Capture the Flag, bubble soccer and water balloon fights are more than child’s play for members of the Recess League at the University of Guelph. For the graduate students, faculty and staff members who play in the league, the games are a way to break up the work day, blow off steam and make new friends.
According to Cassie Wever, a Recess League player who works in student life, the league got its start in 2016, when the athletics department noticed that participation in its programs wasn’t really extending to nine-to-five grad students and employees. The department created a lunchtime intramural league to fix the problem.
To keep things fun and open to most skill levels, the league cycles through activities you might see in a kids’ gym class or on the schoolyard at recess. Participants pay a fee of $10 per semester ($25 in the summer) to help cover the cost of student staff who set up equipment and supervise the games.
A year into it, turnout was inconsistent. Ms. Wever volunteered as social coordinator to help promote the league and to encourage player engagement even off the field or gym floor. In keeping with the Recess League spirit, she sends out silly email reminders every week that feature fake scores, funny videos and made-up histories for the games (in one message she explains how bubble soccer traces its roots to Greek mythology and folk tales). Both the emails and the games bring people together across the university, create a community among staff and graduate students, and provide a much-needed break from work. About 25 people are now registered in Recess League, with a dozen regulars coming out every week.
Ms. Wever notes that as a student affairs professional, much of her work involves teaching students how to be happier and more resilient, especially by way of community engagement and social connections. Recess League gives her the chance to practice what she preaches. “We can’t talk about these things with students … and not do this in our own lives,” she says.