Rec Day History

Every February 22, NIRSA members across the country celebrate National Recreational Sports & Fitness Day! Rec Day is a commemoration of the day founder Dr. William Wasson brought 20 intramural directors from 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities together to share his research on collegiate recreation. This historic day led to the start of an association that over 5000 individuals, institutions, and companies are invested in today!

William Wasson discovered the value of intramurals studying Physical Education under Elmer Mitchell at the University of Michigan in 1946. He went on to develop his own intramural program at Dillard University, and in 1948 commenced a study, with funding from the Carnegie Foundation, titled “A Comparative Study of Intramural Programs in Negro Colleges.”

The results of his study were shared with the institutions that participated in his research. The discussion culminated in an Intramural Summit at Dillard on February 22, 1950, where the 20 intramural directors gathered there, representing 11 Historically Black Colleges & Universities, formed the National Intramural Association. The NIA was the first organization of its kind, bringing intramural program leaders to share skills and wisdom to advance the good work of their profession.

The face of the Association changed a great deal in the next few decades, adapting its purposes and membership to changes in the profession and national culture. The first step was for the NIA to move on from its roots in Historically Black institutions to encompass the whole intramural community. Women were excluded from membership from 1959 to 1971. Other changes in leadership and affiliations saw the National Intramural Association change its name to the National Intramural and Recreation Association and back again in the late fifties, and finally to the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association in 1975. However, the mission has remained consistent: to support recreational sports professionals in creating communities of well-being on campuses everywhere.

Collegiate recreation has flourished from a hodgepodge of opportunities that originally catered to the needs of a minority of students to comprise a well-integrated, inclusive range of offerings that inspire millions of students every year. NIRSA Members can be found on more than 700 campuses. The Annual Conference, commemorating the first Intramural Summit in 1946, is now a gathering of more than 2,000 inspired professionals. The organization has grown a great deal from those original 20 participating program leaders, with a busy staff and thousands of active members sharing time and skills to continue in the aim that moved Dr. William Wasson: to share the benefits of intramurals with millions of students.

NIRSA members use Rec Day to not only celebrate NIRSA and Dr. Wasson, but habits of health and wellbeing. NIRSA institutions and members promote fun activities like Zumba dance parties and fitness challenges that get people up and moving.

Throughout the month of February, NIRSA will be posting photos of members participating in recreational sports and healthy activities on the @nirsalive Instagram account as a way to celebrate both Rec Day 2019 and the many members who make NIRSA and the entire collegiate recreation field so incredibly wonderful.