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Published in CenterView on April 30, 2014
Thomas Hendrix, with ball and Pierce Morgan
Thomas Hendrix, with ball and Pierce Morgan

Students blow off steam, score points in athletic pursuits

By Gary Pettus

A red ball topped by a hollow, white circle sails through the chilly March air, resembling the detached head of an elderly, sunburned monk.

[“What just happened?”]

It’s a somewhat alien sight for the players assembled on a Flowood YMCA baseball field, many of whom haven’t experienced kickball since grade school, if ever.

[“How many innings do we play?”]

As the rays of the setting sun melt into the fielders’ eyes, planes growl overhead, their engines almost drowning out the shouts of bewilderment and glee.

[“Ashley’s on second!”]

Claire Stewart, Thomas Hendrix
Claire Stewart, Thomas Hendrix

This game between the Grad School Ball Busters and Club Foot, a group of first-year medical students, precedes a match featuring the Holistic Hellcats (occupational therapists) against second-year dental students calling themselves the Annexation of Puerto Rico (Google “The Little Giants”).

As you might expect, it doesn’t take these players long to learn the rules.

This is Intramural Sports, UMMC-style.

[“Can you slide?”]

Even their names reflect a competitive spirit, suggesting an attempt to outdo one another in the arena of drollness: Male Pattern Ballness, the Hemoglobin Trotters, White Coats Can’t Jump.

Yao Know What I Ming?

These are just a few of the student teams adorning UMMC’s Intramural sports program, which embraces the campus’ six schools: Dental, Graduate Studies, Health Related Professions (SHRP), Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy.

The ultimate goal is to net enough points to win what is referred to as “the coveted School Cup.”

But even more important (probably) is the student-players’ desire to buckle down at lightening up; because, for some people, pursuing a professional degree inside the pressure cooker of medical academia is not that relaxing.

“This is a way to blow off some steam and mingle with your classmates,” said Carson Kisner, who’s nearing the end of a one-year stint as the Associated Student Body’s director of Intramural Athletics.

Appointed by ASB President Brad Deere and Dr. Jerry Clark, chief student affairs officer, Kisner has escorted blowing off steam into the digital age, Clark said.

He was referring to Kisner’s work on the Intramural website, www.imleagues.com, which offers online registration, rosters, results and more.

“It’s a nifty product that has made being a coach and a participant much easier,” said Clark, who is also associate dean for student affairs in the School of Medicine.

How did Kisner, a fourth-year medical student, get stuck with such a demanding job on top of his studies?

“I kind of lobbied for it,” he said.

He wasn’t the only one.

“Health science students are wired that way,” Clark said. “They don’t sit around in the shadows. They are leaders by nature and are used to making their mark.”

Kisner did just that; beyond the website wizardry, he added indoor soccer, softball and kickball leagues to the robust menu he inherited: dodge ball, flag football for men and women, outdoor soccer, volleyball, softball, basketball for men and women, coed kickball and ultimate Frisbee.

He is himself a multi-sports-tasker, playing games in a variety of sports – which is fairly common among UMMC’s intramuralists.

Still, even allowing for some overlap, Kisner’s student-participation estimates are impressive: basketball, 135; kickball, 130; flag football, 130-150; indoor soccer, 120; volleyball, 50-75.

Nikki Dolan, Anna Colmer
Nikki Dolan, Anna Colmer

As Clark put it: Working together in gross anatomy is one way to build camaraderie; “volleyball is another.”

School Cup competition is beneficial not just for the students, but also for the school that wants to maintain accreditation, he said.

“We are asked to provide students with programs and activities that promote effective stress management and a balanced lifestyle.”

“Balanced” is right. The race for the Cup transcends athletics to cover a Halloween costume contest, a college football pick ’em challenge and more, including philanthropy.

A sampling of this school year’s charity events: Alzheimer’s Walk (School of Nursing), Diaper Drive to benefit Madison Countians Allied Against Poverty (School of Pharmacy), Toy Drive for Batson Children’s Hospital (SHRP); “Toss for a Cure” Prostate Cancer Awareness tournament (School of Medicine Class of 2016) and a Salvation Army fundraiser (School of Graduate Studies).

