Opinion: A Call for Non-Athlete Hours at the Jaeger Center

The Jaeger Center (Photo Luca España/The Gettysburgian)

The Jaeger Center (Photo Luca España/The Gettysburgian)

By Nicole DeJacimo, Managing Editor

It wasn’t until the second semester of senior year that I finally started to regularly go to the gym. Over winter break I learned how to lift, erg (the rowing machine) and began to actually enjoy working out. So, when I chest press or squat, I have a hard time staying in the zone when the entire baseball team envelopes the lifting section and waits around me until I finish. It’s hard to stretch when the whole women’s basketball team is relaxing on the blue mats after their workout.

As a non-athlete, non-gym buff, I call for designated beginners times: an intimidation-free hour or two a few days a week. All I ask for is a judgment-free zone, like Planet Fitness. It’s not that I don’t appreciate our Division III athletes’ dedication to their craft, but it would be nice to use a machine without a group asking me if I’m “done with that yet?” during my first set. Not to mention, maxing out your squat weight just to barely bend your knees does not set the best example for new learners (cough cough football team). Beginner hours would give students the chance to actually use our facilities when they might not otherwise feel comfortable because they fear being bombarded by student-athletes.

There are a few options for teams to consider that would make the Jaeger Center more accessible for all students. For example, coaches could avoid scheduling team practices at peak hours (around 4 pm on weekdays, at least from my own experience). Another solution could be small group team practices. That way the football team doesn’t have to stand shoulder to shoulder to see themselves in the mirrors and the softball team doesn’t have to yell to one another across the gym.

As mentioned earlier, there could also be designated beginner hours so students still learning what form is and discovering the gym beyond the cardio section can explore those without risk of judgment or intimidation. This is especially helpful for women and trans folks, as the gym still has a significant gender gap that widens when it comes to strength training. No matter how much I have learned over the past few months, I struggle to take my place in the weights section as one of the only—or the only— women.

The CDC reported that students who are regularly physically active have “better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance, and classroom behaviors.” This is especially true as students have dealt with a year and a half of online classes and encouraged isolation; working out is more important than ever. Students who are not part of a team need extra encouragement to stay physically fit. The more students who use the gym, the healthier the collective student body, both mentally and physically, which translates to a higher-performing academic environment. I also hope that a positive side effect of these changes could be a healthier lifestyle balance for student-athletes. Fewer mandatory workouts would allow them to sleep more, study more and take better care of themselves.

As a small college that does not have the luxury of a separate gym for athletes, we need a more equitable schedule so all students feel comfortable in the gym, no matter their experience or athleticism. I sincerely hope that the athletics department considers this recommendation because everyone deserves access to the Jaeger Center. For only a short time in their lives, students have access to a free gym where they are mostly surrounded by others their age. These changes would not necessarily add a monetary cost, nor would they require expanded hours (which would be costly and ask too much from the student workers). These options are viable and would benefit the entire student body.

This article originally appeared on page 17 of the March 31, 2022 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.

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Author: Nicole DeJacimo

Nicole DeJacimo, ‘22, is the managing editor of The Gettysburgian and is a political science major with a double minor in writing and peace & justice studies. Outside of the Gettysburgian, Nicole is a Fielding Fellow and co-manager for the College Union Building Information Desk. During her free time, Nicole enjoys singing, reading, going to Waldo's and having movie nights with her friends. She plans on moving to D.C. after college to work as a political journalist.

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