Reduced anxiety and new friendships are some of the advantages to getting active
By AUDREY BOYCE — firstname.lastname@example.org
It is no secret that college provides a lot of new stressors for students. Living away from home for the first time, navigating new social situations and an uptick in academic responsibilities are all possible reasons why anxiety rates among college students are so high. At UC Davis, 40.7% of undergraduate students reported feelings of anxiety.
Although I am an advocate of seeking therapy or professional help if you are feeling high levels of anxiety, exercise can be one of the easiest ways to help improve mental health. It produces endorphins that assist our ability to sleep, helps to stabilize our mood, decreases tension and increases self-esteem.
I am part of the significant minority of students at UC Davis who experience anxiety, and for a large portion of my first year at college, I had no outlet to deal with it. That was until I got a text message from a friend asking my roommates and me to join his intramural soccer team. I reluctantly agreed, worried I would be judged since I had not played soccer in five years.
To my surprise, although the game was set up in a professional manner, with referees enforcing typical soccer rules, the environment felt relaxed, enjoyable and easy-going. Players could either take it seriously or just play for fun. The rec team provided me with an outlet for my anxiety every Sunday evening and even inspired me to begin exercising more regularly to stay in shape for games.
There are two ways to get involved in intramural sports at UC Davis. The first is to find a group of friends or peers who are interested and register as a team for a league of choice. However, if you do not know people who would be interested in joining an intramural team, there are teams called “free agent teams.” You can request to join these and meet a new group of people to play a sport with. Both ways require purchasing a “Rec Sports One Pass” for $20. For first years, residence halls provide promotional codes that make this pass free.
Intramural sports also provide opportunities for those who did not get the opportunity to play a sport growing up. While many high school teams require a certain level of skill, these teams simply require that you desire to play. From my experience playing soccer, while the league only coordinates games, many teams take advantage of Dairy Field to host practices, which allows less experienced players to improve their skills.
In addition to helping me deal with anxiety, the people I met on the soccer team became the friend group I have to this day. One of the biggest challenges I had with the large student population at UC Davis is that finding a group of friends felt impossible, especially amid COVID-19 restrictions that greatly impacted social interactions earlier on in my time at Davis.
From my experience, most people find their group of friends on their residence hall floor, so when that did not work out for me, I had no hope of a “college group of friends” until I joined my soccer team. Soccer games led to team dinners which led to almost-daily get-togethers, eventually creating a tight-knit friend group.
Any student who is physically capable should take this opportunity to relieve stress, find or improve on a sport of interest or create new connections. It really is a unique opportunity that may be more challenging to find later in life.
Written by: Audrey Boyce — email@example.com
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