By Crystal Kaczmarczyk  

THE BEAR – Kayla Robinson ’25 sits with her head in her hands on a leather chair in the Bear lobby. After twenty minutes into the first practice of intramural racquetball this semester, Robinson is ready to quit.  

  “I didn’t even know what racquetball was, but now I wish I hadn’t learned. My teammate nearly sent a ball off the wall into my eye, and as I was dodging that, she smacked my head with her racquet,” Robinson reports, sporting a black eye. In fact, at this season’s opening practice, four of the ten student athletes that showed up reported similar injuries, including bruises, scratches, and sprained ankles. With balls reaching high speeds even at the amateur level and racquets being hurled around with the force only a stressed-out STEM major could muster, danger is certainly present.  

  Grinnell’s athletic training office is fully aware of how pernicious the sport can be. Head Athletic Trainer Tarissa Cigges reports, “I always freaking dread the first day of racquetball practice. How the heck do they have more injuries in one day than basketball or even football?!” 

  Though it’s a risky sport to join, students find various reasons to sign up for this intramural sport every year. According to an anonymous survey completed by Grinnell Intramural Organization staff, these justifications include anything from “I need to spend more time working out and less time binge watching Euphoria” to “I know three people at this college, and two of them are the roommates I got stuck with in a forced triple… I need a reason to hang out with people outside of my dorm and people-watching at the HSSC.” 

  Apparently, the last sentiment is common. “Lots of first years join clubs thinking they might make friends. They come to intramurals, they sign up for racquetball thinking it makes them look quirky, and we, the tough upperclassmen, that is, put them in their place,” says Heather Schultz ‘22. This intramural team practices five days a week, including a strict competition schedule on the weekends and weekly hour-long strength-building meetings with upperclassmen veteran mentors.  

  For these reasons, only seven percent of Grinnellians who start a season of intramural racquetball see its completion. Fellow first year Grant Dove vows to be one of them. He says, “I know it’ll be tough. I’m ready to put in the work, whatever it takes: extra lifting in the gym, laps around the track for cardio, or, heck, even yoga to be flexible enough for those diving saves.”  

 To that, Schultz scoffs and says, “Like Grinnell’s marketing department says all the time, go forth, I guess. We’ve heard it before.”