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YSA sports night decreases pressure, increases fun factor

MURRAY, Utah — Young singles looking for competition arrived at the Murray Sports Mall en masse late Friday night for a large-scale, area-wide activity.Donning tennis shoes and focus, more than 900 singles arrived for the 10:45-1 a.m. activity to try their hands at a few tournaments and meet some people. Put on by the YSA division of the Utah Area Sports Committee, the activity was in its second year, and clearly a big a hit."We think sports is a wonderful way to develop friendship, camaraderie, and introduce people to the gospel," said Gary Larsen, who with his wife, Suzanne, oversees the council's organization of activities for YSAs. "It's a wonderful way for young single adults that are timid to meet each other."__IMAGE1__Any timidness a YSA might have been feeling went out the door the second they had a dodgeball in their hands. The same went for the three-on-three basketball tournaments, wallyball, and tennis. There was some trepidation observed in the line-dancing room, but that was usually solved within a matter of two-steps.Sose Matuauto from Taylorsville, Utah, said the activity drew out many people from her ward, as it's full of sports-lovers."We're really competitive," she said. The Friday night activity appealed to her more than a dance would, she said, and was a great way to meet people."I think sports is a good way. You interact more," she said. "it's more physical."Larsen said that was part of the activity's design, "to reach a certain group of people who love sports and love the church."__IMAGE2__It was clear that some young adults found it easier to get acquainted while wearing basketball shoes and tube socks than they would in a cultural hall with refreshments and slow songs."There's no pressure. It's relaxed," Larsen said. "It's a wonderful way to stay involved in the church."The racquetball rooms at the Sports Mall were used for five-on-five dodgeball. A small set of bleachers faced one side of the clear-walled rooms, putting those participating on display in front of their peers."You could feel people watching you," said Mahonri Saena, who played with a group of friends and relatives. His team had their backs to the audience, but could still feel them looking on."Guys have no mercy," observed Liz Saena, Mahonri's cousin, who found their brief game to be a bit more intense than she expected.Walter Zink said his philosophy was simple, "Dodge, dip, dive."Some of the team sports required that the teams consist of three men and two women, which left some groups of men desperately searching for girls to complete their teams. Some stopped women just passing through that area of the gym to plead for them to join their team, while others attempted to coerce women from other teams to join theirs.There were some swimming races organized, but eventually half of the pool turned into an echo-ridden game of Marco Polo. Tennis was well-attended, as was wallyball — the line for which never seemed to dissipate.Not everyone in attendance was athletic, and many found fun in the hallways and on the bleachers where they could visit with each other and observe their peers. But others got out of their comfort zones to participate, and there were even a few changes of heart over the course of the evening."I'm staying as far away from that dance floor as possible," said Spencer Glines at the beginning of the activity. Within the hour, though, he was in the mirrored room, line-dancing with the best of them.