By Michael Levesque, assistant editor and staff writer
This spring marks the 30th anniversary since the Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC) opened its doors to UMF and the community.
Since the building’s first official day on April 27, 1991, a lot has changed. Among these changes are the students and community members who use it, the staff who keep the building functioning, and the equipment inside. Noticeably missing from that list is the building itself. The Fitness and Recreation Center today greatly resembles the building that was made almost 30 years ago. “This office here used to have lockers where the group fitness instructors would change but it also had the director, the assistant director and the administrative assistant,” says Linda Blodgett as she gestures around the room her office is in. Blodgett has been working at the university since 1989. In 2001 she moved from the business office, where she started, to the FRC. “I was in the business office, it didn’t look like it does now,” said Blodgett. “Coming down here was much more comfortable for me – I haven’t regretted it. I have been on this campus for 32 years and I just love working down here.”
The familiar sight of the FRC has created an intimate atmosphere that many students and community members have come to value. “What I love the most is the sense of team camaraderie,” said Danny Terhune, a student and Physical Education instructor at the FRC. “[I love] the staff as a whole, you truly feel seen.”
“We’re such a unique facility, where the community comes in here and it’s really kind of neat,” Blodgett added. “Our staff that works here gets to know the community members and they see them outside of this place and our community members are always greeting them. It makes the students feel at home. It’s really really nice.”
Since the building’s erection in 1991, the building has adapted to the fitness and recreation needs of the community members. One year after the building was first opened to the public, the pool was installed. “Fitness is always evolving,” says Blodgett. “Body building was big back then. Group fitness was [also] really popular. Now it’s evolving into strength training.”
In order to meet the ever changing needs of the members of the community, constant work and refinement is done to the equipment within the FRC – with a cost as well. “There’s a lot of challenges,”says Blodgett, “the price of equipment is going up…[as well as] the maintenance of it. The cost of maintaining this equipment is a lot. There’s not a lot of companies around here that maintain equipment.” The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to the challenges at the FRC. “Trying to keep our membership up [is a challenge]. Our outside members, not just the students… are huge,” Blodgett says.
Even as the challenges continue, many in the community still treasure the building and the community with it. “I hope this place stays here forever,” says Blodgett. “I just hope that UMF… realizes how much this facility means to the people – students and community members… I hope it stays for the next 30 years because it is a great facility and it’s great for our students… You know, our students that work here learn so much about dealing with the public, it gets their confidence up. A lot of our graduates that work here say they haven’t found a facility they like more than here.”
“I love how I get to share my love of fitness with these coworkers as well as students in my class,” Terhune says. “This helps me as an education major really practice my skills as a teacher outside of my normal classes.”
Ben White, Director of Fitness and Recreation at the FRC, was pleased to announce some of the celebrations for the 30th anniversary coming in the spring. “A canoe race, mountain bike race, and 5k run” are all scheduled for the spring, according to White. As of right now these activities are scheduled for April 30th, 2022 – three days after the official 30th anniversary day. A reception will also be held later than afternoon. “The hope is that we get as many alumni back that we can that have worked here or that have gone to school here. I know a lot of alumni that went to school here that have never stepped foot in the building,” Blodgett says.
More details about the celebration in April are expected to be released on the FRC Instagram and Facebook pages as well as through their newsletter. The front desk at the FRC can be contacted at (207)-778-7495.
Community members inside the FRC prior to the completion of a basketball court. Photo courtesy of Linda Blodgett.
Construction on the Fitness and Recreation Center building. Photo courtesy of Linda Blodgett.
By Marissa Goodwin, Contributing Writer
The FRC by Sam Shirley
As the spring semester is starting to gear up, students gather to safely play intramural sports with their friends to be active and take a break from the stress of classes.
Intramurals, which are tournaments of games organized by the students that are held at the Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC) on campus, are a great way to safely bring your friends together in a friendly competition. Jade Petrie, a junior, has participated in intramural basketball, pickleball, and kickball since her sophomore year. “It’s a fun way to get active while being with your friends,” said Petrie.
UMF has offered a variety of intramural sports such as basketball, volleyball, kickball, soccer, and pickleball. This year, the options are limited due to safety processions put in place for COVID-19. Petrie’s favorite part about intramurals is that she gets to be social and active simultaneously. “It’s a cool way to meet new people,” said Petrie.
Although intramurals are a little different because of COVID-19, students are still safely participating. “Students can stay involved while being active and social at the same time,” said Petrie.
