During the 2012–13 school year, about 1,000 students participated in SPU’s intramural sports program, run by Adam Finch ’02 (center). See more pictures in this intramurals photo gallery.
Sometimes, he’s here early. Often, he’s here late.
But as Adam Finch descends to the ground floor of Royal Brougham Pavilion each day, he doesn’t really think of it as coming to work.
For him, it’s all about fun and games.
The 2002 SPU alum never donned a Falcons varsity uniform while majoring in psychology and minoring in youth ministry, but nevertheless has been making a second home in Brougham from his days as an undergrad.
He’s still there, now as the facility/equipment manager, and director of the ever-expanding intramural program.
“When I was a student, I always said to myself that my dream job would be Howie’s job," Finch said in reference to Howie Kellogg, who served in that position for 33 years before retiring last September. “I love intramurals, I love sports, and I love people. I love being creative, trying new things, experimenting, trying to pull stuff off.
“It’s hard work, and I give a lot of time to it, showing up on weekends to watch flag football games,” Finch added. “But for me, I just never wanted to be behind a desk.”
To do what Finch has been doing certainly has required lots of “behind-a-desk” time.
He changed registration and roster management processes. He made it easier for participants and the various teams to track their results. He added statistics and records.
But as the 33-year-old tells it, every move, change, and tweak has been all about the students who come over from the dorms, apartments, or even commute to campus.
“One of the things I love about intramurals is it’s all about being part of a bigger community,” Finch said. “They have, say, a small community of 30 on their floor. They participate in basketball, that’s (a larger community of) 300 people. And they’ll see those people in other places. It helps connect people, and create other friendships and connections on campus.”
Carrying their freshly minted degrees, many college grads sometimes bounce around a bit, from job to job, place to place – or both.
Count Finch among them. Upon graduating, he became a program director at the Ballard Boys & Girls Club. He thought about teaching, and worked as an instructional aide in a special education classroom for three years. He helped a friend start a tech-related business, and then was an interim program director for a year at two Crista Ministries camps.
After a year and a half of living in South Korea with his brother, Finch returned to Seattle and SPU, inquiring about that “dream job.”
“I had heard through the grapevine that Howie might be retiring," Finch said. “When he did, they needed someone to fill the position for six months.”
Finch jumped at the opportunity, fully aware it might be just a temporary gig.
But it wasn’t long – just long enough to get through the fall quarter, when basketball was the only program on the intramural docket – before he started making it something more.
“I just did the one sport and tried to do it really well,” Finch said. “I met with quite a few students who had worked with Howie and had been involved with staffing different leagues. I chatted with them about what they expected, what happened last year, and wanted to make some decisions about what would happen this year.
“By the time winter came around, I felt confident about what we had been doing and started thinking of some new ways.”
Finch met with his intramural counterparts at the University of Washington, and they sang the praises of a registration system that he already had been researching. Convinced it was the way to go, he made the switch.
The bigger challenge was convincing SPU’s students that this system, controlled more by them than by Finch, was better.
“It was difficult to get everyone to buy into it because it was something students had to do that they weren’t used to doing," he said. "The thing I had going for me was they had to do it if they wanted to participate. And they did it.”
Now, students can manage their own rosters, add or delete players as the season progresses, and more easily access their schedules and the standings.
But they don’t have to stop at the standings.
“We tracked points, touchdowns, and sacks (in flag football). We have league leaders, and from that, we also have records," Finch said. “I have a board in the hall that has who led our league in touchdowns. Since we don’t know how many touchdowns (were scored in previous years), that’s a new record. Starting this fall, we have all these new records that students can try to beat.
“That’s kind of fun and will add an element of something cool that we can celebrate as a group.”
Finch added kickball, which was immediately successful, and put on a highly popular dodgeball tournament, the latter with a boost from SPU’s Student Union Board. The flag football final became a day-long gathering, with a tailgate party, pancake breakfast, barbecue, and then-new school president Dan Martin conducting the pre-game coin toss.
“It was a perfect day,” Finch said, breaking into a broad smile. “At one point, I counted almost 100 people watching from the sideline.”
He also partnered with an outside organization to work with student officials. Not only did they get training, but a few who excelled found themselves with officiating job opportunities outside of SPU.
“I’ve been working hard on trying to develop partnerships,” Finch said.
Almost a year into a job that became his on a permanent basis this past spring, Finch hears a buzz around the intramural program.
His priority heading into Year 2?
Turn up the volume on that buzz.
That means reaching out to commuter students. Reaching out to alumni. And trying to encourage undergrads, many of whom drop away after their freshman or sophomore years, to stick with the program.
“When you talk to students, they’ll say it was a lot of fun this year, and they’re glad we made the changes we made,” he said. “There was new energy around it, and people were amped up for it. Our numbers were really good, and it definitely grew – we had about 1,000 participate from September to May.”
For some sports where there aren’t enough participants or teams to sustain a league, Finch will offer a weekend tournament, thus providing a chance to play without having to commit to a whole season.
Dorm games, such as chess and Ping-Pong, will be back, and Finch will continue to experiment with other ideas.
As with sports programs at every level everywhere, the financial aspect is a challenge.
“We have to increase revenue,” Finch said. “Students want more programs and better equipment. But we don’t have the funding for the stuff that we’re already doing.”
It might not be the most enjoyable aspect of his “dream job.” But clearly, the other aspects more than make up for that.
“I’ve made it a point to know people’s names and create relationships with students,” Finch said. “I try to go up to Gwinn and have lunch with students. One thing about intramurals is they love it. If they’re on an intramural team playing volleyball, that’s a highlight of their quarter. It’s fun, and I get the privilege of being a part of it.
“One of my goals is to bring joy to people’s lives,” he added.
“This job is joyful.”