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Reopening of RecSports increases access, encourages fitness

| Thursday, September 30, 2021

With the return of locker room use at the Smith Center and Rockne Memorial gyms on Aug. 22, RecSports — Notre Dame’s office of recreational sports — has fully reopened.

Previously on Aug. 9, the Smith Center and Rockne Memorial reversed other COVID-19 restrictions that were in effect last year, including reservations, the relocation and limitation of equipment and a mask mandate. The Smith Center — located on the third and fourth floors of the Duncan Student Center — also reopened its track and basketball court, while the Rockne Memorial resumed full use of its lap and therapy pools.

“As of Aug. 9, the Smith Center for Recreational Sports and Rockne Memorial resumed our standard operations, consistent with our operations prior to the pandemic,” said assistant director of facilities management and operations Drew Loso, in an email to The Observer.

Loso said the North Dome at the Joyce Center has also reopened, available for badminton, basketball, pickleball, table tennis and volleyball as of Aug. 30. The climbing and bouldering wall, located on the second floor of Duncan Student Center, has also resumed full use.

During the 2020-21 academic year, RecSports facilities and programs required that masks be worn while exercising or participating in classes and sports. At the Smith Center and Rockne Memorial, equipment was moved to accommodate social distancing, with 113 square feet allocated per user space. Additionally, Notre Dame students, faculty and staff looking to utilize RecSports facilities were required to reserve a timeslot in advance.

In February 2021, a no-show policy was implemented for users who failed to check in, which Loso said allowed RecSports to meet community demand. 

“Although overall attendance was affected by the reservation policy,” Loso said, “our ultimate goal was for as many members of our Notre Dame community as possible to utilize our facilities while maintaining a safe environment that adhered to COVID guidelines set forth by the University.”

Loso also noted a slight decline in student applications to work at RecSports, although the office still employed more than 350 student workers last year.

In addition to its facilities, RecSports also offered limited fitness classes during the 2020-21 academic year. Lessons were held indoors, outdoors and online and included both cycling and yoga. 

Club and intramural sports also operated with restrictions. Club sports could not travel off-campus or host events that would involve participants from outside the Notre Dame community. Intramural sports were offered as “intrahall/sectional leagues,” which Loso described as scrimmages between members of the same residence hall.

But club and intramural sports are now back to standard operations. There are even new intramural tournaments, including BASEketball, hot spot basketball and a three-point competition. RecSports has also welcomed the return of instructional series and more than 40 group fitness classes.

However, some changes from last year are here to stay. Virtual fitness classes, for example, will continue in the 2021-22 school year, as will the ability to register for fitness classes weekly. 

“This provides students with the flexibility to commit to a variety of classes throughout the semester on a weekly basis, as we know many students have ever-changing schedules and commitments throughout the semester,” Loso said.

Junior Nolan Fey has utilized the Smith Center this semester and last and noted the pros and cons of each experience.

“Last semester, working out at the Smith Center was difficult because there were a lot of people fighting over a limited number of gym slots,” Fey said. “The benefit was, once I had a slot I felt committed to going at that set time and was less likely to back out.”

This semester, Fey said, “It’s easy to just walk over whenever I have free time in my day. But I’ll admit that sometimes I push off working out until later in the day because there’s nothing incentivizing me to go at a set time.”

“Overall,” Fey concluded, “I’d say the Smith Center’s reopening has made working out easier for me.”

Facilitating exercise is a part of RecSports’ mission.

“We enhance the overall Notre Dame experience and provide recreational and educational opportunities for transformative lifestyles and hope that students have learned to prioritize exercise as a part of their daily routine,” Loso said.

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