Kaitlyn D’Lima, a fourth-year student studying business management at UTM, first started playing soccer for the tri-campus competitive team in her second year.

D’Lima waited until her second year at UTM to join the soccer team after she discovered that varsity would take up a lot of her time and energy. “I didn’t want to commit to something that I wasn’t able to follow through with 100 percent,” she stated in an interview with The Medium.

“Another thing is that I am prone to injury,” she added. “I’m not as strong as the other girls on the team, so I’m not able to keep up with that level of competitiveness.”

However, these initial roadblocks were just the beginning of the challenges associated with playing for a varsity team. D’Lima explained that since varsity is so competitive, it takes more than just showing up to each practice. “It’s actually a career. You have to make sure, when you’re on varsity, that you’re eating well and you’re training more. You can’t just rely on the practices; you have to train on your own if you want to be a good player.”

She contrasted the difficulties of varsity with the more laid-back and interactive aspect of intramurals. It’s here where she gets to play with her friends and brother on the same team and at their own pace. “We play really well off of each other […] it’s not something that was really there with varsity, because I never got the chance to get to know those girls on that level,” she said.

For her, playing intramurals gave her opportunities to expand her network and create connections with people on campus. “I meet a lot of friends through joining it. It was because of that that I enjoyed my first year,” she said.

Despite the past joys of first year, she recalls her “daunting” perception of university life going into her first year at UTM. Being on a non-competitive team proved to ease the transition. D’Lima described how, from playing games, she was able to interact with upper-year students who gave her advice and were always encouraging her.

This introduction to support from upper-year students is just one of the reasons why D’Lima favours intramurals over varsity. Another reason is that the audience turnout for intramurals is higher, which serves as a morale booster for players. “Not many people come out to [the games],” she said. “I remember playing tri-camp[us] games, and nobody really came out to my games, so it would be really hard to be noticed.”

D’Lima admits that soccer has always been her forte. The sport proved to be a source of confidence, especially when people would notice and compliment her skills on the field. Though most of her focus is on soccer, she has also ventured towards playing on a basketball intramural team. “It didn’t really work out too well,” she said of her experience last year. “We just did it for fun and we got wrecked the first game.” She also played volleyball where her team made it to the finals.

One of the things that helped her improve her performance and skills was to take criticism constructively and effectively. “Sometimes the boys would be yelling at me, but I would never get hurt because I know that they just expected more out of me, and that’s what also pushed me.”

When asked about where she hopes to take her athletic legacy, she said she’d like to push her stamina and improve endurance, so that she can play with the boys on her team and feel like she brings equal effort, strength, and drive to the field.