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Intramural sports or intramurals are recreational sports organized within a set geographic area. The term derives from the Latin words intra muros meaning "within walls", and was used to indicate sports matches and contests that took place among teams from "within the walls" of an ancient city (as opposed to a varsity team which competed with teams from other cities and towns).
The Ohio State University and the University of Michigan created the first intramural sports departments in 1913. Elmer Mitchell, a graduate student at the time, was named the first Director of Intramural Sports at the University of Michigan in 1919 and the first recreational sports facility in the country opened at the University of Michigan. Mitchell is considered the "father of intramural sports" and taught a class in intramural sports taken by William Wasson, founder of the National Intramural Association (NIA), the forerunner to the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA).
Today, "intramural" tournaments are still organized within a specific community or municipal area, between teams of equivalent age or athletic ability. For example, intramural sports programs are often organized on college campuses to promote competition and fun among the students. "Extramural" or varsity games, are games played between teams from different geographic regions or towns.
For most schools and campuses, intramural sports are used to promote wellness and allow students who do not compete on a national (NCAA) level an opportunity to be active.
The National Intramural Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA), a professional organization based in Corvallis, Oregon, provides a network of more than 4,000 highly trained professionals, students and Associate Members in the recreational sports field throughout the United States, Canada and other countries. In most of the world outside North America, sports scholarships and college sports on the North American model do not exist so the distinction between college and intramural sports has no relevance and is not made.
The Canadian Intramural Recreation Association (CIRA) organized intramurals within Canada from 1976-2002. CIRA Ontario has been the major intramural organization in the Canadian province of Ontario since 1969. CIRA Ontario is an incorporated, non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage, promote, and develop active living, healthy lifestyles and personal growth through intramural and recreation programs within the education and recreation communities. They fulfill their mandate through resources, workshops, conferences, newsletters, awards, and other means.