An average morning at the Currie Gymnasium in the McGill Sports Complex sees the full spectrum of the diverse McGill population intersect, as students begin their busy day. Between early morning training sessions and recreational classes, and the occasional stop in the sport clinic to treat an injury, these students all have something in common: They are striving to be their best physical selves and achieve a sense of community in the process.
Available to all students, the athletics complex and various programs are designed specifically for the average student seeking involvement in physical activities. Some of the programs are entrenched in McGill tradition—intramural sports have been a staple at the university for decades, with different competition levels offered from beginner to advanced players. When there is not enough interest in a sport to justify an intramural league, classes are offered to teach students the details of the sport, and will often put athletes in contact with tournament coordinators for competitions.
Matt Smrke, U0 Engineering, joined fencing classes upon arriving at McGill. Fencing appealed to him as a new and unexpected sport that he could learn alongside experienced students who had competed previously.
“Even if you have no experience, everyone is happy to share their knowledge so others can improve,” Smrke said.
Besides fencing, many other out-of-the-ordinary activities are offered. Over the years, McGill Athletics has worked to implement programs to meet the evolving demands of students. As changing norms of fitness have permeated into the public consciousness, McGill has adapted their programs to include new niche athletic activities. Though the staples of spinning and zumba are still offered, ballet barre lessons, a dance club, yoga, and boxing are now also available.
New to this year, athletic ‘passes’ are being offered so that students can participate in as many classes as they would like, across a variety of activities at one price. Not only is the new model incredibly efficient, it saves money for those who enjoy participating in athletic activities multiple days of the week. This pass compliments the Rec Activities card, which is a punch card that gives students access to a variety of recreational activities on campus, including drop-in hockey at McConnell Arena and yoga classes at Currie Gymnasium.
“There is also ‘Free Fencing’ most weeknights,” Smrke added. “Anyone can come and fence, […it] creates a sense of community.”
The commitment that Athletics places upon community is key. Beyond physical fitness, overall student wellness and health remains a priority of McGill Athletics. A new study space was just unveiled in the second floor of Tomlinson Hall for those who spend their time around the athletics complex. The space, though small, contains study tables and nooks that foster collaboration and teamwork. A treadmill and stationary bike allow any student to take a physical study break or even to keep fit as they simultaneously read or study.
Contrary to what many expect, appointments for the McGill Sports Medicine Clinic are open to both the student body and the Montreal public. The doctors and physiotherapists who work at the clinic are accustomed to working with elite athletes and high impact injuries, and are highly sought after for their expertise.
Though McGill offers many amenities to students beyond athletic facilities and services, the tying force is the human connection and the pure unbridled fun that comes with participating in athletics. The new study space, intramurals, and athletic classes allow information to flow from experienced athletes and exercisers to those who are just beginning to learn.
“My favourite part of fencing is […] the great people,” said Smrke. “Or that I get to hit people with a sword for fun.”
This is the sentiment that encompasses what athletics does for the McGill community. When students help each other to meet their physical and recreational goals, true community forms.