Front row, from left: Savannah Duckworth, Erin Taylor, back row, from left: Brad Deere, Peter Mittwede, and some members of the winning Feb. 10 Trivia Night contest team: Thomas Wood (holding the belt); Clark Walker and Eric Holland.
Front row, from left: Savannah Duckworth, Erin Taylor, back row, from left: Brad Deere, Peter Mittwede, and some members of the winning Feb. 10 Trivia Night contest team: Thomas Wood (holding the belt); Clark Walker and Eric Holland.

On Feb. 10, an array of 25 teams amassed on a Monday night of pizza and posers at Sal & Mookie’s for a Trivia Night contest that featured this question: What do Honolulu, Hawaii; Portland, Ore.; and Jackson, Miss. have in common?

“All are on a volcano or fault line,” said Erin Taylor, a graduate student and this year’s ASB philanthropy coordinator.

A six-man contingent of (mostly) M4s triumphed and was eventually awarded a wrestling championship-style belt shipped from Pakistan.

The contest also cinched $1,251.33 for the Jackson Free Clinic – thanks to $50 team entry fees and a curious bonus donation(s) of $1.33.

“That much money will run the clinic for two whole Saturdays, which is a huge deal,” said Savannah Duckworth, JFC’s clinical director and an M4.

When it comes to cerebral-type challenges, just about any Medical Center student could be a ringer. But at UMMC, there is also a generous serving of ex-jocks.

“A lot of people want to go back and relive their glory days,” said Kisner, who played soccer and football at Tupelo High School.

Ryan Russell, Alex Wills
Ryan Russell, Alex Wills

Others are curious about certain sports because they will prove to be a rich source of patients.

“While I don’t have hard data on this, the physical therapist (PT) team is typically a tough out,” Clark said.

Indeed: PTs won this year’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

“The dental school is a smaller school, but they can be tough,” Clark said. “I’d say there is a high level of competitiveness in all the schools.”

 Some of the players have been competing together for years and it shows, said soccer veteran Thomas Wood, an M4 and the School Cup Chair.

“Soccer has been dominated by med school teams, football by the PTs from SHRP,” Wood said. “But basketball is hit-or-miss.”

Basketball can be one of the more intensely played sports at UMMC, as a Feb. 13 game between some med students and their pharmacy school rivals revealed.

Aggressive picks, elegant three-pointers and court-pounding fast breaks filled the Student Union gym.

In the end, the med students, or Myoclonic Jerks (named for an involuntary muscle spasm, such as hiccups), prescribed themselves a 48-41 victory over P3.

By comparison, the participants in a couple of March 18 kickball games competed with less skill, but with just as much passion.

Line_break_art

The sinking sun was a red rubber ball that lit the face of Erin Taylor as she stood alone on the field catching her breath.

Club Foot had booted Taylor’s team, the Grad School Ball Busters, quite handily; but in intramural sports, victory and defeat are relative.

“I caught a ball and got on base – twice,” Taylor said.

“I’m happy.”

School Cup Points

The winner of School Cup, the school with the most points at the end of the academic year, is determined on a per capita basis. The victor in each event gets 100 points; afterward, points are distributed proportionally. The winner
is announced near the end of the school year.

  •  Intramural Sports - The titleholder in each intramural sport receives 25 points
    for the team’s school.

  •  Philanthropy - Each school may sponsor at least one philanthropy event each
    year that can be counted toward points for the School Cup.

  •  Party T-shirts - The school that buys the most party T-shirts per capita for
    each party will receive 25 School Cup points.

  •  ESPN College Football Pick ‘Em – The weekly winner of this contest receives
    five points for his or her school.  The overall victor receives 25 points.

  •  ESPN Bracket Challenge - The champion receives 25 points for his or her school.

  •  Halloween Costume Contest - The winner of the Halloween party costume
    contest wins 25 points for his or her school.

    Source: UMMC Associated Student Body