Paly’s athletic teams have long been powerhouses in their leagues. However, the commitment required to reach this level of excellence is often more than many students can afford.
For those who want the exercise, team camaraderie and experience of playing the sport they love without the pressure and time commitment of an official school team, intramural sports have offered a convenient and enjoyable solution throughout Paly’s history.
While intramural sports have varied throughout the years, they have included rugby, basketball, softball, ping pong, soccer and many more. Many of the original intramural sports still exist to this day, yet some, like rugby, have stopped.
Intramural sports were first mentioned in The Campanile in a 1929 article, “Cougars Top Standings in Class A Cage Loop,” where it is revealed that the Class A team from Paly topped the basketball intramural leaderboard.
While this seems like a relatively insignificant event, it is only the beginning of a long recorded history of Paly’s long intramural sports.
Intramural sports seem to have gained real traction by 1932 because that year Paly hired Phil Sheridan as a full time employee to manage all intramural sports.
Although The Campanile doesn’t explain why this was necessary, it becomes clear that intramural sports clearly played a more important role in school athletics than they do today, perhaps because of a lack of competitive sports opportunities with other local high schools.
In 1939, the first intramural soccer league was organized at Paly. Coach Heldon Haper, a star at the San Jose soccer league at the time, took on the task in order to assist with coaching and games.
While soccer is embedded in American society these days, in the middle to early 20th century, it was considered a purely European sport, and sports like baseball and basketball were much more “American.”
By adopting soccer into Paly culture, Paly demonstrated its progressive attitude and willingness to accept new ideas, as professional soccer did not gain widespread popularity in the U.S. until the late 1960s.
The Campanile did not only report on solely Paly intramural sports; the lack of other publications earlier in the century also allowed them to report on all intramural sports occurring in the District. In the first of many columns titled “Jordan Jots,” which was a column, The Campanile reported on David Starr Jordan Middle School’s intramural baseball and basketball teams.
The reporting of District-wide intramural sports demonstrates the prevalence of the sports in the Palo Alto community. It also shows the difference between varsity and intramural sports.
It is clear that even in those days, intramural sports represented freedom for students and Palo Alto residents to participate in sports for fun and to build community ties. This was reflected in the 1939 Paly rule that banned people playing school sports from participating in intramural. While some disagreed at the time by saying that intramural sports were for all, one interpretation is that this blocked better players from dominating intramural leagues and let all people participate in the sports they wanted, whether varsity or intramural.
Intramural sports also allow students of different genders to participate in sports not officially offered by Paly to their gender.
One example is Powder Puff, an all-girls football tournament. However, it was banned in the 2014-15 school under grounds that it was sexist.
Paly’s Associated Student Body (ASB) claimed it was sexist because it excluded male players and assumed that females did not know how to play football.
On top of that, the male football players coached the female teams, which many thought emphasized male dominance.
Another article titled “Inter-Class Seniors Sweep School Football” described the status of intramural football during December 1942. While this article displays the seniors’ victories in intramural football, it also holds a deeper meaning — it proved how intramural sports were able to keep strong community together even during the middle of World War II.
Soon after this, all coverage of intramural sports disappeared in the 1960s and ‘70s. This may have been due to the increase in the number of schools in the Bay Area which offered more varsity and junior varsity opponents and ultimately left intramural sports in the metaphorical dust.
While intramural sports still exist, they were at their peak in the first half of the 1900s.
Regardless of this, The Campanile’s coverage reflects the unifying power of intramural sports in a community. Even today, students maintain the friendly yet competitive camaraderie that characterizes intramural sports.
“I made lifelong connections from simply participating in Paly sports.”
ASB holds tournaments year round with sports including capture the flag, ping pong and basketball. Senior Jeremy Dou feels that intramural sports helps him build relationships with friends.
“It’s a great opportunity to form a stronger bond with friends that we can get to play together as a team,” Dou said. “It’s also a great opportunity for us to get a sense of competing against our friends on campus, which will be happen to us a lot at college.”
Many Paly students build lifelong relationships from the sports they play in high school.
“Most of my friends I met through playing basketball,” said junior Athena DeMarzo. “I made lifelong connections from simply participating in Paly sports.”
Intramural sports, whether in 1930 or 2018, offer the optimal playing experience for those who want to remove themselves from the victory-driven environment and instead focus on the sports they love and the relationships that will last them a lifetime.