Jared Smelter, a senior who has participated in intramurals since he was a junior, enjoys intramurals because he gets to have fun while playing sports with his friends. He agrees that intramurals have been different due to COVID-19 but says that he is happy UMF is still offering them. “We have less options for sports because we can’t have contact,” said Smelter, “but it is better than nothing and I am glad it is still being offered.”
The advantage of playing intramural sports is that it’s a low-stakes way to keep busy and take a break from academics. “It’s offering sports without actually playing a school sport at UMF,” said Jonah Sautter, a junior who has been playing intramurals for three years and is a referee at UMF intramurals.
Intramurals are great for those who don’t want to make the commitment to varsity sports, but miss the supportive, competitive environment of sports. “It is perfect for high school athletes who maybe miss playing sports or just competitive people,” said Sautter.
With all of the changes that are happening during the time of COVID-19, students are using intramurals as a way to get out and do something. “I think intramurals are helping students,” said Sautter. “It gives a sense of normalcy that is nice.”
To find more information about UMF intramurals, visit the UMF Intramurals Instagram page @umfimsports and directly message the account. Students are asked to fill out an application to sign up and pay a $20 deposit to hold their spot to ensure that they will show up to the games.
by Faith Rouillard, Contributing Writer
Over 125 students signed up to participate in kickball, thus launching intramural sports for the 2020-21 school year at UMF.
“Intramural sports are sports leagues that are designed to be played on campus with our UMF community,” said FRC Assistant Director Leah Brackett. Students began with kickball and after a two week season and a one week playoff period, the sport and teams will switch completely.
Games take place four nights a week at the FRC: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:00-11:00 p.m. Each game takes no more than an hour and not every team plays all four nights. Senior and kickball caption Ella Russel said, “It’s important to move your body, and this a fun way to stay active!”
“Intramurals are very important right now,” said Brackett. “It is a way to keep our students engaged and on campus.”
“Intramural sports provide a way to connect with people on campus that I wouldn’t normally bump into,” said Russel. “Intramurals provide social networking, familiarity with FRC and the amenities it has, and stress relief.” Russel explained how intramural sports are an effective study break. “I recommend intramural sports to the entire student body.”
Typically, the staff provides a variety of sports and activities, including volleyball, kickball, pickleball, indoor soccer, arena football, basketball, dodgeball, among others. This year, the staff has to be cautious in what sports can take place while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Due to the pandemic, upon arrival students are met at the door by staff members to check-in. They are required to self-screen and report to the staff. “We ask that everyone sanitizes their hands and wear a mask the entire time they are in the building,” said Brackett. The FRC is closed to the public during games and doesn’t allow spectators, limiting the number of people in the building. The staff diligently disinfects equipment periodically during games as well.
Brackett is the intramurals coordinator and leads all student staff. Callie Hammer is this year’s student leader and makes the staff schedules, referees games, “and helps out my amazing boss, Leah Brackett,” she said.
“Our staff dynamics are awesome,” said Brackett. “Working intramural sports teaches confidence and conflict resolution.” A large majority of the student staff are UMF varsity athletes.
“If you’re not on a sports team but still appreciate competition, intramural sports are a great alternative,” said Russel. Many students on varsity teams participate in intramurals but not all that participate in intramurals play varsity sports.
“For old high school athletes, intramurals gives a sense of normalcy for being on a team again,” said Hammer. “Intramurals is a great atmosphere and a lot of the students enjoy participating.”
“My goal is to increase participation in intramural sports,” said Brackett. The 125 students are spread out among nine kickball teams, but there is typically room for up to 16 teams.
“Teams are very simple to set up,” said Russel. “As the captain, I went to the Facebook page and filled out my team’s roster.” To get involved in intramural sports visit their Facebook page (UMF Intramural Sports) or their Instagram page (@umfimsports).
Pickleball will be the next sport to take place. Contact Leah Brackett via email at email@example.com for any COVID safe suggestions, “We are open to change and always want to do what the students want,” she said.
by Ashley Clark Contributing Writer
Near the end of summer break, UMF made the decision to allow student athletes to participate in their sports season; however, these seasons have been altered to align with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
The athletics department came to this tough decision after watching numerous videos and Zoom calls from the National College Athletic Association (NCAA), led by medical professionals.
The department is also keeping up to date with COVID-19 trends in Maine in order to protect incoming student athletes returning to school in the fall.
