When Marie Davis needs to take the edge off after a long day of classes, she slips on her swimsuit and wades through the campus crowd to the Belk Gym pool, where she plops into the center of an inner tube.
"You get to dunk people off their inner tubes," said Davis, who plays inner-tube water polo, an intramural sport offered at UNCC. "Some people can't stop laughing. Some do get mad."
Davis, 21, a senior majoring in middle-grades education at UNCC, is one of 5,000 students, faculty and staff who take part in at least one of the activities offered through the college's intramural sports program.
Besides playing flag football and soccer - in both of which her teams clinched last year's championships - Davis said inner tube water polo has become a fun and light-hearted way to relieve typical college-related tension.
Chad Indorf, coordinator for intramural sports at the university, said Davis' reason for playing intramurals is pretty common.
"Being a college student, their plates are so full all the time," said Indorf. "They're busy. They're stressed out. It's just something fun they can do."
Others, like Ben Whitley, 21, a criminal justice major, play to pick up where their high school sports careers left off.
"I still wanted to play sports," said Whitley, who played tennis and basketball during high school in Raleigh. "It is my way of continuing to play."
Over the years, UNCC has grown its intramural sports program. The program started with half a dozen traditional games, such as flag football, basketball and softball, and has added dodge ball, badminton and disc golf. In all, 26 intramural sports are available on campus.
Often students have a hand in which new activities are added.
"We send out surveys," said Indorf. "When we go through them, we see what people are interested in. If there's enough interest, we'll add sports if we're able to."
That's how unique activities such as Middle School Games came into play. Participants compete in rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors.
"There's actually a national tournament for rock-paper-scissors in Las Vegas," said Indorf. "We think maybe they got the idea from that."
The Middle School Games tournament also includes flicking a triangular football, folded from a sheet of notebook paper, down an eight-foot table. It's the only intramural activity held in a classroom.
Some of the sports often suggested on the surveys, such as lacrosse or tackle football, don't fit the intramural model, said Indorf, and most likely will never be played. "It's difficult. The equipment and the safety, the risk and liability prohibit us," he said.
After 4 p.m. on any given day, the playing fields at the Northeast Fields Recreational Complex begin to crowd with sports enthusiasts of all abilities.
"It's fun to watch the level of competition," said Lauren Teer, 20, a scorekeeper for many of the intramural sports. "Some don't take it too seriously, and others - like the fraternities - eat, breathe and sleep it."
Teer, a marketing major from Greensboro who admits to no athletic talent, signed up as a scorekeeper last October simply to socialize.
"For me, it's been a way to meet many people," she said, "especially because I live off campus."
Indorf said, "It's a good way for them to get outside their classroom and just have a little bit of fun."