UVM Women’s Gymnastics Club Won the National Championship, Rewarded By Losing Their Practice Space This Year

The UVM Women’s Gymnastics team, which won the National AssociationIntercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs competition last spring and the Men’s team which won third place at Nationals, are now losing their practice space.

The ten thousand square foot Gymnastics Room, in the Patrick Gymnasium, which not only serves as a home to the Gymnastics team, Cheerleading, Aikido, African Dance, Brazilian Jui-jitsu, Judo, Taekwondo, and other students, will eventually be turned into a new Varsity weight room. This alteration will be a wonderful improvement for the approximate four hundred varsity athletes. The question is, “Where do the five hundred students currently using the space go?”

Though no date has been set for this dramatic change to begin, the various rumors and scattered truths are an increasing source of anxiety and upset to these clubs, who rely on this space for their livelihood. “As the Gymnastics Club Advisor, it would be my hope that, regardless of what happens with this space, the opportunity for gymnastics and gymnastics activity will be able to continue at UVM”, says Gary Bruening, the Gymnastics Club Advisor and former Gymnastics Coach from 1986 to 2001 (when the team was varsity).

“What we have here is a double-edged sword. You hurt one club, yet you are opening up opportunities for others. Gymnastics, who have competed well, are losing their space, but the gain of the facility space outweighs the total loss.

The hope is the old varsity weight room will be used as a multi-purpose room for martial arts, dance, cheerleading and other sports”, says Jill Moffitt, the Club Sport Coordinator. There are possibilities for the Gymnastics team to be able to practice off campus, but this relocation is the second of two big blows the team has suffered, the first of which was being cut from varsity in 2001 (recently including Men’s and Women’s Tennis, Men’s Swimming and Golf).

“I’m hoping that all of the changes are, in the long run, for the best”, commented Muff Parsons-Reinhardt, the tennis coach, who has successfully started a tennis league with ninety students. But now the courts she uses are being threatened as being available to non-varsity athletes.

The lack of adequate fields, courts, general space and availability at UVM is being addressed. Those plans don’t help non-prioritized clubs though, considering the Water Polo team only gets the pool two hours a week to practice. Space and time are unquestionably the resource most in demand. The fact that student recreation does not have their own building has been identified as an issue by many athletic faculty members.

“Many people who do club sports practice as intensely as varsity athletes, without the funding, support, and recognition that varsity athletics get. There is a widespread perception that University support for club sports has declined over the last five to ten years”, responded Master Ernest Hart, Tae Kwon Do,instructor, who will have to relocate and reorganize, while losing members, after the space has been changed.

Is UVM, as a state university, not serving its purpose by limiting the opportunities in which students can participate? The club sport serves as a medium between the fun loving intramural sports, with four games a semester, and the 7 a.m. weight-lifting, varsity lifestyle. The students at UVM are the ones who pay the salary for the people making these decisions about our sports teams and what spaces should be used for, but it seems with little voices. Is this a case where money might not help save a club sport, even though, 10% of a varsity sport budget can adequately fund a club sport? Would it be better to have more students participate in club sports that they enjoy, than to be spectators of varsity sports?

It is the intentions of the athletic department to incorporate every student and allow people to participate one hundred percent. “We’re taking great care to make sure no group is left out. Some groups might not be in the exact same situation that they were in prior to this work, but we are going tobe sure accommodations will be made in more than an acceptable way”, answered Jeff Schulman, the Assistant Director of Athletics, when asked about the change.

“Despite numbers and evident legitimacy, we are being ignored in favor of what the University has deemed to be a greater need on the part of other athletes. If you add up the historical average membership for Taekwondo, Judo, Jujitsu, and Gymnastics (the four groups that primarily use the facility), I am fairly certain that it will be comparable to the historical total number of varsity athletes. I am not saying varsity athletes do not have need, because their need is clearly great as the University has chosen to do something about it.

What I am saying is that we too have need, and we too have numbers; just because we are not as visible as our varsity counterparts should not undermine space allocation for our SGA and Physical Education Department recognized activities”, responded Josh Peimer, an active member of UVM Taekwondo, which has been on campus for seventeen years.

While interviewing many people in the decision making positions, I was reminded to look at the big picture. It’s hard to accept the big picture when it indicates that losing this space and relocating clubs will result in a significant decrease in membership, and for those clubs moved off-campus, possible extinction.

This is a time of transition and change. The question is what is our university striving towards? Is there an underlying shift of emphasis by the university as a whole? What do we, as the students of UVM, want to be known for? Maybe athletics is more of a business than I had ever thought before. I hope that the national champion gymnasts can see the benefits of this new varsity weight room. From outside of the doors, of course.