PA Athletic Department Restricts Fitness Center

As of last Tuesday the Athletic Department instituted a new rule restricting use of the Rosenau Fitness Room between three and five in the afternoon. The rule takes effect on every weekday except Wednesday, when cluster basketball and basics do not meet. Many students oppose the new restriction, and over 600 chose to sign a petition started by Cotton Harrold ’04 in protest. The rule limits use of the facility during the two-hour period to those who are part of the basics program. Students on varsity, junior varsity and cluster basketball are turned away at the door, along with those students who have chosen to enact their option to “slide” and not participate in a sport for the term. The ruling came as a response to safety concerns regarding weight room monitors’ ability to keep track of many people exercising. Said Director of Athletics Martha Fenton, “In the summer session the fitness center is restricted, they cap it off at sixty kids… No one person could ever monitor the 150-200 kids we get in there on any given winter afternoon between three and five.” The decision came as a response to the concern exhibited by many basics supervisors that they were being relegated to unfit facilities, such as hallways. Said Fenton, “We’re asking those people to coach and we’re asking kids to participate in sports and yet we aren’t making it a meaningful experience because they don’t have anywhere to do it.” Some students and faculty felt that the decision came in response to the Athletic Department’s supposed dislike of the newly instated sliding program. Fenton, however, insists that the decision was based on safety concerns in the weight room. Many students still plan to protest the decision. As of press time, a sit-in had been planned for yesterday afternoon. Though the petition had little effect, the protesters hope that a sit-in will attract the Department’s attention and incite a review of the policy. The petition listed eight reasons why the restrictions should be lifted. It raised questions about the logic of denying varsity athletes the opportunity to both build and maintain strength necessary for competition. The petition contended that “over time, Andover’s athletes will become weaker, slower and less powerful than the competitors they will face on the playing fields.” There are, however, some supporters of the new action. Will Allen ’05, himself a basics participant, supports the intention of the restriction but feels that the rule should be altered to better accommodate varsity athletes. Said Allen, “I think varsity athletes should always be allowed use of the gym. They are representing our school in athletic competitions and deserve the respect of being able to lift when they want to.” Allen continued, “I think this rule was well intended, but is a little too exclusive. As a basics participant, I find it helpful, but I realize that it upsets a lot of athletes. Schedules are very tight here, and varsity-level athletes already have large time commitments, so it only logical that they should be allowed to lift when they have time. I think the rule would be more effective if during the time slot only athletes on varsity teams this season, as well as basics participants, be allowed in the fitness center.” Hoppy Maffione ’04, Captain of the Girls Cross Country team and member of the Athletic Advisory Board, suggested another alternative. She said in a letter written to Fenton and the Andover Athletic Department, “Enforcing the ‘30 minutes on the cardio machines when someone is waiting’ rule would further free up space and would also prevent students from standing around while waiting to use a machine.” Maffione’s letter continued, “Though we understand that effectively supervising the activity of the fitness center is an unpopular activity for faculty and captains alike, taking the responsibility to ensure that everyone is working would be a benefit to the whole athletic community.” The fitness center is supposed to be open from eight to eight every weekday, but there are currently holes in the proctor schedule. A trained faculty or staff member or a captain must be present for the fitness center to remain open. Fenton planned to speak with the captains in their meeting Thursday night about covering the now un-claimed proctor spots. The Athletic Department intends to keep the rule in place for the remainder of the winter basics season.