A Strong Demand and Little Supply: The University of Windsor’s Recreational Facilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic
by: Shaun Smith
The regulations and policies put in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario has impacted everyone. For the university athletic staff, it has been a hard line between following the rules and accommodating the requests for facility usage.
On one hand, there are the ever-present needs of the varsity coaches and their athletes. On the other, there are the responsibilities that the athletic department has toward the student community in general. Managing both of those groups has not been easy, but everyone has been understanding of the circumstances.
“We are like any other facility in the province,” says Mike Havey. “We are subject to the framework restrictions depending upon what stage the province is at in terms of its COVID recovery plan.”
Havey is the athletic director at the University of Windsor and is responsible for the university’s recreational facility use. The framework he’s referring to is the provincial guideline regarding occupancy for recreational facilities.
Currently, this policy (pre-April lockdown) limited occupancy to 10 people per space. For varsity coaches such as Lucas Hodgson, who is the head coach of the women’s volleyball team, it impairs training.
“This is going to put every program behind in their development and competitive experience,” said Hodgson. “Every high-performance athlete is affected.”
However, coaches are attempting to make the best of the situation.
“We’re allowed less than half our roster [in the facility] at any one time,” said Hodgson.
“We have 3 timeslots a week to figure out who and how practice goes. At this time the team is getting 2 practices a week, which is four days less than what they are used to getting on a daily basis.”
The athletes themselves echoed this sentiment. Morgan Simard, a member of the Lancer women’s ice hockey team, reflected on the workload.
“We have a strict lifting program that we have to follow and without access to the university facilities it is difficult.”
For Simard, her ice time also has been minimized from four practices and two games a week, despite the Lancer ice hockey teams operating outside the university’s facilities for their skates.
However, Havey is quick to point out that varsity athletes are not the only people who suffer from limited facility access.
“We’re all subject to the same restrictions, it doesn’t matter which cohort you come from. If you’re a member of the general student population you can book a time in the Forge, which we’re offering.”
The athletic department has worked to keep the doors open for students throughout the pandemic by offering a booking schedule for time in the various areas. These bookings fill up quickly though, and Havey knows that more students are left out than allowed in.
“We’ve carved out time in the building for both cohorts and the reality is that there isn’t enough time and capacity to make either cohort happy. That’s the reality of reduced capacity.”
Every gym and fitness center in the city is abiding by the same restrictions, but those facilities do not usually cater to over a dozen varsity teams and sixteen thousand students.
“When you look at the fieldhouse, which is basically the size of a COSTCO, and you’re limited to ten people, but when you got COSTCO, there are certainly more than ten people there. But those are the limitations,” states Havey.
For a building that in a normal year has over three hundred people operating inside it, a restriction down to twenty (ten in the Forge Fitness Centre and ten in the Fieldhouse), the university is not able to offer the service that they are used to, and want to, provide.
Suffice to say that for those of us who used to work out and play intramurals at the university’s facilities, we may have to wait a little bit longer.