Each semester at McGill, thousands of students and alumni participate in various intramural sports that provide participants with opportunities for competition, fun, and camaraderie. With countless sports to choose from and different leagues for varying skill levels, intramural athletics are an invaluable experience for so many here in the McGill community and in Montreal. Unfortunately, for some participants, the process of joining, paying for, or checking information regarding intramurals is unnecessarily difficult.
IMLeagues is currently the central platform coordinating McGill intramurals. Many athletic departments across North America use the website and app to schedule games and record scores, statistics, and rosters in an organized manner. However, in the time that McGill has used IMLeagues, students have found that the website makes intramurals at McGill more confusing and frustrating than they need to be, creating a barrier to entry.
In interviews with The McGill Tribune, members of different intramural teams discussed the benefits of getting back into intramurals this semester, especially after the cancellation of all sports on campus for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Graydon Davidson, U2 Arts, who led the Open Division 7v7 soccer team this past fall, couldn’t have had a better time returning to sports on campus.
“It was an awesome experience for our group of friends as the league was competitive, though not too serious. Last year I think was difficult for a lot of people, and no activities or sports on campus certainly contributed to that,” said Davidson. “Intramurals at McGill are an important aspect of campus life and my teammates and I were ecstatic to return to play in September.”
Davidson also detailed the technical difficulties associated with IMLeagues, explaining how many elements of the server have presented challenges to his team this semester.
“Using the IMLeagues website was difficult for a variety of reasons,” Davidson said. “Just to load and log in on the website takes a long time, and honestly, it slows down my entire computer. Finding the different leagues and sports is easy, but clicking through the rosters, statistics or scores takes much longer than needed.”
Davidson noted that the overwhelming number of advertisements was the biggest problem on the website.
“The amount of ads and pop-up videos on the website is painful,” Davidson said. “Every page has multiple and I am sure it heavily contributes to the long load times and the slow server that frustrates [me] and my teammates.”
Ben Archacki, U2 Arts and captain of the newly formed spikeball league, echoed similar sentiments and voiced additional frustration regarding the speed and quality of the IMLeagues app.
“The advertisements on the IMleagues desktop website make simple tasks to manage an intramural team extremely difficult,” Archacki said. “In fact, this year I just started using the mobile app that is offered by the service due to my personal frustration with the website. Honestly, though, the app still takes lots of time to load, and due to the ads, the app crashes and has completely stopped my phone once or twice.”
In addition to the crashing issues, the mobile app also frustrates users who want to add players or make team changes on the go, impeding the ability to make last-minute modifications that often arise given students’ busy schedules.
“I am not sure if this is just my problem, but I cannot use the app on mobile data. Meaning if I am not [connected to] wifi, I cannot manage anything regarding our team,” Archacki said. “This issue arose when I needed to add players to our roster or check the times of our game. The unfortunate reality is the app is just the lesser of two evils.”
McGill announced that it would start using the service in Fall 2019, citing its reputation and popularity among other schools. Ryne Bondy, Assistant Manager of Intramural Sports at McGill Athletics and former quarterback on McGill’s football team in the 2010s, was part of the team who initially selected IMLeagues.
“One of the most appealing aspects of the service is their scheduling abilities,” said Bondy in an interview with the Tribune. “At the click of a button, an entire league schedule can be created, including the requests and preferences of all teams.”
In Bondy’s view, IMLeagues’s efficiency and convenience in conducting intramurals for thousands of students were among some of the positives of the service.
“For participants, the offer of a mobile app for IMLeagues is an upgrade to the old system, as only a web version existed previously,” Bondy said. “In addition, the communication system on the service allows participants and league administrators to email captains or team members of any league or sport through the message centre, centralizing all possible questions, updates and reminders.”
In response to the issues raised by various captains and participants this past semester, Bondy notes that IMLeagues has improved in other, sometimes overlooked, aspects of intramurals.
“With the use of IMLeagues, McGill recreation has been able to reinvest funds into a new staffing model, allowing for more on-site supervision during night games and increased hours of training for officials,” Bondy said. “As well, there is no longer a rescheduling fee for players and teams who need to move games, as the service provides easy accommodations.”
When it comes to addressing the biggest criticism—the advertisements—Bondy stated that McGill recreation is actively moving toward the removal of the promotions and pop-ups. If successful, this will be a significant step in improving the service for thousands of students and alumni.
“IMLeagues requires at least two years of user data to determine the charge of removing advertisements,” Bondy said. “Thankfully, we have just crossed the two-year mark this past fall, and are actively looking at reducing, if not eliminating all ads by the beginning of the fall in 2022.”
Despite the aforementioned shortcomings of IMLeagues and the frustration felt by McGill students this semester, many have thoroughly enjoyed competing in various intramural sports this semester. The improvements being made to this program are promising and hopefully, a more accessible intramural experience is on the horizon. Currently, however, the barriers to entry have negatively influenced the overall outlook on intercollegiate competition at McGill, and put a damper on the positive feelings intramurals are supposed to invoke.