs up an individual, I will put them on a team so they can participate."
Bussey estimates that 80 percent to 85 percent of Oxford's 600 students participated in intramurals last year. This fall he expects to have 10-12 flag football teams (eight male, four female) with eight to 10 people per team, 25-30 mixed doubles tennis teams, and six to eight soccer teams.
In addition to intramurals, the recreation program also includes extramural sports clubs with competitions mostly in flag football, basketball and rugby. Bussey pointed to the rugby team as an example of a student-initiated effort. "Two years ago a couple of guys came to me and said they wanted to start a rugby team," Bussey said. "At first I thought they were crazy, wanting to play football without hats, or something like that. But they stuck with it, and now we're starting our third year of the rugby program, and it's pretty solid. They play Emory, Georgia College, Furman, Tulane and Auburn. They may not have had that much success in terms of wins and losses, but they're having a lot of success in getting to know 12-15 guys each time that they didn't know before, and they're having a good time doing it."
For flag football, Oxford fields an all-star team that plays other schools such as Emory and Truett-McConnell College. In basketball, Oxford hosts an invitational basketball tournament each February during a campus visitation weekend. The Oxford intramural basketball team is joined by intramural teams from other schools for the tournament.
The recreation program also includes day trips to events such as Braves and Falcons games. Bussey said he is planning a trip to the inaugural game of the Atlanta Glory, the new professional women's basketball team.
Off the Oxford campus, Bussey has been recognized by his peers with his election last spring to a two-year term as Georgia state director for the National Intramural and Recreation Sports Association (NIRSA). In this position, Bussey is responsible for keeping NIRSA's Georgia members informed about the activities of the national organization and for recruiting new members. He also is in charge of producing four newsletters each year for NIRSA members in Georgia.
"We have 26 or 27 institutional members in Georgia including Emory and Oxford," Bussey said. "We also have 40 to 50 professional members who are intramural directors, recreation directors and facility coordinators, as well as 20 or so student members."
Bussey will be in charge of running the next two state NIRSA meetings and for overseeing the selection of sites that will host state tournaments in flag football, basketball and softball.
Back on the Oxford campus, Bussey's success in improving the recreation program has not gone unnoticed. "We dreamed of the day when we could have a non-teaching position, someone who devoted all their time and effort to intramurals and recreational activities," said Dick Shappell, chair of Oxford's Division of Physical Education and Dance. "We did away with our former intercollegiate sports program for economic reasons and to create a position that would seriously upgrade intramurals and recreation. That's where we are now, and we have much more participation, a greater variety of programs and opportunities, etc. This is something that was needed for a long, long time, and Seth is doing a hell of a job for us."