SportsFest builds community and brings residential college spirit

The Commuter team shows off their team spirit at Sportsfest 2022. Photo credit: Gabriella Torna

From tug-of-war, a classic field day event, to digital games such as Mario Kart and Just Dance, SportsFest offers students the opportunity to compete with different residential areas and cheer on those representing them. Tonight, several teams will challenge Lakeside Village’s (LSV) SportsFest title. The three day competition marks the 37th annual SportsFest.

Every year since 1986, excluding 2021, the Department of Housing & Residential Life (HRL), Division of Student Affairs and the Department of Wellness & Recreation have joined together to host SportsFest, an event consisting of a variety of sports competitions that University of Miami students compete in.

As the winners of the 2022 Homecoming Alma Mater Competition, the Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos will sing the national anthem at the SportsFest Opening Ceremonies.

After the Torch Run, where each team runs around Lake Osceola with a torch, and Opening Ceremonies, where teams are formally introduced, both on Feb. 16, each residential college (Eaton, LSV, Mahoney, Pearson, Stanford and University Village), as well as the Commuter team, will compete in a series of events on Feb. 17 and 18. At the conclusion of the competitions, the winning team will be announced on the night of Feb. 18.

Each year, the SportsFest Committee, which includes two to three representatives from each competing team, three HRL Area Director (AD) representatives, and one Herbert Wellness Center representative, is responsible for organizing SportsFest. The committee starts meeting every year around September to start planning.

“There’s about eight to 10 meetings, depending on the year and how the dates line up. At the first meeting, we go over general rules and let the committee members know the history of SportsFest, and then we start going into planning the actual events,” said Zac Bemmel, who represents the Herbert Wellness Center on the committee as a part of being the assistant director of recreational sports.

The committee works together to decide which games should be played and what the prizes for the winning teams should be. Prizes are given out to the top three individual teams as well as the teams with the best spirit and sportsmanship. Bemmel notes that the Commuters, the winner of last year’s Spirit Award, typically have many enthusiastic spectators.

“They dress up, they have chants and come in the team colors,” Bemmel said.

Although HRL ADs and Bemmel are on the committee, most of the decision-making power is given to the student representatives.

“As the professional staff, we try to stay hands off. If there’s a tied vote, we’ll come in as tiebreakers, but we’re not like, ‘this is how it’s going to be’. I give my two cents, HRL gives their two cents, but it’s the students that make the decisions at the end of the day,” Bemmel said.

In addition to the SportsFest Committee, Resident Assistants (RAs) are also involved in organizing SportsFest.

“We are responsible for registering teams, creating invitations, and organizing residents into the sports they want to play. We also attend meetings to ensure that all of the rules and regulations of SportsFest are fulfilled,” said Mahoney RA and senior architecture major Dario Gonzalez.

According to Bemmel, SportsFest has roughly 1,500 to 2,000 participants each year and is typically a freshman-heavy event, with Stanford having the most teams registered this year. There are also slightly fewer participants this year due to the demolition of Hecht last spring.

The primary goal of SportsFest is to give students the opportunity to participate in recreational sports and to help build community at UM.

“A lot of students make teams based off of their floor, and the committee helps empower students to make decisions that impact the entire event,” Bemmel said.

Gonzalez encourages UM students to consider participating in SportsFest while they have the chance to.

“It’s a memorable experience that I think all students should experience at least once during their time at UM,” Gonzalez said.