The Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) divides sports into varsity and extramural depending on the level of competition. This division creates an inequality between different sports in the Ontario college athletics system and makes some sports seem more important than others, thus creating a bias.
This leads to certain sports being more popular than others among the viewers which forms a hierarchy within the system. The importance of these sports over others cannot be decided upon the number of spectators it receives. In my view, each sport has its own place in the college system and none is less important than the other.
Varsity sports are considered to be the top-tier which are the most competitive. The extramural sports are considered a less competitive lower tier. And lastly the intramurals which are held within the colleges for recreational purposes.
I don’t see a purpose in dividing varsity and extramurals. Everyone who competes in these two levels represent their college against other colleges with an equal sense of pride. But this is dented when extramural athletes see varsity sports and players receive more attention.
I see no distinction in the level of competition during varsity and extramural games. When it comes to playing for your college team, each member is focusing on winning. Representing the college at any event comes with an equal level of intensity and competition.
This league division not only creates a differential status between the sports but also a feeling of inferiority within the extramural players who train at a similar level to win tournaments for their respective colleges.
The OCAA’s varsity sports bring along additional differences in the treatment of these players as well. At the end of each year, Humber College hosts an annual athletics banquet to recognize the better players and distribute awards. This banquet acts as a meeting point where the athletes from different sports come together for a gala evening.
But there are different banquets hosted for the extramural and varsity sports. Even at the end of the season, these athletes do not get to stand on an equal podium.
This leads to various questions in every extramural player’s mind, including whether an extramural athlete is a lesser one, or if a varsity player represents a college differently way than an extramural player or why is a particular sport not considered varsity.
I also go out there to compete and win for my college. How is my level of competitiveness any less than volleyball, baseball, basketball, curling, soccer or any of the other varsity sports?
Dodgeball, cricket, hockey and ultimate frisbee are also equally competitive if not more. Basketball is in both leagues, which is curious. Do the players who do not make it to the varsity team get a chance to play with the extramural team?
Varsity players are excused from tests in case of a game, while extramural players need permission to be exempted from tests in the case of a tournament. They also receive different kits from the Athletics Department for themselves along with other additional accessories.
Varsity sports also have a hall of fame, mentorship programs, therapy services as well as exclusive dressing rooms.
Being an OCAA league player comes with a privileged status while an extramural player stays in the shadows. The hall of fame wall with the pictures of all varsity athletes always creates a sense of self-doubt but it comes with belief that one day, extramural players will be up there in their respective sports cabinets as well.