Beating the bureaucracy has taken on new meaning since Sandy officials have taken to the courts.

Racquetball courts, that is.As part of a citywide incentive program, Sandy Mayor Larry Smith and Co. are attempting to beat the bulge while building a better management team.

"It's a great exercise program and it's a lot of fun to play racquetball," Smith said. "More importantly, it gives us an opportunity to get together to discuss city issues that our busy schedules otherwise wouldn't permit. It's a great team-building tool."

Discussions regarding Sandy come in the hot tub and dressing room. On the court, it's all business.

"We are competitive, but in a very friendly, congenial way," said Smith, whose combative drive had him back on the court six weeks after major gall bladder surgery.

Smith tags himself the "most intense player." Police Chief Gary Leonard, he said, is the overall best. Bryon Jorgenson, chief administrative officer, hits the ball the hardest. But Mike Coulam, who outweighs fellow teammates, has the best moves. "He runs around like a mouse," Smith said of his community development director.

Sandy Fire Chief Jake Nielsen is the most physically fit, while Smith says Mike Shea is the most unpredictable.

"Sometimes he's good; sometimes not so good," said Smith, using a politician's tact to describe the athletic ability of his parks and recreation director.

Art Hunter, director of administrative services, is the newest player and "most improved on the court."

Back at the office, other Sandy employees also have made gains in becoming more physically fine-tuned through the city's "Life Be Fit" program.

Exercise is just one of several components in the incentive program, initiated eight years ago by Smith to promote fitness, build morale and increase productivity.

Weight control and healthy habits - such as cutting out caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, plus minimizing salt and sugar intake - are also emphasized, as is the wearing of seat belts.

Gift certificates are awarded to employees who achieve certain levels of fitness by year's end.

But no bonuses are given for beating the boss in racquetball. Needless to say, that doesn't stop Smith's staff from slamming the mayor during their games three mornings a week at Alta Canyon Recreation Center.

"Do they hold back? Obviously not," Smith said. "Coulam hit me five times on Monday."