Julie Davis, Director of Athletics, worked with coaching and sports medicine staff on campus, in addition to attending meetings with athletic directors from within the sports conference. “You have challenges as a director anyway, but probably the hardest thing is dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity for a sustained period of time,” said Davis.
The athletic department was determined to develop a plan of action that would allow student athletes to participate in sports. They have also made it mandatory that all student athletes living on and off campus must participate in the early testing program provided by a COVID-19 testing company in the Fitness and Recreational Center (FRC).
Fall sports such as field hockey, soccer and cross country are not able to compete, but athletes are still able to attend practices.
The department has developed a month long process with differing levels of intensity for each week, with the intention for safe team practices.
The first week of practice involved routine temperature checks with no equipment use— conditioning exercises only. All practices must also consist of physical distancing at six feet, wearing a face mask and sanitizing when possible.
Jade Petrie, a junior and Early Childhood Education major, participates in both field hockey and lacrosse. Wearing her mask during her practices has been hard enough, even at the start of her fall sports season. “It’s really hard to wear because when you start to run, you breathe heavily and suck in the mask,” Petrie said. “It makes it almost impossible for you to catch your breath.”
Liz Ouellette, senior and Elementary Education major, is also a member of the field hockey team. Her last season has been impacted by the changes to the fall sports season. “There’s no team bonding, such as having dinners together, because there are too many people to be in a house. We can’t have bus rides, games, anything really,” said Ouellette.
The athletics department is working hard to assure that athletes are able to at least practice. Many are just grateful to even be able to participate with one another. “I think it is better to have something than nothing,” says Ouellette. “It’s my senior year and having practices with a team I’ve spent the past three years with is better than not being able to at all.”
Petrie praises all the department’s work and planning. “I’m thankful that they are letting us have an opportunity to pick up my field hockey and lacrosse stick, regardless of playing games,” says Petrie.
COVID-19 guidelines are changing continuously, which makes it difficult to predict how the winter and spring sports seasons will look for student athletes. While fall sports already have a plan in motion, winter and spring sports are still being discussed. Winter sports are scheduled to start practicing soon. The athletic department is “planning [these seasons] with optimism,” says Davis.
by Malcolm Langner Contributing Writer
The UMF Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC) is taking measures to ensure a safe gym environment for its members, students, and employees.
Alison Thayer, Assistant Director of the FRC, believes that following policy changes during the pandemic start with the employees. “It has been very challenging for our staff to come up with new and creative ways to have PHE [physical education] under the new restrictions and guidelines,” Thayer said.
The FRC is now requiring face masks to be worn inside, litming guest numbers, and only allowing PHE students to visit once per week. At all times a professional staff member must be present. The latter of the regulations has prevented the FRC from opening on the weekends, “due to Coronavirus, we have lost three of our five professional employees, so we just haven’t had the manpower to do it,” Thayer said. “We are trying to get the regulations changed. UMF is the only UMaine system to enforce the guidelines. There already isn’t much available to do on the weekends on campus, and we feel like students and community members alike should have the opportunity to be here.”
Working at the FRC has changed for the student workers as well. “The biggest change for me is having to wear a mask all of the time and having to stay away from the people who go there,” said Derek Bowen. He is a senior at UMF, and was PHE instructor last semester, now he is completing a student internship. “We all have to be separated now and it’s been awkward getting adjusted to the new environment.” The changes don’t end there, “ So much of the work is done on my own now. On top of that, it’s hard to get a lot of hours because the FRC is closed on the weekends.”
Students working as employees at the FRC have experienced increased responsibility as well. In each section of the gym, an employee must be present to spray down and clean the used machines. “It used to be a very laid back place to work, but now we all have added responsibilities and must take precautions with anything that we do,” Bowen added.
As for students who regularly go to the FRC, such as Danny Terhune, a catcher for the Beavers baseball team, change has been evident. “I understand why they had to implement certain rules, but some of them really make it harder to get a good workout in,” Terhune said. “Masks make sense, but obviously I would be a lot happier not having to wear one.” Still, Terhune remained positive, “At least the FRC is open this semester, considering how tough things have been this year.”
Despite the hardships that have come from COVID-19, Thayer and the employees at the FRC are staying positive. “We have gone as far to have outdoor group fitness sessions, which seem to have gotten great responses from those who have attended,” Thayer said. “At this point, all we can do is try and push through as a community.”